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On U.S.-Cuba military cooperation, proceed with caution

On U.S.-Cuba military cooperation, proceed with caution
By Editorial Board May 30 at 7:58 PM

IDAEL FUMERO Valdés is not someone you’d expect to see as an honored
guest of the U.S. military. As chief of investigations for Cuba’s
National Revolutionary Police, a part of the military-controlled
Ministry of the Interior, he plays a key law enforcement role in a state
where beating and arresting human rights activists is considered law
enforcement. Yet there he was at a U.S. naval air base in Key West,
Fla., on April 21, touring the facilities at the invitation of the U.S.
military command for Latin America.

Accompanying Mr. Valdés were senior officials of the Cuban anti-drug
agency and border guards, plus a diplomat. Separately, U.S. officials
have attended a security conference outside the United States with a
Cuban delegation headed by Gustavo Machín Gómez, who was expelled from a
previous diplomatic post in the United States 14 years ago due to his
involvement with a highly damaging Cuban espionage operation against the
Defense Intelligence Agency. Apparently the White House has decided to
let that bygone be a bygone.

Welcome to the brave new world of military-to-military contact with
Cuba, the Obama administration’s latest idea for engagement with that
island nation. Direct communications between the two countries’ security
forces have been going on for years, of course — in limited, operational
contexts such as avoiding clashes around the Guantanamo Bay naval base
and repatriating Cuban rafters plucked from the sea by the U.S. Coast
Guard. That’s necessary and appropriate.

As the Key West visit suggests, however, the administration has a wider
agenda in mind. For the first time, the United States accepted Cuban
participation, alongside military officers from democracies, in this
year’s Caribbean Nations Security Conference in Kingston, Jamaica. The
deputy secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, visited
Havana earlier this month to discuss law enforcement cooperation. At a
conference on the benefits of expanded contacts Thursday sponsored by
the American Security Project think tank, a retired Army colonel
suggested that the United States could seek information from Cuban
military intelligence about North Korea and other countries.

Latin American military and police crave the legitimacy that comes from
ties with their U.S. counterparts. A great bipartisan achievement in
U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America over the past three decades has
been to condition military cooperation and assistance increasingly on
respect for the rule of law and human rights — rather than turn a blind
eye to military abuses in the name of either anti-communism or the war
on drugs, as U.S. officials so often did in previous years.

Today, in a hemisphere where military dictatorship was once widespread,
no generals rule. The exception is Cuba, where Gen. Raúl Castro’s word
is law. Normalizing military-to-military ties between the United States
and Cuba, for the sake of fighting drugs or other “common threats,”
would imply that civilian rule doesn’t matter so much to us anymore —
that Cuba’s military is morally equivalent to its hemispheric
counterparts — when, in fact, it is deeply complicit in political
repression and corruption.

Legislation pending in Congress would block full military-to-military
normalization until Cuba democratizes. At a time when Cuba’s beleaguered
civilian democracy activists need unequivocal U.S. moral support, the
administration and outside supporters of its Cuba policy should not be
eager for potentially compromising relationships with the Cuban people’s
uniformed oppressors.

Source: On U.S.-Cuba military cooperation, proceed with caution – The
Washington Post –
www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/on-us-cuba-military-cooperation-proceed-with-caution/2016/05/30/b34beaa8-236c-11e6-9e7f-57890b612299_story.html

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