US must treat Cuba with respect

A U.S. delegation met with Cuban officials in Havana last week to discuss immigration issues. However, U.S. diplomats raised tensions with their questionable actions during the trip.

Upon arrival, the U.S. delegation, headed by Craig Kelly, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, was informed of the Cuban government’s “opposition to his using his brief stay to organize a provocative event, alien to the spirit of migration talks,” according to a statement released by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The delegation didn’t listen and met with political opposition leaders following the official talks.

Elizardo Sanchez, a Cuban dissident and head of the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, confirmed this, telling The Associated Press that about 40 opposition leaders met with Kelly at the residence of the head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

“We believe in reaching out to broad sectors of society in all countries that we deal with … and we don’t make exceptions in particular countries,” a senior State Department official said to The AP. He spoke in defense of the delegation on condition of anonymity.

The Cuban authorities are upset – and rightfully so. Working with non-governmental players is a highly provocative act. U.S. officials should only work directly with the Cuban government.

A national security crisis would likely unfold if visiting Cuban diplomats met privately with American dissidents during an official state visit, especially against the U.S. government’s wishes

It’s even more absurd to suggest that the U.S. is consistent with this approach. When working with European nations, friendly oil-rich Middle East nations or any state with serious international clout, the U.S. would never try this. British or Chinese dissidents are unlikely to find a friendly ear with U.S. diplomats visiting their country.

“Meeting with representatives of civil society who simply want a voice in the future of their country is not subversion,” Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley said to CNN.

There are disenfranchised felons in the U.S. with no political voice, and some nations may not agree with the legal reasons for it. That does not mean these nations have the right to work directly with U.S. criminals.

U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba or any nation needs to be built on a conscious effort to respect foreign states’ sovereignty, however great the ideological differences. The U.S. has jeopardized its chances of working bilaterally with Cuba.

Cuba allowed medical flights through its airspace and quickly responded to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, reopening two hospitals the day after the quake and sending more than 400 health workers, according to National Public Radio.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates the willingness expressed by the Cuban government to maintain a respectful dialogue about any issue with the United States government, as long as it is between equals, and without detriment to independence, sovereignty or self-determination,” the statement from the Cuban government said.

U.S. officials should heed this simple plea and finally show some restraint in dealing with its weaker neighbors.

Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.