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Address before the Florida Economics Club in Tallahassee on May 13, 1988. ME Skoug is Coordinator for Cuban Affairs.
Fortuitously, Cuba has been very much in the headlines recently, at least in the southern part of Florida. The thrust of what has been written and said of late is that there is a new U.S. policy with respect to Cuba, based on secret diplomacy and looking to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana at some early date. Those who report this so-called warming trend in relations also tend to be unhappy about it. The reality is tbat there is much less here than meets the eye.
I would like to try to put U.S. Cuban relations in perspective by taking a careful look at some of the underlying realities. Clearly, there has been an improvement in the relationship if one compares it with the situation prevailing about 1 year ago, when the Government of Cuba was not even permitting us to send necessary, and hitherto routinely authorized, charter supply flights to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and was obstructing the orderly transfer of diplomatic pouches. At that time Cuba was still refusing to implement a bilateral migration agreement which we had signed in December 1984 because Havana objected to the broadcasting of tbe Radio Marti program of the Voice of America, which began on May 20, 1985. In 1987, Cuban officials were describing relations with the United States as the worst ever, which is saying quite a lot.
At present those supply and pouch problems appear to be behind us. Since November 20, 1987, the mutually beneficial migration agreement is again being implemented. We achieved this result without making any concessions on Radio Marti. This is an important positive development which has both immediate and long-term results, providing for the orderly transfer of Cubans to the United States in accordance with U.S. law. It is particularly beneficial to Cuban-Americans and their relatives in Cuba. Unfortunately, some persons have criticized this agreement since its reimplementation because it provides for the return to Cuba of certain persons who came at the time of the Mariel boatlift and abused the hospitality of the United States to commit serious common crimes such as murder, armed robbery, rape, or trafficking in narcotic drugs. The return of those persons to Cuba was a major objective of both the Carter and the Reagan Administrations and was staunchly opposed by the Government of Cuba. It is, therefore, ironical to see the reimplementation of this agreement listed by some persons among the catalog of dark deeds they quite mistakenly imagine are taking place between the United States and Cuba.
The reality is that thousands of Cubans-all with close relations in the United States or else former political prisoners and their families-are presently being processed in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana for admission to the United States on the basis of the 1984 migration agreement. All of them will have thorough medical examinations and police checks. Those who qualify are now beginning to arrive gradually and lawfully as bona fide immigrants or as refugees. This agreement also banishes the specter of a socalled second Mariel.
We are discussing radio matters, including interference, with the Cubans. This is the only bilateral conversation with Cuba which is now in progress. Because of Cuba's proximity and the problems it has caused for U.S. broadcasters and their audiences, this …