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Friday, May 18, 2018

State Department postpones event about Cuba

Por Kvothe

The event "Cuba under Diaz-Canel", to be held this Friday 18, has been postponed, in another episode of the imbalances between the White House and the State Department in relation to the policy toward Cuba. The event, organized by the Bureau of Intelligence and Investigation (INR) of the Department of State, counted as anchors experts who have supported the policy of approach to Cuba designed by the government of former President Barack Obama, according to anti-Castro activists.

"It's very strange, what has happened with this event, which is held every two or three years and they have always invited me", said Carlos Saladrigas, president of the Cuba Study Group, one of the speakers at the event that was to be held on Friday. "Suddenly I received an email that it had been postponed, but without a certain date".

"We called the White House and they acted quickly on Friday's event, which has been postponed since then", said a member of the Florida Senator Marco Rubio's office, who interfered while claiming the panel did not include any expert that represents the agenda of President Donald Trump in relation to Cuba.

"The event in question has been postponed", confirmed a State Department official in a statement. Although he does not mention the reasons for that decision, he adds that "we will try to reprogram it at a later date with a broad cross-section of external points of view". The White House did not comment on the incident.

President Donald Trump promised to reverse Obama's administration policy and at a discursive level has been more forceful in declaring violations of human rights on the island and referring to the government of that country as a "tyranny". Republican Senator Rubio also played an important role in designing new sanctions imposed on Cuban military companies, with which is prohibited to do business.

Since Trump signed a new presidential directive on Cuba in June, activists and politicians who support a stronger stance on Cuba have been frustrated with the performance of some career officials from the State Department who they accuse of continuing to support the previous engagement policy. Rubio, for example, has said that the list of Cuban military companies under sanctions, made by the State Department, is very limited and should be expanded.

"It seems that some people protested, I also did it, because the panel was one-sided and there was nobody to say what we believe is the truth of Cuba", said Frank Calzón, director of the Center for a Free Cuba. "They could invite other people who think differently, instead, the event was going to be an exercise in propaganda", claimed Calzón, who also questioned the absence of Cuban-American congressmen on the panel.

In addition to Saladrigas, the event was attended by Marguerite Jimenez, from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), William LeoGrande, professor at American University and Philip Peters from the Cuba Research Center. WOLA supports the elimination of the embargo and the approach to Cuba, while the Cuba Study Group was a key element in the design of the Obama policy towards Cuba. LeoGrande and Peters are part of the Board of Advisors of Engage Cuba. Peters also founded a consultancy (D17 Strategies) to advise on travel, investments and exchanges with Cuba.