Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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Embargo-ing Going but Not Quite Gone: Smoke Begins to Dissipate Between Cuba and the U.S.

Margie Beltran

[I], John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, acting under the authority [of the] Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, do hereby proclaim an embargo upon trade between the United States and Cuba…of all goods of Cuban origin and all goods imported from of through [Cuba].”[1]

President John F. Kennedy, February 3, 1962, Proclamation 3447 – Embargo on All Trade with Cuba

And thus ended the free flow of the forbidden fruits that were Cuba’s earthy, intense cigars and premium rum.  To prevent supporting a communist-run country in the midst of the Cold War and months before the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy announced the United States would put an indefinite halt on any trade with Cuba.[2]  The embargo against Cuba prevented Americans from bringing home the coveted cigars and alcohol, even if they were purchased in third countries.[3]

Fast forward about a half a century later to October 17, and the White House has released a directive to lift more sanctions against Cuba.[4]  Note the word sanctions.  The embargo has not been lifted in full.

In 2014, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would begin working to re-establish a diplomatic relationship with Cuba by changing travel and trade restrictions set forth in Proclamation 3447.[5]  On April 11, 2015, President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba met in there face to face.[6]  Both have joined efforts to normalize the long-standing negative relationship between the two countries.

In March 2016, Obama was the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years.[7]  In a press conference following their meeting on the island, Obama announced that they were on a track to ending the embargo, but provided no projected date.[8]  Castro agreed with the projected outcome of ending the embargo because he believed it would help Cuba and the U.S. make more progress.[9]  The two leaders continue to hold vastly different views on human rights and political freedoms.[10]

However, following Obama’s announced intentions of mending the relationship, Congress denied to support his decision.  Congress members and other political leaders felt that this change in trade relations with Castro is not benefitting the U.S., but merely benefitting Cuba.[11]  They are concerned that merely lifting trade sanctions will not incentivize Castro to improve political freedoms and human rights for the citizens of Cuba.

Now, in the final three months of Obama’s presidency, he has been working to change the U.S. policy, which would allow trade and commerce to grow exponentially between the two countries.[12]  While this olive branch approach in which the U.S. was to change their policies in the areas of medical and scientific research, the Cuban citizens feel differently.[13]

 

According to Josefina Vidal, head of the U.S. Department at the Cuban Foreign Ministry while speaking at a rally held at the University of Havana, “Obama is finishing his term, but the blockade remains.”  Vidal explained during the rally, that while it is a nice attempt, the embargo has not been lifted.  The sanctions are easing the tension between the country’s; however, there is still a lot of limitation brought forth by the embargo.[14]

The Cuban people are under the belief that the island will not and cannot commit themselves in full to restoring diplomatic and normalized partnerships with the U.S. so long as the U.S. does upholds the embargo.[15]

It will be interesting upon the start of a new presidential term how the U.S. relationship with Cuba continues to develop, if it develops at all.  Both candidates have stated that they are in favor of developing diplomatic relationships with Cuba.

 

Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton believes the U.S. should increase their influence of human rights policy on Cuba.[16]  She also stated that if Congress prevented her efforts, she would impose her executive authority to make it easier for the American people to visit the island and support small businesses in Cuba.[17]  GOP candidate, Donald Trump believes 50 years has been long enough for an embargo and supports Obama.[18]  This opinion strays from some of the other major influencers of the GOP such as Florida politicians, Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Jeb Bush.[19]  Senator Rubio referred to the diplomatic olive branch as “a lifeline for the Castro regime that will allow them to become more profitable…and allow them to become a more permanent fixture.”[20]

As one of the longest embargos in the world, it seems best the U.S. works towards a more amicable resolution and to eventually achieve their human rights goals around the world.  Based on the current candidate stances, the increased diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba will continue to grow.

Margery Beltran is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Candidate for J.D., May 2017).  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Family Science with a minor in Psychology from Towson University.  Her interests include mental health and disability law and international alternative dispute resolution. Margie currently serves as the Volume V Comments Editor for the University of Baltimore’s Journal of International Law. She participated in the 2016 Summer Abroad Program at the University of Aberdeen School of Law in Aberdeen, Scotland.  She is currently an intern in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alternative Dispute Resolution Division.

[1] http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=58824

[2] http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cold-war-history

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/14/americas/cuba-cigars-us-embargo-lifted/index.html

[4] http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/14/pf/cuban-cigar-rum-sanctions/index.html

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/12/17/world/americas/cuba-sanctions.html

[6] Id.

[7] http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-03-21/obama-castro-call-for-trade-embargo-on-cuba-to-be-lifted

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2016/10/19/cuba-official-reaction-to-obama-easing-embargo-restrictions-protests/

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] https://www.hillaryclinton.com/post/remarks-miami-cuba-embargo/

[17] Id.

[18] http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/08/politics/donald-trump-cuba-diplomatic-opening/

[19] Id.

[20] Id.


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Where Would You Rather Be? Protections of Victims of Human Trafficking

Raiven Taylor

The U.S. State Department keeps track of the annual numbers of trafficking victims in each country throughout the world. The State Department not only keeps track of the victims found, but also the laws of preventing trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting traffickers. There are a number of countries that help, in various ways, protect trafficked victims from re-victimization, while other countries do nothing at all The United States is a Tier 1 country, which simply means the government fully complies with the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking.[i] (The last blog post goes into greater detail on the Tier categories).

The U.S. has standards in place to protect victims of human trafficking. It created the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to establish methods of not only protecting trafficked survivors, but also to prosecute traffickers and and prevent trafficking.[ii] The Act provides protections involving identifying victims, providing shelter and medical care, and repatriation.[iii] The Act authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to permit a human trafficking victim to remain in the U.S.[iv] This is done through the T-Visa. This visa allows victims to become temporary residents that may allow them to become eligible for permanent residency after three years. [v]The TPVA also offers protections by making trafficked victims eligible for witness protection programs as well as other federal and state benefits to the same extent as refugees.[vi]

TVPRA

The TPVA also attempts to protect unknown victims of trafficking. The 2008 provisions of the Act require unaccompanied minor children to be screened as possible trafficking victims and to then be transferred within 48 hours to the custody of Health and Human Services.[vii] In other forms of protection, the U.S. has federally funded victim assistance case management. The case management includes referrals to resources such as: dental and medical care, employment and training services, substance abuse treatments, and many more, including advocacy.[viii] The funding for victim assistance was increased by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). HHS enabled trafficking victims of other countries the same benefits as Refugees.[ix]  In 2013, about $7.9 million dollars went to 19 victim services across the U.S..[x]

Trafficking Blog 2

Even though the U.S. seems to do a lot, especially in funding victim services, there are non-governmental organizations (NGO) that still believe the government could do more. NGOs have concerns that the U.S. does not consistently take the victim-centered approach that it should.[xi] A victim-centered approach is an approach taken that “seeks to minimize re-traumatization associated with the criminal justice process by providing the support of victim advocates and service providers, empowering survivors as engaged participants in the process, and providing survivors an opportunity to play a role in seeing their traffickers.”[xii] There are also concerns that the employees that handle victims do not have proper training and guidance to provide the critical support that some victims need.[xiii]

Although the U.S. has things it could work on to better improve the protections offered to victims, there are other countries that do not do half of what the U.S. does. For instance, Cuba is a Tier 3 country and does not fully comply with the minimum standards of eliminating trafficking. The Cuban government has not officially reported on its protections of trafficked victims nor did it report the procedures it has in place to protect victims or guide officials in identifying victims. However, the government does have shelters for victims, although it does not keep track or verify that the victims actually receive any kind of assistance for treatment.[xiv] Recommendations for Cuba consist of: strengthening its efforts to provide special training for police and social workers to protect trafficked victims, build clear procedures on identifying victims, and continue funding victim-centered practices.[xv]

Human Trafficking BarCode

It is reported that Cuba does not comply with the minimum standards because the government is involved in human trafficking.[xvi] Cuba has offered its opinion in statements stating that this is not happening within its government. However, these statements come from very biased individuals. Cuba has been a Tier 3 country for the last twelve years and continues to not comply with standards. Although Cuba is just one of many countries that are considered a Tier 3 country, it is always difficult to tell if these countries fall in this category by choice or because they do not have the means to be able to rise out its condition. Cuba continues to tell the U.S. government that it will do better year after year, however it is never shown in their reports.

Another example is Cambodia. Cambodia was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List.[xvii] According to the State Department, Cambodia’s government has procedures in place to identify victims and refer them to NGOs. However, Cambodia is on the Tier 2 Watch List because the amount of victims identified continues to decline.[xviii] Cambodia has government operated shelters to take in victims of trafficking, but once the victims arrive, the government has very little to do with further assisting them.[xix] The majority of assistance given to trafficked victims (medical, legal, shelter, and vocational services) in Cambodia is administered by NGOs in Cambodia, instead of the Cambodian government.[xx] However, there have been reports that some NGO shelters subject their victims to even more abuse and that they cannot provide the victims adequate care.[xxi] The Cambodian government has no policy in place that allows trafficked victims to stay in the country. Victims that come from other countries are sent back to their home country without any legal alternatives.[xxii] Recommendations for Cambodia would be to create legal practices that first involve keeping victims from being returned to the county they were originally trafficked from. Another recommendation would be to give employees of shelters a practical training on how to deal with trafficked victims, as well as hire people whom are willing to help instead of re-traumatize victims. A third recommendation would be for the government to be more involved in the protection of trafficked victims instead of identifying them and completely handing them over to NGOs.

notforsale-580x360

Overall, although human trafficking is a huge issue no matter what country is being discussed, it does not go unseen. Regardless of the Tier, each country has some kind of issue in trafficking. However, the important thing is that something is being done to resolve and prevent the issue from happening. Also, this proves that just because a country is considered a Tier 1 country, does not mean that they cannot improve on ways to protect victims. However, Tier 1 countries such as the U.S., are considered to have the best practices such as shelter, medical care, and other assistance that aims to keep victims safe and free from being re-trafficked, and it should be required that all countries find a way to implement the same kind of practices.

Raiven Taylor is third year law student at the University of Baltimiore School of Law and is completing her concentration in International Law. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Bowie State University. She has studied abroad in London, England and Clermond-Ferrand, France. She is an Senior Staff Editor for the Journal for International Law as well as Secretary for the International Law Society. Additionally, Raiven is a Rule 16 student attorney in the Immigrant Rights Clinic. Her passion and interest in international law is human trafficking and international human rights law.

[i] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226849.pdf

[ii] https://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/policy-advocacy/national-policy/current-federal-laws

[iii] http://fightslaverynow.org/why-fight-there-are-27-million-reasons/the-law-and-trafficking/trafficking-victims-protection-act/trafficking-victims-protection-act/

[iv] https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/898

[v] http://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/resource-file/trafficking%20victims%20protection%20act%20fact%20sheet_0.pdf

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226849.pdf

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.

[xi] Id.

[xii] https://www.ovcttac.gov/taskforceguide/eguide/1-understanding-human-trafficking/13-victim-centered-approach/

[xiii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226849.pdf

[xiv] http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2013/215447.htm

[xv] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226845.pdf

[xvi] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/salim-lamrani/cuba-the-united-states-an_b_5604799.html

[xvii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226845.pdf

[xviii] Id.

[xix] Id.

[xx] Id.

[xxi] Id.

[xxii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226845.pdf


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U.S. and Cuba: Finally Defrosting from the Cold War

Annielle Makon

Historical Background 

The tumultuous U.S.-Cuba relationship has its roots during the Cold War. In 1959, Fidel Castro and a group of revolutionaries seized power in Havana, overthrowing President Fulgencio Batista.[1] The United States recognized Castro’s government, despite misgivings about his communist political ideology.[2]  However, by 1960, tension between Cuba and the United States grew when Cuba increased trade with the Soviet Union and increased taxes on American imports.[3] The United States retaliated by slashing Cuban sugar imports, and then imposing a ban on nearly all exports to Cuba.[4] President Kennedy then issued a full economic embargo that included travel restrictions.[5] By 1961, the United States had severed all diplomatic ties with Cuba and attempted to overthrow the Castro regime through covert operations.[6] The Bay of Pigs invasion has been widely regarded as a botched CIA back attempt to overthrow the government that led Cuba to allow the Soviet Union to build a missile base on their island.[7] This led to a twelve-day nuclear standoff between Cuba and the United States[8] Eventually, the Cuban Missile crisis ended with an agreement that the missile base would be dismantled and that the US would not invade Cuba additionally the US would remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey.[9]  Since then, the US and Cuba’s relation have been hostile at best.

US-Cuba-deal

Challenges Starting Anew

The US and Cuba held on to this Cold War grudge until December 17, 2014, when Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced a historical break in the relations between Cuba and the United States – the U.S. and Cuba would restore diplomatic ties.[10]  The attempt at normalizing diplomatic relations was facilitated, surprisingly, by Pope Francis and Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.[11] The change began with a prisoner swap and Havana’s release of a jailed U.S. contractor.[12] Furthermore, the United States eased restrictions on remittances, travel and banking.[13] In return Cuba released 53 political prisoners.[14] However, the U.S. trade embargo, which requires congressional approval to be rescinded, is unlikely to be lifted any time soon, due to opposition in Congress.[15] Both governments are learning that fifty years of isolations has not worked and there has been no improvement between the two nations.  This change is a long time coming.

B5EsVn_CIAArHH_

This historic step will open a new era of relations between the two nations.  It will help ease the tension, and the United States can help create stability to handle the economic, political, and social transformation that Cuba desperately needs.[16] For this reform to be effective each nation needs to adjust their hostile attitude towards the other. Cuba needs to readjust its socio-political institutionalism.[17] According to Human Rights Watch, Cuba continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government.[18]  By no longer isolating Cuba, the human rights situation in Cuba will hopefully improve and eventually lead to political reforms.[19]

Both countries are optimistic about progress occurring.  Although, it will take time so see the long-term impact, there are some immediate impacts occurring right now. The immediate change was reestablishing diplomatic relations that was severed in 1961. The U.S. is even attempting to reestablish an embassy in Havana.[20] Additionally, the U.S. is expanding travel to Cuba. There are some groups that fear that this not a positive step. The U.S. delegation voiced concern over the lack of freedom of expression and assembly in Cuba and the Cuban delegation responded stating that the U.S have issues regarding police brutality and inequality, and the issues surrounding the torture and indefinite detention of Guantanamo inmates. Moreover, President Obama is under pressure from Republicans to make a breakthrough with Cuba on human rights. The Cuban government has acknowledged that they have work to do regarding human rights.

2014_12_19_155130_10

We know that the road to progress won’t be easy and it will be marked by personal limits, political errors and human fears. Many obstacles lay ahead for both countries to overcome, especially with the historical problems between them.  There is profuse distrust on both sides, yet it is a change that finally needs to start happening. So grab your passports and head to Cuba while you can!

Annielle Makon is a third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’15). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While studying Political Science, Annielle developed a passion for human rights and international relations. In addition to being a CICL Student Fellow, Annielle is an Associate Editor on the Journal of International Law. Annielle also interns at Amnesty International in the Sub-Saharan Africa unit.

[1] Danielle Renwick & Brianna Lee, US-Cuba Relations, Council on Foreign Relations (Jan. 20, 2015), http://www.cfr.org/cuba/us-cuba-relations/p11113.

[2] Id.

[3] Claire Suddath, A Brief History Of U.S.-Cuba Relations, Time  (Apr. 15, 2009), http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1891359,00.html.

[4] Id.

[5] Renwick, supra note 1.

[6] Renwick, supra note 1.

[7] Renwick, supra note 1.

[8] Renwick, supra note 1.

[9] Renwick, supra note 1.

[10] Renwick, supra note 1.

[11] Immanuel Wallerstein, Cuba and the United States Resume Relations: Happy New Year!, Common Dreams (Jan. 2, 2015), http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/01/02/cuba-and-united-states-resume-relations-happy-new-year.

[12] Renwick, supra note 1.

[13] Renwick, supra note 1.

[14] Renwick, supra note 1.

[15] Renwick, supra note 1.

[16] Lenier González Mederos, Cuba and the United States: The Challenges of Starting Anew, Huffington Post (Jan. 29, 2015), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lenier-gonzalez-mederos/cuba-and-the-united-state_1_b_6571814.html.

[17] Id.

[18] Renwick, supra note 1.

[19] Renwick, supra note 1.

[20] Charting a New Course With Cuba, WhiteHouse (Dec. 17, 2014), https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy/cuba.