A Hostage Triangle

A Hostage Triangle....

The scene unfolded in 2014 and was set in place on 17 December 2014. The actual event occurred in 2015 when President Obama confirmed his desire to visit the Republic of Cuba. At that moment, the government of the Republic of Cuba knew that the perceived strength of Washington in any negotiation had shifted to Havana.

President Obama became a hostage to Cuba.

If the President was now including a visit to the Republic of Cuba within his final term "legacy" events, the government of the Republic of Cuba knew that the President would need to try and create a commercial, economic and political landscape that would support such a visit.

The government of the Republic of Cuba believed that the Obama Administration would continue to expand the commercial, economic and political relationship- without an important caveat, that the government of the Republic of Cuba reciprocate. That is precisely what happened.

Other than permitting a substantial increase in the number of visitors to the Republic of Cuba, and thus earning significant revenues, there was no embrace (or authorization) for most of the commercially-focused initiatives offered through the United States Department of the Treasury and United States Department of Commerce.  What initiatives provided revenues would generally be accepted; those which required expenditures would generally be avoided.

There have been visits to the Republic of Cuba by four cabinet secretaries; more than one hundred and forty representatives of the United States government have visited since 2015; approximately half that number of representatives of the government of the Republic of Cuba have visited the United States during the same period.

For the government of the Republic of Cuba, as hostage taker, or host, there seemed little risk. There was no population-driven demand for commercial, economic or political change. The deteriorating financial relationship with Venezuela was manageable, primarily due to a re-emergence of relationships with traditional trading partners; an agreement was reached with the Paris Club of Creditor Nations. Heads of state and heads of government were in line to visit Havana.  But, there remained a tenuous financial foundation; Republic of Cuba government-operated companies were seeking payment terms of up to one year- often from providers who had already been incurring payment arrears.

The newfound and newly-resurrected interest from most governments, most financial institutions, most companies were a direct result of a belief, their belief, that the relationship with the United States was on a positive glide path and, most importantly, was based upon expectation, requirement, that United States citizens would increase their visits (and expenditures) and United States companies would have a presence, although in the slowest way possible so as not to jeopardize opportunities the governments, companies and financial institutions located in their respective countries feel have been reserved for them.

Cuba became hostage to its new and newly-resurrected friends.

No longer would the "sit back and wait" approach suffice; with less than a year remaining for Obama Administration initiatives, without a meaningful impact, and an impact that would be sustained, those entities (in Europe and in Asia and in the Americas) that had granted debt relief would again question how the funds would be repaid and how their newly-created commercial operations would succeed, without the United States' continued lessening of restrictions.  They need the Obama Initiatives to survive the Obama Presidency.

Cuba is a hostage to President Obama.

With 317 days remaining in the Obama Administration, the government of the Republic of Cuba must now permit and, more importantly, have operational, some of the commercial initiatives- Alabama-based Cleber LLC to assemble tractors (critical to have an assembled tractor in the marketplace before 20 January 2017), Tampa-based Florida Produce of Hillsborough County to operate a leased food warehouse; cruise ship schedules, offices for companies, etc, agreement on certified claims.  The Obama Administration plans to have some United States companies announce commercial intentions leading up to and during the visit by the President to the Republic of Cuba on 21/22 March 2016.

A bilateral landscape that is defined by the imagery of air carriers with regularly-scheduled services, an increase in visitors to the Republic of Cuba, increase in revenues to the Republic of Cuba, and a continuing decline in United States exports to the Republic of Cuba (41% decline food/agricultural commodity exports in 2015; 8% decline in January 2016) would not be immune to change from the successor to President Obama.

Today, the government of the Republic of Cuba has the role as hosting a hostage and being twice a hostage.  How it manages a resolution of this hostage triangle will become apparent in thirteen days and then again on 16-18 April 2016, during the 7th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Republic of Cuba.