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    John Kerry Should Support “Regime Choice” for Cuba

    "Mauricio Claver-Carone
    Executive Director, Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C.

    John Kerry Should Support "Regime Choice" for Cuba
    Posted: 05/12/11 12:43 PM ET

    The argument du jour for opponents of the U.S. Agency for International
    Development's (USAID) programs to promote democracy in Cuba is that they
    violate the island's "sovereignty" by advocating "regime change."

    The latest congressional manifestation of this opposition comes from
    U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Foreign Relations
    Committee, who announced last week that he would unilaterally delay the
    Obama Administration's disbursement of $20 million appropriated by the
    U.S. Congress for FY 2010.

    Never mind that these programs support the families of Cubans jailed for
    their support of democracy, their loved ones fired from their jobs and
    their children expelled from . The programs also provide cell
    phones, laptops and other basic items that Cuba's bloggers need to break
    through the regime's censorship and information monopoly in their
    efforts to build a civil society; and that they provide books to
    independent libraries, paper and pencils to labor unions and journalists
    to allow them to exercise their fundamental human right of free .

    For opponents of these democracy programs, that's all irrelevant. They
    want the programs scrapped altogether and replaced with ones
    pre-approved by Cuba's dictatorship.

    According to Kerry, "there is no evidence… that the 'democracy
    promotion' (quotations are his) programs… are helping the Cuban
    people. Nor have they achieved much more than provoking the Cuban
    government to arrest a U.S. government contractor who was distributing
    satellite communication sets to Cuban contacts."

    That U.S. government contractor is 62-year-old , who was
    helping Cuba's Jewish community connect to the Internet — a fundamental
    right protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human
    Rights, which states:

    Everyone has the right to of opinion and expression; this
    right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to
    seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and
    regardless of frontiers.

    Kerry also announced that he has requested an investigation by the
    Government Accountability Office (GAO) "into the legal basis and
    effectiveness of these operations."

    Yet these programs are clearly prescribed in the 1996 Cuban Liberty and
    Democratic Solidarity Act ( Act). So, is Senator Kerry really
    responding to complaints raised by the regime? The regime has
    made it abundantly clear — most recently to former President Jimmy
    Carter — that it considers these programs to be a violation of Cuban
    "law" (its dictatorial decrees) and views them as a nuisance to its
    totalitarian rule.

    It is hard to imagine that this is the same Senator Kerry who has been a
    steadfast advocate of "regime change" in Egypt and Libya, and the
    biggest cheerleader of the Obama Administration's military operation in
    support of Libya's rebels, which cost $100 million on the first day alone.

    Why is Senator Kerry so hostile to the concept of "regime change" in
    Cuba, but not in North Africa and the Middle East? How can he support
    financing the violent overthrow of the Gaddafi regime by armed Libyan
    rebels, but not the distribution of laptops and books for Cuba's
    opposition movement, which only advocates a peaceful transition to

    As the well-known Washington maxim goes — "personnel is policy." And in
    the case of Senator Kerry, the answer can be found in his senior advisor
    for Latin America, Fulton Armstrong.

    Armstrong is a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst with a known
    history of hindering the execution of U.S. policy towards Cuba. Together
    with his former colleague at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Belen
    Montes, Armstrong authored an oft-cited 1998 report that argued that
    Cuba no longer posed a security threat to the . Ironically,
    just three years later (in 2001), Montes was identified as a Cuban spy,
    arrested, convicted and is now serving life in a federal .

    Armstrong's strong opposition to USAID's Cuba democracy programs is
    widely-known in the halls of Congress and the State Department to be
    based on his strong personal objection to the concept of "regime change."

    Here's a permanent solution to this semantic disagreement:

    Let's discard the concept of "regime change" and, instead, coalesce
    around a new option of "regime choice" for the Cuban people.

    Regime choice encapsulates what is surely our shared goal for Cuba —
    free and fair multi-party elections. And it is consistent with the
    LIBERTAD Act, which would consequently consummate (and expire) when Cuba
    holds free and fair elections.

    Free and fair elections are also the only means for the Cuban people to
    legitimately vest "sovereignty" to Cuba's government; it cannot be
    inherited or seized by force — it is only granted to governments by the
    free choice and will of its people.

    So, let's move forward and work together to promote "regime choice" for
    the Cuban people.

    Surely, Senator Kerry would agree.

    Mauricio Claver-Carone is a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and
    founding editor of in Washington, D.C. He is an
    attorney who formerly served with the U.S. Department of the Treasury
    and has served on the full-time faculty of The Catholic of
    America's School of Law and adjunct faculty of The George Washington
    University's National Law Center.