|A Quarterly Newsletter for and about International Cooperation with Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Cuba|
|Volume 10, Issue 1-2||September 2000|
A Child Shall Lead Them
US Cuba Policy After Elian
Bob Edgar, the new General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) is a former theology school president and prior to that was a highly regarded Member of Congress. He had barely taken office when the NCC became the focal point of the months long effort to reunite Elian Gonzales with his father.
Edgar argued eloquently during the controversy that not only would American values, common sense and law bring Elian back to his father in Cuba, but that the process would shake the foundations of the 40 year old embargo against the country.
The Elian case crystallized growing public sentiment for change in policy toward Cuba. Poll results (reported in the Summer 1999 issue of Interchange) showed that by May of 1999 71% of Americans already favored restoration of normal relations. Reflecting and encouraging the evolution of public opinion, President Clinton directed the State and Treasury Departments to foster greater people to people contact by liberalizing travel regulations.
At the same time a very broad coalition was formed to press Congress to modify the embargo to allow US sales of food and medicine. This unprecedented grouping of business, farmers, moderate Cuban American groups, faith based advocacy organizations, and political allies of Cuban socialism marshaled nationwide support which produced legislative success in Congress in 1999 only to see it stolen by the hard ball politics of Republican leaders in the House and Senate.
Twenty-Five Years Later
US and Indochina Nearly Normal
A quarter century after the end of the Second Indochina War, the undergrowth which impedes US relations with Vietnam is finally being cleared away. Cambodia enjoys fully normal diplomatic and trade relations and US Ambassador Kent Wiedeman has played a key role in moving forward prospects for a trial of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Unfortunately a partial resurgence of weeds is cluttering the ground with Laos (see page 52).
Despite predictions of journalists and academic experts, the US and Vietnam signed a trade agreement in July. After serious evaluation by the Vietnamese leadership led to acceptance of faster economic renovation, and following fine tuning of the lengthy document, accord was reached during a visit to Washington by Minister of Foreign Trade Vu Khoan. (Text available from Vietnam Media Watch http://vnmw.vnn.vn