[OP-ED]: New Head of U.S. Embassy in Cuba is No Diplomat
For those innocent souls who believed Donald Trump’s Cuba policy would not be “too bad” or “all that different” from President Obama’s, the appointment of Philip Goldberg as head of the U.S. embassy in Havana should make them understand that only the worst can be expected from the current White House dweller.
“Appointing Ambassador Goldberg to head the US Embassy in Cuba is quite provocative since he was expelled from Bolivia,” American University Professor William LeoGrande said, referring to Goldberg’s time as ambassador in the South American nation, a close ally of Cuba. President Evo Morales expelled him in 2008 for fomenting civil unrest and threatening the unity of the nation itself.
Goldberg will not serve in Havana under the title of Ambassador, but as Chargé d’Affaires. As such, although his appointment does not require congressional approval, it does need to be accepted by the Cuban government. No ambassador has been named since diplomatic relations were reestablished in 2015 under President Obama after 54 years of estrangement.
“Without fear of the empire, I declare Mr. Goldberg, the US ambassador, 'persona non-grata,’” said Evo Morales at the time. “He is conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia.”
Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, was outraged by Goldberg’s provocative meeting with Rubén Costas, the governor of the predominantly white Santa Cruz, Bolivia's richest province, which had threatened to secede.
If approved by Havana, Goldberg would arrive in Cuba at a time of heightened tensions and uncertainty about relations with Washington.
Trump has erased most of Obama’s measures, returning to a Cold War rhetoric, imposing restrictions on travel and business and blaming Cuba for the health problems that supposedly affected some U.S. diplomats and CIA operatives in Havana.
Even though Cuba has forcefully denied any responsibility, Washington withdrew two thirds of its personnel from its Havana embassy in October, which resulted in the suspension of most consular services. Fifteen Cuban diplomats were also ordered to leave the U.S.
“They lie when they talk of attacks or incidents,” Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said, expressing Cuba’s belief that the accusations are a pretext to turn back the clock on the normalization of relations initiated by President Obama. The U.S. came up with this outrageous invention, according to Rodríguez, to justify “new political measures against Cuba which further tighten the blockade and affect bilateral relations as a whole.”
While Goldberg’s appointment in confirmed, the U.S. is not wasting time in trying to foment disturbances and create problems in Cuba. Last week, the current highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in Havana, Lawrence J. Gumbiner, met with Berta Soler, the controversial leader of the Damas de Blanco, a dissident group. Soler, a fervent backer of Trump’s revival of the irrational Cold War policies Obama had tried of leave behind, has had her integrity questioned by former members of the group, including several of its founders.
Goldberg also was the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines until last year when its murderous president Rodrigo Duterte, a man much admired by Trump, expelled him for allegedly interfering with the Philippines internal politics.
The “career diplomat” seems to have a lot of experience in behaving very undiplomatically.
Without a doubt, it is back to the past for U.S. and Cuba under self-confessed sexual predator Donald Trump, who, if we are lucky enough, will not be occupying the White House much longer.