LASA 2015: Between the U.S. and Cuba

I got word a few days ago that my paper proposal for the Latin American Studies Association 2015 conference (May 27-30). The abstract is below. Research is ongoing (obviously), and I would love to hear comments and news.

Vicepresidente de Panamá, Isabel de Saint Malo, (Izq) y su homologo cubano, Bruno Rodriguez, en la Habana/AFPwas accepted. San Juan, here we come. I am presenting a paper on the 2015 Summit of the Americas, particularly focused on the role of Panama in seeking the participation of both the United States and Cuba…and maybe even getting them to have a conversation.


Between the U.S. and Cuba: Panama and the 2015 Summit of the Americas

In 2015, the hemisphere’s longest-running international conflict is set for an interesting turn. Initially complicit in excluding Cuba from the inter-American system, Latin American governments are now nearly unanimous that the island state should be welcomed back. The United States, insisting on political preconditions, continues to insist on the island’s exclusion from organizations and fora. At the 2012 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, much of Latin America threatened to boycott the next summit if Cuba were not allowed to participate. The Panama summit, set for 2015, has become a litmus test—for the treatment of Cuba, democracy promotion, and U.S. power.

Panama now finds itself in the middle of this colossal conflict. The 2015 summit was intended to be a shining moment for a small state that has displayed impressive economic growth and is set to inaugurate an expanded canal. As host, Panama has an incentive to creative mediate to avoid a failed summit. While much of IR theory ignores or downplays the role of small states, another current has identified small states as active, at sometimes successful, mediators. However, this literature is overwhelming focused on wealthy states, largely in Europe. Using interviews with U.S., Cuban, and Panamanian diplomats, this paper will examine the extent to which Panama seeks to mediate the dispute, and how. In doing so, it will test whether insights from the literature on small-state mediation travel.

U.S. midterms

I’m posting a little late, but shortly before the U.S. midterm elections, I was interviewed by Ofelia Alemán of the Mexican magazine Siempre!

“En medio de un gran descontento de la población reflejado en las encuestas de los votantes estadounidenses, algunos demócratas y expertos celebran los numerosos esfuerzos del presidente estadounidense Barack Obama por impulsar decenas de reformas. Por increíble que parezca, la mayoría de los estadounidenses tiene una percepción negativa de la actual administración. Se piensa que el gobierno va por mal camino, que la administración es ineficiente y que no hay respuesta de su presidente para situaciones tan importantes.”

Lo demás de la entrevista en Siempre!

The Non-Trade Trade

I have a new post on the Americas Quarterly blog that looks at a new documentary on prisoner transfers between the United States and Cuba, offering an historical comparison between a “non-trade trade” made during the Carter administration with the situations of Alan Gross and the remaining three members of the Cuban Five today.

Check out the documentary, produced by Soraya Castro of the University of Havana.

Over at Americas Quarterly:

“At the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term, moves toward normalization between the United States and Cuba briefly seemed possible. Restrictions on travel and remittances were loosened, and Obama hinted at bigger changes during the April 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

However, the political space in the United States quickly closed after USAID contractor Alan Gross was detained by Cuban authorities in late 2009. Meanwhile, the continued detention of three members of the “Cuban Five” since 1998 by the United States remained a major irritant for Cuba.”

Read the rest at Americas Quarterly.