|State of the Union 2015|
Dear President Obama,
President Obama sometimes in foreign policy the options to chose from are not ideal and that is the case with Cuba. Over the past 56 years different administrations have sought to engage the Castro regime. Like North Korea it is a totalitarian communist dictatorship with a terrifyingly effective state security apparatus and unlike North Korea it has an effective propaganda apparatus both nationally and internationally. Two prior administrations in 1977 under President Carter and in 1992 under President Clinton went down this path and in both cases the end results compromised U.S. national security and people died.
This "shift in Cuba policy" will not "end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere" because sanctions were and are not at the root of the conflict but rather a fundamental difference between a democracy that says it values human rights and freedoms and a totalitarian dictatorship that does not recognize them except in service to the aims of the regime. Furthermore the Castro regime from its days as a guerrilla movement through decades of dictatorship has defended, practiced and carried out terrorism as a legitimate tactic in revolutionary struggle.
The regime has no need of "phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba" and no further proof of this is needed than to recall how Soviet publications were banned during the Gorbachev era because perestroika and glasnost were considered subversive by Fidel Castro. The old tyrant understood that what the Russians were peddling was a threat to the dictatorship.
Mr. President extending the hand of friendship to Fidel Castro (as President Clinton did in 2000) and as you did to Raul Castro in 2013 is not extending it to Cubans but to their oppressors. Raul Castro ordered the shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes on February 24, 1996 killing four humanitarians and it was on his watch that Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero died under suspicious circumstances that have all the hallmarks of an extrajudicial execution carried out by state security. This is why on February 3, 2015 Rosa María before the Senate Subcommittee provided an indictment of the Obama administration's outreach to the dictatorship in Cuba:
On 22 July 2012, Cuban State Security detained the car in which my father, Oswaldo Payá, and my friend Harold Cepero, along with two young European politicians, were traveling. All of them survived, but my father disappeared for hours only to reappear dead, in the hospital in which Harold would die without medical attention.
The Cuban government wouldn’t have dared to carry out its death threats against my father if the US government and the democratic world had been showing solidarity. If you turn your face, impunity rages. While you slept, the regime was conceiving their cleansing of the pro-democracy leaders to come. While you sleep, a second generation of dictators is planning with impunity their next crimes.
Rosa María Payá Acevedo asked the question in December 2013: "Why did Barack Obama shake the hand of my father's killer, Raul Castro?" We now know that part of the answer was to free three Cuban spies, one of them Gerardo Hernandez, who was held legally responsible for ending the lives of the above mentioned four men.
Standing up for democratic values in Cuba does not mean freeing a spy serving life for killing Americans. Mr. President you recognized Alan Gross at the State of the Union Address but not the terrorist spy you freed to get him back: Gerardo Hernandez.
Alan Gross should not have spent five years in prison but your administration's initial strategy of silence combined with US diplomats taking 25 days to see Alan Gross cost him 5 years in prison because it sent a signal of weakness and turned Mr. Gross into a hostage to be exchanged. The release of the five spies is a major propaganda victory for the dictatorship and for its hardline elements.
Appeasing tyrants and freeing murderers is a policy that is long past its expiration date of 1939 and the tragic lessons should be heeded to avoid yet another tragedy.
The small steps you are taking is filling many democrats in Cuba not with hope but with despair and the knowledge that more good people will be murdered by this regime and its tenure in power perpetuated by your policies as the dictatorship was by the Clinton administration at the end of the Cold War.
Unfortunately, the desire of agribusiness and the chamber of commerce pushing for subsidized trade with the Castro regime will as is now the case with mainland China assist the dictatorship in modernizing without improving human rights thus endangering them for their neighbors.
Two final considerations: It has been during the Obama administration that Castro regime was caught in 2013 smuggling arms, including ballistic missile technology and dismantled MiG fighter jets to North Korea in violation of international sanctions. Secondly, once again links have been demonstrated between drug traffickers and the Castro regime. Ignoring these realities do not only endanger Cubans, other Latin Americans in the region but the American people as well.
This is a recipe for disaster.