President Barack Obama in his 2016 State of the Union Address in the space of one paragraph on Cuba uttered so many inaccuracies that a fact check is needed. Below is what he said tonight broken down sentence by sentence.
Sentence One: "Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America."FACT: The United States did not isolate Cuba for fifty years and three administrations (Carter, Clinton and Obama) have engaged with the dictatorship and sought to normalize relations prolonging the life of the Castro regime.
The Carter Administration was the first to lift the travel ban and hold high-level negotiations with the Cuban dictatorship, and both sides opened Interest Sections in their respective capitals between 1977 and 1981. Then from 1981 to 1982, the Castro regime executed approximately 80 prisoners, which was a marked escalation when compared to 1976. Furthermore, during the Carter presidency, Fidel Castro took steps that resulted in the violent deaths of US citizens.
During the Mariel crisis of 1980, when over 125,000 Cubans sought to flee the island, the Cuban dictator sought to save face by selectively releasing approximately 12,000 violent criminals or individuals who were mentally ill into the exodus. This first attempt at normalizing relations saw a worsening human rights situation and migration crisis.
The Clinton Administration in 1994 initiated regular contacts between the U.S. and Cuban military that included joint military exercises at the Guantanamo Naval base. Despite this improvement of relations, the 1990s saw some brutal massacres of Cubans that are rightly remembered such as the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. The shoot down involved two planes blown to bits over international airspace by Cuban MiGs killing three American citizens and a Cuban resident who were engaged in the search and rescue of Cuban rafters. Bill Clinton on September 6, 2000 was the first sitting president to shake hands with Fidel Castro. One month later he signed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TEFRA) that opened trade between the Castro regime and U.S. companies. Opposition in congress led to that trade not being subsidized by taxpayers by not providing government backed credits ensuring business would be cash and carry.
The worsening human rights situation was a contributing factor in the August 1994 rafter crisis in which 35,000 Cubans fled the country. Experts have identified that this was a migration crisis engineered by the Castro regime. The Cuban dictatorship did this because it successfully reasoned that it could coerce the Clinton Administration to the negotiating table to obtain concessions, which indeed it did, and prolonged the life of the dictatorship for another twenty years. Prior to Bill Clinton, Cubans fleeing the Castro regime were received into the United States. It was on his watch, beginning in 1995, that Cuban refugees were declared migrants and began to be seized on the high seas and deported to communist Cuba with the infamous wet foot/ dry foot policy.
The Obama Administration beginning in 2009 loosened sanctions on the Castro regime. On his watch concluding on December 17, 2014 the Obama administration freed all five members of the WASP spy network, including Gerardo Hernandez, who was serving two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to murder four members of Brothers to the Rescue murdered during the previous attempt at normalizing relations during the Clinton Administration. The Obama administration de-linked the pursuit of full diplomatic relations from the rise in human rights violations in Cuba and in the region by Cuban state security. The White House has doubled down in concessions ignoring the Castro regime's continuing sponsorship of terrorism and smuggling of weapons to sanctioned countries in order to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Still unfolding but will be addressed in response to the additional false claims made by President Obama that his policy is succeeding in promoting democracy.
Sentence Two: "That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people."FACT: The lives of the Cuban people has worsened during the Obama administration with a worsening economic situation; the murder of democratic opposition leaders such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Laura Inés Pollán and a mass exodus of Cubans. Since December 17, 2014 the White House politicized the report on human trafficking to give the Castro regime a pass; made access to the U.S. embassy much more difficult for Cuban dissidents and independent journalists; did not invite dissidents to the opening of the embassy; and the State Department threatened the daughter of a murdered dissident who was properly accredited as a member of the press from asking questions during a press conference there with the Cuban Foreign Minister. Commerce between Cuba and the United States has steadily declined during the Obama administration. In 2008 the last full year of the George W. Bush administration the United States sold $711.5 million in sales to Cuba vs 175.4 million in the first 11 months of 2015 under the Obama Administration according to the United State Census Bureau.
Sentences Three: "You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere?FACT: The Obama State Department's politicization of the human trafficking report that watered down critiques of China, Cuba and Malaysia is costing the United States credibility on this issue leading to a backlash. Gerardo Hernandez, convicted of conspiracy to murder Americans on orders of the Castro brothers, has announced that he is ready for his “next order” from the Castro regime after returning home to a heroes welcome and agents of the dictatorship are traveling the world declaring victory. Inviting the Cuban dictatorship to the Summit of the Americas and the violence perpetrated by Cuban state security agents combined with President Obama's embrace of Raul Castro there while at the same time ignoring violence visited on U.S. citizens damaged U.S. credibility. American disengagement from Latin America under the Obama administration has also led to a loss of leadership.
Sentence Four: "Recognize that the Cold War is over."FACT: The Castro regime never recognized that the "Cold War is over" and following the collapse of the Soviet bloc met in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 1990 for the totalitarian left to regroup and carry on the objectives hostile to the interest of the United States. Recent examples of this continuing "cold war" mentality can be found in the tons of weapons smuggled by Cuba under bags of sugar on a freighter, detected and intercepted in July 2013 by Panamanian officials, while on its way to North Korea in violation of international sanctions. Among the weapons found were Cuban MiGs, rockets and ballistic missile technology. In February of 2015 a shipment originating in China with final destination in Cuba was also smuggling tons of weapons and ammunition when discovered in Colombia. In the past few days it has been learned that a U.S. Hellfire missile that was supposed to be returned to the United States from Europe ended up in Cuba in 2014. The emerging information in the media is pointing to a possible espionage coup by the Cuban intelligence services. The Cuban government, despite requests by the Obama administration, has refused to return it. Ironically during the Cold War the United States did return Cuban MiGs piloted by defecting fighter pilots from Cuba.
Sentence Five: "Lift the embargo."FACT: The Clinton administration opened up cash and carry trade with Cuba in 2000. Beginning in 2009 the Obama administration began to unilaterally further loosen and weaken economic sanctions on Cuba. The main objective of the Obama administration, the Chamber of Commerce, agribusiness and the Castro regime is to provide credits to the dictatorship. This means that if the Castro regime is granted credits but defaults in paying American creditors, the cost will be passed on to American taxpayers.