Friday, October 14, 2016

Stark Contrast: Reality in Cuba vs The White House Narrative

In memory of  Laura Pollán, Ladies in White founder, who died under suspicious circumstances five years ago today in Cuba. A victim of President Obama's good intentions in Cuba. 

President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice earlier today
The White House today made public a Presidential policy directive on United States-Cuba Normalization that is divorced from reality on numerous fronts. The directive purports to do a number of things as outlined below:
(1) describes the U.S. vision for normalization with Cuba and how our policy aligns with U.S. national security interests; (2) assesses progress toward normalization; (3) describes the current and foreseen strategic landscape; (4) describes priority objectives for normalization; and (5) directs actions required to implement this PPD.
 It also serves as a useful guideline for a critical appraisal that was not present today at The Wilson Center when National Security Adviser Susan Rice made the case for the President's Cuba policy without mentioning the worsening collapse in trade between the United States and Cuba over the past three years, the exodus of over a 100,000 Cuban refugees to the United States since December 2014, and the return of a Russian military presence to Cuba after a decades long absence. Not to mention rising violence and repression against Cuban dissidents during the Obama administration not seen in years.

Instead the big news was about Cuban rum and cigars, produced from factories and lands stolen from their owners, could now be brought back by Americans who had visited Cuba putting an end to sanctions initiated by President John Kennedy over half a century ago. Ambassador Rice spent a lot of time talking about the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and how they had transcended those times of distrust.  She failed to mention that the same men who lobbied the Soviet Union to launch a nuclear first strike on the United States remain in power today, and asked the Russians to do it again in the 1980s.

The Obama Administration vision of normalization is guided by the following concerns:
  • The security of the United States, its citizens, and U.S. allies and partners.
The disconnect between the aim and the reality is abysmal. Consider that the same day normalization was announced on December 17, 2014 President Obama commuted the sentence of an unrepentant murderous Castro spy. Gerardo Hernandez was serving a double life sentence for espionage against the United States, and his role in a murder conspiracy that cost the lives of the three U.S. citizens and a permanent resident. The freed Cuban spy and his network, had been given instructions to engage in acts of sabotage at a local airport and to send a mail bomb to assassinate a retired CIA agent at his home in South Florida. Furthermore in the months that followed the State Department removed Cuba from the list of state terror sponsors while there was still evidence of behavior by the regime to be kept on it and watered down the report on human trafficking in Cuba. Despite this history the PPD calls for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to "support broader United States Government efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, with Intelligence Community elements working to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts." A former NSA official has written that "Obama just opened the door for Castro's spies."

Spy convicted of murder conspiracy freed by Obama honored by Raul Castro
  • A strong, innovative, and growing U.S. economy in an open international economic system that promotes opportunity and prosperity.
Under the Obama administration trade between Cuba and the United States has collapsed to levels not seen since 2002. Other countries with "normal" relations have fared worse. Argentina is seeking repayment of 1.3 billion dollars it is owed by the Cuba. Meanwhile the Castro regime calls for 75% of its debt with Argentina to be written off.  In 2013 Mexico waived 70% of the 487 million dollar debt it was owed by the Cuba. Russia, Venezuela, China, Japan, Spain, France, Romania, Brazil, and Italy are owed billions of dollars. Russia forgave $29 billion dollars of debt that the Castro regime owed the Russians.  Canadians have had to pursue Cuban maritime debts by seizing Cuban vessels and negotiating payment through Canadian courts. Iran agreed in September 2016 to restructure a 55 million dollar debt owed to it by Cuba. This is a deadbeat regime not a trading partner.
  • Respect for universal values at home and around the world. 
 Again the goal expressed is contradicted by the policy implemented on at least three high profile occasions. First, Carnival Cruise Line signed an agreement with the Castro regime on March 21, 2016 to sail to Cuba from the United States. In order to conduct their core mission Carnival had to agree to enforce General Castro's policy that bans all Cubans from traveling into the island by water. It did not matter if Cubans born on the island were now citizens of another country. Obama's Treasury Department on July 7, 2015 signed off on the Carnival Cruise Line - Castro alliance ignoring that an entire class of Americans would be discriminated against based on their national origin. Mass protests, boycotts and lawsuits led the Castro regime to blink when it became apparent that popular outrage would lead the cruise ship company to cancel its cruises. 

Second, the U.S. embassy in Cuba floated a trial balloon that announced that the United States government accepted that U.S. citizens of Cuban descent born in the United States are not recognized by the Castro regime as Americans but as Cuban nationals subject to the dictatorship's laws and regulations. Even though one was born in the United States and has never applied for dual nationality in Cuba they are treated as a Cuban born by the Castro regime in terms of responsibilities but not rights and the Obama State Department went along with it in order to have "normal relations." This also means that these U.S. citizens would be denied consular access in Cuba. The State Department had to back track in May of 2016 when this trial balloon sunk amidst negative press coverage and popular outrage. 

Third, American Airlines is pulling Cuban-American pilots and flight attendants off flights to Cuba in order to placate demands by the Castro regime. Fabiola Santiago, of The Miami Herald, obtained an American Airlines memo announcing the policy as follows: “Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crew members.”
  • A rules-based international order that promotes peace, security, and opportunity. 
The Obama administration engaged in outreach to the Castro regime beginning in 2009, intensifying through 2013 and finally announced the new policy on December 17, 2014.  While these friendly, and secret communications were taking place, the Castro dictatorship was caught smuggling tons of weapons into North Korea in 2013 in violation of international UN sanctions, got its hands on a U.S. Hellfire missile in 2014 and held on to it for over a year despite repeated requests by the Obama administration to have it returned, and has led the way to defend brutal outlaw regimes the world over. Legitimizing the dictatorship in Cuba and ending economic sanctions that were part of a containment policy only serves to undermine the above desired objective.

Freedom will return to Cuba some day, but the Obama administration's engagement with the dictatorship that begin in 2009 has and will extend the life of the Castro regime as Bill Clinton's engagement with Fidel Castro in the 1990s gave another twenty years to the totalitarians in Cuba. Sadly over the past seven years opposition leaders who could have led a democratic transition, such as Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá, were killed in what appears to have been extrajudicial killings carried out by Castro's intelligence agents.


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