Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obama's Legacy: Normalizing relations with an Abnormal Regime

Barack Obama and Raul Castro
Listening to President Obama today after learning the good news that, after more than five years unjustly held hostage, Alan Gross was finally free, and that some Cuban political prisoners were to be freed was nevertheless a sobering and worrisome exercise for a number of reasons.

First the news that three spies who had spied on military installations and congressmen on American soil, that had plotted terrorist acts in the United States, and were implicated in the February 24, 1996 murder of three American citizens and one American resident were freed in a swap to return to Cuba sends a terrible message.

Regime hardliners have won, thanks to the Obama Administration's actions today. Kidnapping an American and holding him for ransom for five years has paid off.  Moderate elements within the dictatorship, seeking to transition Cuba into a responsible member of the family of nations, will have to continue to remain silent and wait.

Secondly, despite smuggling arms to North Korea in violation of international sanctions in 2013; murdering opposition leaders, organizing a Stalinist show trial to cover it up; and projecting itself into the internal affairs of Venezuela did not negatively impact the desire of the Obama Administration to "normalize" relations with this rogue regime.

Third, President Obama in his address gave the impression that the economic embargo had been completely lifted and that is not the case. However, he did make the case against the policy of sanctions on Cuba and for "normalized" relations.

The president makes the argument that the goal of the embargo was the "enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba." However that was never the case. The economic embargo from the beginning was to contain the Castro regime and prevent it expanding through the rest of the hemisphere while at the same time increasing the cost for the Soviet Union during the Cold War to maintain it.

Over the past 55 years that policy succeeded with two exceptions: the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua in 1979 and the arrival of Hugo Chavez to power in Venezuela in 1999. Both exceptions occurred under Administrations that carried out policies in order to end the isolation of Cuba, normalize relations and end the embargo. Both the Carter Administration (1977 - 1981) and the Clinton Administration (1993 - 2001) gave openings to the Castro dictatorship that it was able to exploit to the detriment of the national interests of the United States.

The Obama Administration will be the third presidency to follow down this road. That the White House has stated that it will cooperate with the Castro regime in areas of counter-terrorism and drug trafficking is extremely troubling.

First, the Castro regime has a long track record in sponsoring, promoting and carrying out acts of terrorism. It published a manual that views terrorism as a legitimate form of struggle.

Secondly, the Castro regime has a record going back decades of being deeply involved with international drug traffickers. Sharing intelligence with them is not recommended.

Thirdly, the Administration has indicated that it will review the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. One hopes that the mistakes made by the Bush Administration in taking North Korea off the list are not repeated with Cuba. The belief that removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list would improve its behavior did not manifest itself after the fact. Rewarding the hardline and rogue elements in the Castro regime is unlikely to improve the dictatorship's behavior to the contrary it may worsen.

On February 24, 1996 Fidel and Raul Castro gave the orders to shoot down two planes of Brothers to the Rescue in international airspace and murdered four who were on board the two planes. This was an act of state terrorism that had been planned out in a conspiracy that included members of the WASP spy network of which three were released back to the Castro regime yesterday.

My prayers tonight go out to the families of Mario de la Peña, Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, and Armando Alejandre Jr. who saw Gerardo Hernandez, the one man brought to justice for their murdered loved ones and sentenced to life imprisonment, freed in a political maneuver of the Obama Administration today. Meanwhile their continuing demands for justice have gone unheeded.

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