"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
|On March 22, 2016 the President of the United States did the wave with a dictator|
President Barack Obama had good intentions with his outreach to Cuba, but was ill served by those who presented him a false history of U.S.-Cuba relations and the intentions of Cuba, led by a regime driven by an ideological mission that views the United States as existentially hostile. Below are some lessons from President Obama's detente with the Castro regime: :
- The United States
rapprochement with Cuba (2009 - 2017) under Barack Obama coincided with a worsening human rights situation in the island for Cubans. The Obama administration, not only began to loosen sanctions on the Castro regime in April 2009, but also refused to meet in June of 2009 with the winners of the NED Democracy Award who happened to be five Cuban dissidents. It was the first time in five years that the president of the United States did not meet with the award laureates. In December of 2009 the Castro
regime took Alan Gross hostage and the Obama White House responded
with initial silence and it took U.S. diplomats 25 days to visit with the arbitrarily detained American.
- In Cuba, the regime's hardliners assessed the nature and significance of this warming of relations by President Obama as weakness and seized the opportunity killing Cuban dissident leaders that could oversee a democratic transition. Human rights deteriorated in Cuba with arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions increasing dramatically, rising levels of violence against nonviolent activists. including machete attacks, and the suspicious deaths of human rights defenders such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2010), Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (2011), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (2012), Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (2012), and Harold Cepero Escalante (2012).
- President Obama's claim that on Cuba policy the United States had done "the same thing for over five decades and expect[ed] a different result" is false. The Eisenhower Administration had opposed the Batista regime and quickly recognized Fidel Castro's revolutionary government on January 7, 1959, and Vice President Richard Nixon met with Fidel Castro on April 19, 1959 over several hours. It was Cuba's hostile actions against the United States, and other governments in the region that led to relations being severed on January 3, 1961. The Carter, Clinton, and Obama Administrations all engaged in openings to Cuba that ended badly for U.S. interests and others in the region. The U.S. has not being doing the "same thing."
- President Obama announced his new Cuba policy on December 17, 2014 and commuted the sentences of three Cuban spies, including Gerardo Hernandez who was serving a life sentence for his role in a murder conspiracy that claimed four innocent lives in 1996. They returned to Cuba the same day, and Alan Gross, an innocent mas, was finally freed. This submission to blackmail only encouraged the hardliners in Havana.
- Trade between the United States and Cuba collapsed during the Obama opening, and worsened after the December 17, 2014 announcement that the two governments would seek normalized relations. Peak year of trade was the last year of the George W. Bush Administration ($711.5 million) versus ($185.7 million) in 2015. Worse yet, the Cuban military seized control over larger sections of the Cuban economy during the US-Cuba detente.
- Unscrupulous pollsters sold the Democratic Party a bill of goods on Cuba policy, and are still trying to spin what happened. President Obama did well with Cuban voters in 2008, and 2012 because he pledged to leverage economic sanctions (the embargo) to improving human rights in Cuba. In May 2008 when he addressed the Cuban American National Foundation he linked loosening sanctions to improved human rights in Cuba.
“Don’t be confused about this. I will maintain the embargo,” Mr. Obama said. “It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: If you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations.”
- President Obama abandoned this approach explicitly on December 17, 2014 through the end of his presidency, support for the Democrats imploded. This cost Hillary Clinton the state of Florida in 2016, but pollsters continued to lie costing Democrats a Senate seat and a Governorship in 2018. Candidate Trump in 2016 had echoed the Obama Cuba policy position for much of the campaign, but changed course in September 2016, and his support among Cuban Americans sky rocketed. Following through on his pledge to reverse the Obama Cuba policy his vote among Cuban Americans increased in the 2020 elections.
- On January 2, 2017, Raúl Castro presided over a military parade in which Cuban soldiers chanted: “Obama! Obama! With what fervor we’d like to confront your clumsiness, give you a cleansing with rebels and mortar, and make you a hat out of bullets to the head.”
Cuba policy is now being reviewed, and there is always room for improvement, but one must also learn from the past and recognize the nature of the regime in Havana. There are scores of brain damaged U.S. diplomats that are apparent casualties of not doing this. Doing the wave with Raul Castro, a dictator who killed Americans, at a baseball game in March 2016 legitimized his dictatorship, but did not advance U.S. interests.