Trump will reverse Obama's dreadful Cuban appeasement
Adolfo Franco, Contributor, The Hill
The recent op-ed by former Obama administration official Mark Feierstein underscores the moral failure of the previous administration and its misguided appeasement policy regarding Cuba.
As Feierstein’s piece makes clear, that policy was devoid of any support or concern for Cuba’s long-suffering dissidents and pro-democracy advocates, the majority of whom have endorsed President Trump’s rollback of Obama policies and applaud the president’s restatement of the importance of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.
The conditions President Trump has laid out for improving relations with the Castro regime are simple: Cuba must hold free elections, allow freedom of speech, release its many political prisoners and end its support of terrorists.
The Obama administration’s abandonment of these core principles of freedom — as well as the Cuban people themselves — in favor of accommodation with a brutal, repressive dictatorship is the tragic result of Obama’s ill-considered “legacy-building” in the late stages of his presidency. The argument that “commercial and people-to-people” exchanges, all of which are on Cuba’s terms, can bring about change and democracy on the island is ludicrous.
Freedom and democracy triumphed in Eastern Europe because of America's and the West’s unwavering support of dissident and civil-society movements, such as those inspired and led by Lech Walesa in Poland and Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia.
Obama’s legacy in Cuba to date is a fiasco. Since his “historic opening” with Cuba of December 2014, the Castro dictatorship has intensified its political repression with the arrest of more than 10,000 dissidents. Nothing has changed. It's business as usual for the dictatorship.
The Obama “opening” has only served to provide the Castro dictatorship with sorely-needed foreign currency to prop up a bankrupt regime. The so-called “commercial and cultural interaction” with Cuba legitimizes a regime that promotes terrorism, harbors hijackers and criminals who have murdered Americans and provides aid and comfort to our enemies throughout the world.
Cuba fuels discontent in Venezuela, ships arms to North Korea and provides a platform for Russian espionage targeted at the United States. The Castro regime supports narco-traffickers, practices apartheid in the form of an elite unelected white politburo ruling over a black majority and enslaves its own people while siphoning off profits from foreign investment and tourism to ensure these flow directly to the Castro family, regime loyalists and the secret police.
Yet, neither Feierstein nor other Obama officials, who concocted and implemented this failed policy, express concerns about the “Obama opening” and its self-evident failures. They conveniently look past the crimes of the dictatorship and fool themselves into believing that “investments” in a bankrupt Communist society that ranks at the bottom of creditworthy countries can somehow translate into genuine political reforms and lead to democracy.
Obama abandoned the policy of nine previous Democratic and Republican presidents who rejected Cuba’s oppressors and stood steadfast with Cubans who struggle for liberty. It took 70 years to vanquish the former Soviet Union, thanks to the unwavering defense of freedom by the United States. It took economic sanctions to bring about change in South Africa, and it took courage to stand with Eastern Europeans seeking to free themselves from the yoke of Soviet oppression. The same is required for Cuba.
Cuba’s dictatorship respects only strength and despises weakness. President Obama’s failed attempt to “open” Cuba represents the Castro regime’s successful exploitation of American weakness. President Trump will to confront the tyrants with America’s determination.
President Trump has clearly stated that “America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.” This is not merely a reversal of the previous Administration’s ill-conceived policy. It is a new path forward, one that will lead to freedom for the Cuban people.
Adolfo Franco is former assistant administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and managed the Latin America and Caribbean Bureau in the George W. Bush administration and previously served as counsel to the House International Relations Committee under Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) and Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).
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