One Year Later: Assessing President Obama's Failed Cuba Strategy
by JEB BUSH & ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN August 18, 2016 4:00 AM
The president's diplomatic rapprochement has not helped the struggling
One year ago this month, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to
Havana to celebrate the reopening of the U.S. embassy, 54 years after
President Dwight Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba's
During the last year, we have seen President Barack Obama, his
administration, and its extended echo chamber work exhaustively to
portray the president's misguided Cuba policy as a success. But the
realities on the ground paint a different picture. We saw President
Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro enjoy a baseball game between the
Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team with FARC terrorists
in the stadium, host a jubilant joint press conference, and mingle with
Nancy Pelosi, Patrick Leahy, and Charlie Rangel over a lavish state
dinner at the Palace of the Revolution.
But today, despite the president's promises to "engage and empower the
Cuban people," little has changed for those suffering under the Havana
Dozens of protesters were arrested in Cuba just hours before President
Obama's arrival in Havana back in March. The Ladies in White, such as
Berta Soler and Yaquelin Heredia Morales are still being harassed,
beaten, and jailed. Sakharov Prize awardee Guillermo "Coco" Fariñas has
been on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks to shine a spotlight on
Castro's human-rights abuses on the island. The regime controls the
media and the Internet remains highly censored with little access to
divergent views. Last month, the Obama State Department even admitted
the dictatorship has failed to live up to the promises it made to
broaden Internet access. At a meeting of the Cuban Communist party in
April, Raul Castro denied Cuba was moving toward capitalism and
continued to deride free markets and private-property rights. Elections
remain far from free and democratic.
In fact, prominent leaders of Cuba's peaceful opposition believe
President Obama's concessions to the Castro regime have been
counterproductive to the fight for freedom. Jorge Luis Garcia Perez,
also known as Antunez, and who spent 17 years in Castro's gulags, has
affirmed that "a vital segment of the Cuban Resistance" view the Obama
administration's policy of appeasement "as a betrayal of the aspiration
to freedom of the Cuban people."
Cuban pro-democracy advocate Antonio Rodiles, who has been arrested more
than 50 times, believes repression by the dictatorship and its Communist
apparatchiks is actually increasing. He recently said, "the regime is
more legitimate after the change in relations with the U.S.," adding,
"Economic changes won't bring political changes; now human rights and
the promotion of democracy are not the priority of the discussion."
As we assess the results of President Obama's foreign-policy legacy, it
is clear that Cuba, like Iran in recent nuclear negotiations, has
received far more concessions from the United States than what we
achieved in return. That shouldn't come as a surprise — at every turn,
the Obama administration has put politics over sound policy, pursuing
photo-ops instead of pragmatic and tangible objectives.
Ultimately, the real test of the Obama administration's rapprochement
with the Castro regime is not whether President Obama's legacy is
burnished with dubious diplomatic achievements, but whether improved
relations between Havana and Washington advance the cause of human
rights and freedom for the Cuban people. The ongoing detention of
pro-democracy advocates and continued human-rights abuses suggest the
administration's policy has failed this test.
There are reasons to be optimistic. The Democracy movement on the island
gulag is filled with tremendous young, freedom-loving leaders. The
Communist dictatorship that has ruled Cuba is an unfortunate relic — led
by dying tyrants, clinging to their last years in power, whose reign
will come to an end eventually. The future of Cuba is clear. Freedom
will ultimately prevail, and the U.S. can be an active participant in
the region to accelerate democracy, but our current approach is flawed.
It will be incumbent on the next administration to work with Congress —
not subvert it through the abuse of executive authority — to promote
policies that will advance the cause of basic human rights for all in
Cuba, including the release of political prisoners, fair and free
elections, respect for the rule of law, the resolution of U.S.
confiscated-property claims, and the embrace of a free-market economy.
Until these conditions exist, we should not reward the Castro
dictatorship by ending the embargo. In fact, considerations should be
given to strengthening it, an effort currently being led by Republicans
and even some Democrats in the House of Representatives to empower the
Our aspiration should not merely be for improved relations with a
violent, corrupt, murderous regime in Havana, but for a truly free and
democratic Cuba, which we can help achieve through restored American
leadership and a coherent, consistent foreign policy.
— Jeb Bush is the former governor of Florida. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a
Republican, represents Florida's 27th congressional district.
Source: Barack Obama's Cuba Policy Failure: One Year Later, Little Has
Changed for the Cuban People | National Review -