A Redux of Clinton's Cuba Policy

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
On Friday, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, will give remarks in South Florida, where she will call for the lifting of the U.S. embargo towards Cuba.

Of course, this isn't a surprise, as Hillary already revealed her Cuba policy position in the book, "Hard Choices."

But it does merit a look back at Cuba policy the last time a Clinton served in The White House:

In 1993, President Clinton intervened at the last minute to scrap a federal indictment against General Raul Castro, then Minister of Defense (MINFAR), who in conjunction with 14 other senior Cuban regime officials, was the head of a major cocaine smuggling conspiracy.

In 1994, President Clinton succumbed to Castro's migratory coercion and began secret talks with senior Cuban regime officials in Toronto, Canada.

In 1995, as a result of those secret talks, President Clinton adopted the infamous "wet-foot, dry-foot policy," whereby catching Cubans before they reach a U.S. beach became a perverted sport.

(Why was it acceptable for President Clinton to label Cubans as "wet-feet"? Isn't that just as insulting as calling Mexicans "wet-backs"? Same derogatory concept, different body part.)

In February 1996, President Clinton failed to support the historic gathering of Concilio Cubano, a coalition of over 130 dissident groups, which had successfully been garnering opposition against the Castro regime. On February 24th, during a major gathering of the coalition, the Castro regime began a nationwide crackdown on Concilio Cubano. To divert attention from the crackdown, the Castro regime scrambled MiG fighter jets to shoot down two civilian aircraft over international waters, killing three Americans and a permanent resident of the United States.

In March 1996, President Clinton refused to tighten sanctions against the Castro regime. While compelled to sign the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act ("LIBERTAD Act"), as the least aggressive response he was presented to the shoot-down of two American civilian aircraft by the Castro regime, Clinton waived the main section tightening sanctions. As such, the LIBERTAD Act codified the embargo and authorized funding for democracy programs, but did not tighten sanctions.

In 1996, President Clinton refused to classify the shoot-down of the two civilian aircraft by Cuban MiG fighter jets over international waters, as an "act of terrorism" under U.S. law.

In 1998-1999, President Clinton eased travel sanctions towards Cuba and created the "people-to-people" travel category, whereby tour groups hosted by the Castro regime lead salsa, baseball and cigar tours of the island, while frequenting the Cuban military's 4 and 5-star tourism facilities.

In 2000, Clinton contemplated lifting tourism travel restrictions towards Cuba, which was Castro's main source of income. Cuba charter companies even hired the President's brother, Roger Clinton, to lobby him. In anticipation, Congress preemptively codified the travel ban to prevent any further Presidential expansion of travel.

In 2000, President Clinton pushed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA), which authorized the sale of agricultural and medical products to Cuba. Due to Congressional intervention, a caveat was included that these sales must be cash-only. Since then, nearly $5 billion in agricultural products have been sold to Cuba -- all to Castro's food monopoly, Alimport. Not one penny has been transacted with regular Cubans.

In 2000, President Clinton sent armed U.S. Marshals into the Little Havana home of Elian Gonzalez's family, in order to forcefully return him to Cuba. Rather than having an impartial family judge decide what was in the best interests of the small boy, whose mother died for his freedom, Elian's fate was decided by President Clinton. Today, Elian is a young Communist militant, paraded for propaganda, while hailing Fidel Castro as "his God."

By the end of 2000, the Castro regime had effectively eradicated Concilio Cubano and most other dissident groups -- under the willful blindness of President Clinton. Sadly, it took years for the Cuban democracy movement to regroup.

As Cuban democracy leader, former prisoner of conscience and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, wrote last year, "President Clinton missed a historic opportunity to pressure the end of the Castro regime in the 1990s, amid the profound crisis it faced from the end of its Soviet benefactor."

Instead, he did the opposite.

Today, amid a similar crisis resulting from the downward spiral of Castro's Venezuelan benefactor, Obama (and Hillary) are keen to make the same mistake.

But perhaps it's not fair to judge Hillary on her husband's record.

Thus, let's do so based on her own record as Secretary of State.

As regards Syria, Hillary infamously believed that Bashar al-Assad was a "reformer" that the U.S. could work with.

Since then, Assad has led a genocide with a tally of over 200,000 victims.

As regards Burma, Hillary engaged its military dictatorship, traveled to the Southeast Asian nation and led the push to prematurely lift sanctions.

Since then, Burma's military dictatorship has reaped a financial windfall, retrenched on reforms and re-intensified its repression.

As regards Iran, Hillary ignored pleas for help from the "Green Movement," bitterly fought Congress against sanctions from 2009-2013 and pushed for talks with the mullahs.

Since then, Iran' regime brutally suppressed the democracy movement. Yet, in an interesting twist, Clinton now seeks to rewrite history and take credit for the sanctions she fought against.

As regards Russia, Hillary literally pressed a "reset" button in order to "start fresh" bilateral relations.

Since then... Well, we all know how that's turned out.

Doesn't this sound like a familiar trend?

And now, she joins Obama's call to lift sanctions and "reset" relations with Cuba.

Based on her record, there's plenty of cause for concern.

Are Cuba's Victims Less Worthy?

On July 1st, 2015, in announcing his bad deal on diplomatic relations with Cuban dictator Raul Castro, President Obama stated that, "we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past."

This has become the talking point (and oxymoron) of every step taken by Obama to embrace Castro's octogenarian, bankrupt regime.

Yet, only nine days later, on July 10th, marking the 20th anniversary of the horrific crimes of Srebrenica, Obama stated:

"Only by fully acknowledging the past can we achieve a future of true and lasting reconciliation. Only by holding the perpetrators of the genocide to account can we offer some measure of justice to help heal their loved ones. And only by calling evil by its name can we find the strength to overcome it."

So why are Cuba's victims less worthy?

And why aren't we calling Castro's regime by its name?

Rather than visiting Havana, Obama should instead spend some time at the "Memorial Cubano," which honors tens of thousands of victims of Castro's evil regime.

Quote of the Week: No Action by Castro That Benefits U.S. or Cuban People

We still have yet to see any significant actions by the Castro regime that will benefit the United States or enhance freedoms and circumstances for the Cuban people.
-- U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/27/15

U.S. Concessions to Cuba Are Not Justified

By Sebastian A. Arcos in The Miami Herald:

U.S. concessions not justified

And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
“Wish You Were Here,”

PINK FLOYD

Seven months after Dec. 17, President Obama’s process of normalization with the Castro regime seems as unstoppable as a runaway freight train. The new policy was heartily embraced by pundits, the media, and public opinion, and neither the warnings nor the informed arguments from seasoned experts have been able to curb their enthusiasm. This is certainly baffling, because all that supporters have against a wall of reasonable arguments is hope, mostly based on incorrect assumptions and unfounded expectations.

The old policy of containment did not work — they argue — and it is time to try something new. But they forget that, with all its flaws, it was the old policy that brought the Cubans to the negotiating table to begin with. Furthermore, the new policy of engagement is not really new. It has been tried and tested by the Canadians and the Europeans for over 25 years with no results whatsoever.

The new policy — supporters argue — will better foster U.S. interests such as the promotion of human rights, and will empower a rising class of Cuba entrepreneurs. Before Dec. 17, we conveyed our disapproval of the regime’s human rights violations via a diplomatic “statement of concern” from the Department of State. Now we will be able to do exactly the same from our embassy in Havana. How is the latter more effective than the former? Will Cuban entrepreneurs, created and regulated by the regime, be able to expand into a middle class capable of forcing regime change? Of course not. It hasn’t happened anywhere else, simply because in a totalitarian setting, entrepreneurs are as incapable of expanding political freedoms as politicians are of creating wealth. The same goes for American tourists.

What then, explains this irrational exuberance? There is no question that hope is a powerful positive feeling, but as Henry Kissinger said recently, diplomacy is not an exercise in good feelings. Rather, it is an ad hoc mixture of pragmatism and fundamental values, tailored to the needs of each case. Forsaking one for the other is never a good idea. In the case of Cuba, we have abandoned fundamental values inherent to our entire foreign policy in exchange for a fruitless pragmatism.

Change in itself could be invigorating, especially coming from a young and hip president. The combination of change and hope has proven exceptionally intoxicating, to the point of dismissing rational skeptics as a bunch of boring, resentful relics, and welcoming advocates as reasonable, sophisticated and, yes, hip. Because I am a boring skeptic, I must remind readers that most hope-change intoxications usually end in a nasty hangover, like the one Cubans still suffer from that riotous party back in 1959 — courtesy of another young, hip leader.

Smart and eloquent, President Obama has a tendency to oversimplify complex problems, which endears him to the media and uninformed voters alike. Oversimplification, however, betrays a one-dimensional view of the world that only makes any problem worse (remember when ISIS was just a JV team?). Eventually, enthusiasts will realize that the validation of this Cuba-policy turnaround is mainly the rationalizing of a personal crusade to make up for past excesses — both real and perceived — of American “imperialism,” as well as the banal attempt at legacy building. None of these rationalizations can possibly justify the concessions made to an obdurate regime, the forsaking of fundamental values in exchange for nothing, and the long-term damage done to both U.S. interests and Cuban democratic aspirations.

Obama Leaves Dictators Free to Flourish

By Roger Boyes in U.K.'s The Times:

Barack Obama leaves dictators free to flourish, human rights hit

Ever since Barack Obama demoted the US from global policeman to risk-averse traffic warden, an important question has nagged contemporary historians: whatever happened to detente? Can the West ease tensions with the world’s many aggressive dictators and avert war without surrendering the moral high ground?

Forty years ago this week the Helsinki Final Act, a diplomatic masterpiece, showed how it could be done. It helped to defuse the Cold War, appeared to give the Soviet bloc the security it craved but, by setting up a mechanism to scrutinise human rights, gave legitimacy to dissident groups who started to subvert communism from within. “If you open that Pandora’s box, you never know what Trojan ‘orses will jump out,” as the former British foreign secretary Ernie Bevin once had it. Obama’s statecraft has to be measured against the Helsinki yardstick.

On almost every count, the President falls short. He has given dictators leave to rule and enrich themselves until they die peacefully in their beds. The grand bargain with Iran leaves the clerical regime unscathed. Indeed, while negotiators were locked in nuclear talks over the past six months in Vienna, 694 people were executed in Tehran. Fourteen years after Helsinki, dissidents in eastern Europe, emboldened by Western diplomacy, toppled their rulers. Fourteen years after the Iran deal, Tehran will be free of most constraints on its nuclear program; it will be wealthier and more assertive.

The US calculates that the opening up to Western trade will give Iran a more liberal and responsive government. The evidence suggests otherwise: Russia and China are building up an alternative value system that encourages countries to snub Western models and pursue a combination of managed capitalism and authoritarian rule that supposedly offers stability rather than the hazards of parliamentary democracy.

In Cuba too the Castro brothers and their broken regime have been given a lifeline by Obama’s determination to restore normal relations. There has been no US demand to make serious improvements in human rights. Since the thaw more than 3000 people have been detained in Havana. The migrant flow to the US has more than doubled since the opening because Cubans believe the Americans, at Raul Castro’s request, will start turning back refugees.

Dictators are most likely to take the path of conciliation with the West when they are on the ropes, yet no pressure is being put on them to pay the price of political rehab. Bashar al-Assad last week lamented the lack of Syrian military manpower. His message was directed at Iran, his chief sponsor. Don’t desert me, he was pleading, just because you now have a deal with the US. If I fall, you lose too.

Bashar doesn’t have to worry, though. Cash and guns will still flow from Iran. And Obama is not going to touch him either. Not as long as he surrenders the moral argument by co-opting bad guys in the name of regional stability. Obama entered the White House committed to ending imperial overstretch, winding down two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That mission, though, has mutated into an almost dogmatic reluctance to use force or coercive diplomacy.

Even the dimmest autocrat now grasps he can rule with impunity and that the age of Western-influenced regime change is over. It wasn’t long ago that tyrants like Saddam Hussein ended on the gallows calling “Down with the traitors!” Now their last words, spoken in palaces surrounded by fawning courtiers, are more likely to be the gasped details of their numbered Swiss bank accounts.

It’s pretty much official: the US administration no longer considers anything worth fighting for beyond a direct and verifiable-in-triplicate threat to the homeland. Its allies are split between the relieved, the discomfited, the nervous and the downright perplexed.

Perhaps no one is more bewildered than the Kurdish fighter who for the past year has considered himself, proudly, to be Obama’s man-on-the-ground in the war against Islamic State in Syria — and who is today being bombarded by a NATO ally, Turkey, with the apparent approval of the US.

The result: moral confusion all round. America’s allies are being built up and then left hanging in the wind. Human rights are promoted and then betrayed. Obama wanted to leave behind him a world that conformed to rules of good behaviour, to international norms. Instead, through his lack of consistency, his over-eagerness to abandon the principles of strong, democratic foreign policymaking in exchange for imaginary future gains, much of the world will be pleased to see him go.

Details of Bad Cuba Deal Emerge

Monday, July 27, 2015
Buried in a Politico story about the Obama Administration's unmerited upgrade of Cuba in the trafficking watch list, some details are revealed about the deal cut to establish diplomatic relations with the Castro dictatorship.

As we'd posted before, the details had been shrouded in secrecy.

Now we know why. Because it's bad -- real bad.

Here's the bottom line:

The deal "negotiated" by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson for the opening of embassies allows for only 4 out of 76 U.S. diplomats in Havana to have unrestricted movement on the island.

That's right -- 4 out of 76.  

That is what Jacobson "achieved" in six months of negotiations.

Never mind that it's in direct contravention of Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states that "the receiving State shall ensure to all members of the mission freedom of movement and travel in its territory."

Not only is this incompetent -- allowing restrictions on 95% of our diplomats in Havana -- but it's in violation of international law.

It is also unprecedented in the Western Hemisphere -- though not for long, as surely Maduro and Co. are aware of the "sweet deal" given to Castro, and will want a similar one.

And what about the inviolability of the diplomatic pouch, which is also required by international law?

You guessed it -- the Obama Administration caved on that as well.

Excerpt from Politico:

The State Department has declined to make public many elements of its agreement with Cuba on reopening embassies, although it has offered classified briefings to lawmakers. It has declined repeated requests from POLITICO for details and will not say if it’s common to keep such data under wraps.

However, a congressional aide and an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, shed some light on the agreement.

The sources said that the top four diplomats at both the Cuban mission in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Havana will have unrestricted travel rights. The remaining diplomats will have to give notification — though not obtain permission — of a few days at most before they pursue any travel.

The administration official added that each country would be allowed to have 25 additional diplomats based in each other’s capitals. The congressional aide, meanwhile, noted that American lawmakers worried about the agreement were more concerned about Cuban activities on U.S. soil than vice versa.

According to an 2014 inspector general’s report, the U.S. interests section in Havana had 51 American diplomats and more than 300 Cuban employees. Kerry is due to visit the Cuban capital on Aug. 14 to celebrate the reestablishment of a U.S. Embassy.

Must-Watch: Why Does Jacobson Insist on Misleading?

The following exchange between U.S. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson during her recent confirmation hearing -- for U.S. Ambassador to Mexico -- speaks for itself.

Click below (or here) to watch:

In Clear Side Deal, Obama Upgrades Cuba in Trafficking Watch List

Dictators hate to be placed on watch lists. It scorns their zeal for legitimacy.

Thus, the long-standing obsession of the Castro regime to be removed from the U.S.'s "state-sponsors of terrorism" list.

In order to be removed from that list, the Castro regime simply coerced the Obama Administration.

It made it very clear (and public) that it was more than willing to hijack Obama's legacy of establishing diplomatic relations, unless it was first removed from the terrorism watch list.

And the Obama Administration complied.

In April, the State Department proceeded to remove Cuba from the terrorism list -- despite recognizing that Cuba continues to harbor one of the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists and members of U.S. classified Foreign Terrorist Organizations ("FTO's").

The removal was based solely on "assurances" that Castro would behave better in the future -- and accepting a lie that it has "never supported terrorism."

Today, the same has taken place with the U.S.'s human trafficking watch list.

The Obama Administration has decided to upgrade Cuba from the lowest tier -- despite recognizing that Cuba remains a major source country for sex trafficking and forced labor.

The upgrade is based solely on "assurances" that Castro is making efforts to address trafficking issues -- and accepting its lie that forced labor is not a problem within Cuba.

Never mind that the Castro regime itself is the source and beneficiary of Cuba's vast human trafficking infrastructure.

Its practices have been widely documented to violate nearly every major international forced labor, trafficking and human rights covenant.

There's absolutely nothing that merits Cuba's upgrade in the trafficking watch list -- other than some side deal as part of its ongoing negotiations.

It's simply another unmerited, unilateral concession.

Unfortunately, as in the case of Iran, the Obama Administration is not only proving to be misguided in its policy -- but also untrustworthy in the process.