No Thanks, Senator Lugar

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, the Ranking Republican of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has developed a keen interest in unconditionally normalizing relations with Castro regime.

According to last week's feature article on Cuba policy by Congressional Quarterly:

Lugar, who wrote Obama earlier this year urging greater engagement with Havana, agrees that it is time for an overall change in U.S.-Cuba policy. "Our whole protocol of sanctions has not worked to bring down the Cuban government or modify the power of Cuba in any substantial way," he said.

Driving such calls for change, especially among Republicans, is the potential for increased trade. With all of the obstacles that have been put in the way, U.S. food and pharmaceutical sales to Cuba earned a paltry $712 million in 2008. But with a relaxation of travel and trade restrictions, that figure is bound to grow, Lugar says. "This is a very good time for public diplomacy," he said. "And it can occur very profitably for Americans though trade in food and medicine."

Did he say "profitably"?

So just how does this work?

Engage the Castro regime, transact business, pocket the profit and beg that they don't repress the Cuban people?

And -- at the end of the day -- if the regime doesn't listen, at least the US business interests made a profit, despite subsidizing even greater repression?

Is that the thinking?

No thanks, Senator Lugar.

Listen to the advice of former Czech dissident leader -- and President upon the fall of Communism -- Vaclav Havel, who in a speech at the European Parliament last week commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall stated:

"It has long been my opinion that after what we underwent at the time of the totalitarian system, we ought—or we are duty-bound even—to explain to others in a convincing manner what we went through, and make specific suggestions based on its various implications... Above all, clear and unequivocal solidarity with all those confronted by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes wherever they are in the world. And economic or other particular interests should not hinder such solidarity. Even a minor, discreet and well-intentioned compromise can have fatal consequences --even if only in the long term, or indirectly."

The stakes of freedom are too large for a simple profit.