Why the US should not re-establish ties with Cuba
With so many signs pointing in one direction – resumption of U.S. ties to Cuba – it is time to call for a STOP sign.
For example, CELAC’s decision is tragically wrong given Cuba’s awful history on human rights and democracy. Cuba continues to jail political opponents and suppress free speech. That is a fact.
Independent observers can see it.
José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch said Castro’s selection as CELAC president “sends a message [that Latin governments] couldn’t care less about the poor human rights record and the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba.”
And it will be a mistake for President Obama to end any part of the U.S. embargo without insisting on a full slate of democratic freedoms, human rights and property rights in Cuba.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal last year, I expressed my disagreement with those who have suggested cozying up to Latin American dictators like the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
It is personal with me. My family fled Panama in the early 1950’s to escape the poverty and open the door to education and opportunity. Those doors were shut by a Latin strong man -- Panama’s Arnulfo Arias.
I wrote: “My life's major turn away from poverty came thanks to my father's vision of his children escaping a despot like Arias. That dream of a better life is alive throughout Latin America. To romanticize any dictator is to kill those dreams by condemning poor kids in Latin America, like me, to tyrants and the burden of limited education and economic opportunity."
Congressional Republicans remain largely united in their opposition to normalizing relations with Castro’s Cuba. They are led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Cuban Americans.
New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a Cuban American, supports continuing tight restrictions to isolate the Castro regime and promote democracy and human rights for the Cuban people. He is scheduled to become chair of the Senate Foreign Relations panel.
It will be up to Rubio, Ros-Lehtinen and Menendez to stop President Obama from making a big mistake and turning away from a freedom agenda for America’s neighbors in Latin America.