Ten Reasons Why Obama Shouldn't Ease Cuba Sanctions

Monday, May 26, 2014
Cuban author and intellectual, Carlos Alberto Montaner, also opposes the Council of the Americasopen letter to President Obama lobbying him to bypass Congress in easing travel and financial sanctions towards Cuba.

Here's his rationale in Diario de Cuba (our translation):

Those who wrote the letter -- presumably some Cuban-American businessmen -- think the strategy of embracing the enemy, while trying to strengthen civil society, will result in the weakening of the tyranny.

Will it achieve its purpose? I doubt it. It shouldn't for the following reasons:

1. Incoherence has its limits, beyond which it becomes schizophrenia. Washington has just officially re-designated the Cuban government as a state-sponsor of terrorism and Raul Castro has proven them right by sending military weaponry to North Korea camouflaged under tons of sugar. Why embrace a terrorist regime while sanctions are being applied to Russia or Venezuela for similar anti-democratic behavior?

2. As the aforementioned letter was being released, Col.Alejandro Castro Espín, the son of Cuban dictator Raul Castro, was signing a cooperation agreement with Putin's intelligence services in Moscow. Then, the head of China's Armed Forces traveled to Havana, presumably to formalize a similar agreement. In the past, Fidel Castro, while in Tehran, warned that together they can force the imperialist enemy to its knees.

3. Raul Castro has said, over and over again, and his senior officials have reiterated that his economic "reforms" are aimed at perfecting the one-party communist dictatorship. Why should the United States cooperate with an old and failed tyranny that, despite its power structure knowing that Marxism-Leninism has failed, is trying to overcome difficulties and consolidate power amid the worst economic and psychological challenges it has ever faced?

4. The Cuban regime is a persistent and permanent enemy of the United States. Its leaders are convinced that every wrong in the planet is Washington's fault. They don't tire of repeating it. In the past, Havana has pacted with the Soviet Union and even asked for a preemptive strike during the Missile Crisis. Today, Cuba colludes with Iran, North Korea, Russia and the so-called nations of "21st Century Socialism" to cause harm on its neighbors. Does it make sense to treat such a government benevolently?

5. There is also an ethical issue. Throughout the 20th century, the United States was rightfully accused of moral indifference due to its cordial relations with the dictatorship of Trujillo, Somoza, Batista or Stroessner. Yet, today it's on the right side of history. In Cuba, human rights are aggressively violated. Last year, the number of dissidents arrested doubled. Cubans have no access to the Internet. Thee hours after Yoani Sanchez's new media outlet, 14y medio, went online, it was blocked inside Cuba. The United States should not return to the moral indifference that has previously affected its good image.

6.  There is an electoral reality.  The White House should listen to Cuban-American legislators and not necessarily to these businessmen. In a way, these legislators express the majority sentiment of Cubans living in the U.S. The important Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Democratic Congressmen Albio Sires and Joe Garcia, and the Republican Congressmen Ileana Ros and Mario Diaz-Balart, disagree on many things, but they agree on maintaining a policy of firmness against the dictatorship.

7. The objective of the United States should be for Cuba to become a plural and prosperous democracy that will stop expelling its citizens towards its northern neighbor, with which is can then establish respectful and normal relations. Common sense dictates that this will not be achieved by helping the tyranny of Raul Castro during its crisis.

There are also three Cuban reasons to oppose the unconditional reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba:

8. It's not in the best interests of Cuban democrats for the Castro dictatorship to side-step the opposition and establish political negotiations with the United States. The main problem in Cuba is not the rivalry between two governments, but the fact that in Cuba there's a Stalinist one-party dictatorship that doesn't listen to society. Transitions begin when those in power recognize the existence of real opponents. The step prior to U.S.-Cuba reconciliation should be the recognition that on the island there exist Cubans who have a right to opine about the destiny of their nation.

9. An unconditional reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba would send a powerful signal to the international community that the dictatorship of Raul Castro is a normal government with which it could -- and should -- establish any relationship. Pursuant to the normalization of links both countries, there would be subsequent support and economic subsidies motivated by interests that lack a moral compass. This would reinforce the permanence of the dictatorship in power.

10. Such a cordial understanding between both countries would further isolate dissidents, political prisoners and, in general, democratic opponents that want and seek peaceful (but real) political change. They would find it to be a betrayal of the ideals of freedom and the respect for human rights that the United States claims to support. It's essential that the dictatorship officially ratify the commitment to respecting human rights that then-Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque made at the United Nations in 2007. At that time, it committed that the Cuban government would subscribe to the 1976 Conventions on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights approved by the U.N. It would be a weak sign of rectification, but it would be a start. In any case, until democratic dissidents give the nod, Washington should not move. It's what's in the best interests of both Americans and Cubans.