Obama Should Not Stifle Real Reforms (Again)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
A favorite argument of Castro's lobbyists and propagandists is that the U.S. should normalize relations and ease sanctions towards Cuba in order to encourage Raul's "reforms."

This misses the glaring fact that Castro's regime only responds when it's economically pressed. For example, "self-employment" -- albeit a half-measure -- was a temporary reaction to loss of Soviet subsidies, and with the remnants of the Chavez regime in Venezuela now imploding, Cuba will likely continue allowing it.

However, as we've posted before, once the Cuban economy stabilizes or begins to "bounce back," the Castro government reverses itself to freeze or revoke any "reforms."

Lift U.S. sanctions and Cuba's government will solely focus on strengthening its state conglomerates and the repression required to suppress change.

Of course, Castro's lobbyists and propagandists know that once sanctions are prematurely lifted, there's (usually) no going back.

President Obama is seeing this play out first-hand in Burma, where he was poorly advised by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to prematurely normalize relations and ease sanctions.

He shouldn't make the same mistake with Cuba.

Read the following Politico story very carefully:

Barack Obama returns to Myanmar amid fading reform hopes

Critics say the president has failed to hold the country's leaders to their promises.

America’s opening to Myanmar was supposed to be one of the crown jewels in Clinton’s [Obama's] legacy, but instead of polishing that record at a time when the presumed 2016 presidential candidate is already under attack from Republicans for having a thin diplomatic résumé, the visit is showcasing the array of setbacks that policy has suffered since it was undertaken in 2009.

Critics say the reform drive — one of the foreign initiatives most closely identified with Clinton, who pushed the White House to embrace a friendlier policy as the country’s military junta eased its grip — has stalled out. Dissident Aung San Suu Kyi remains blocked from running for president, violence continues against ethnic minorities and the regime has drafted a plan to deny citizenship to many who have long lived within its borders [...]

It was only two years ago that Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the once-reclusive nation, bestowing a huge honor on the generals who still hold power there and gambling that the country’s momentum toward reform would be sustained. There’s an acknowledgment among officials that the timing of the return visit is awkward, given that it will be a second high-level touch-down for a president who has graced few countries more than once, but the White House hopes to use the visit to look for opportunities to right Myanmar’s course.

Skeptics warned at the time that the presidential visit and the relaxation of most U.S. sanctions were mistakes because they gave Myanmar’s military leaders too much of a reward for the changes they’d made and diminished U.S. leverage going forward.

“Two years after that trip, there have not been a lot of big changes. There has been a lot of backsliding and a lot of inertia,” said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch. “Once the bulk of the financial sanctions were lifted, right after that, reforms began to stall, which is why we urged them not to do it in one go.”

After that push in 2012, he said, “There was very little motivation for [the generals] to continue to move.”
One former senior administration official recalled that “there were plenty of arguments about how and when to lift a set of sanctions” to encourage the government’s opening.

Now, despite the easing of financial and investment sanctions and the president’s and secretary of state’s visits, he acknowledged that “some of those things have actually gotten worse in the last year,” with officials in Myanmar not allowing a “real opening of the political process” and having done a “horrendous job in their treatment of the Rohingya minority.”