Today, the Obama Administration has released regulations implementing the limited sanctions relief the United States offered to Cuba's Castro dictatorship, pursuant to a one-sided deal announced on December 17th.
It is the third time in his Presidency that Obama eases sanctions towards Cuba, with the first two being on April 2009 and January 2011. It's also the third time that Obama does so in return for no guarantees or improvements on political freedoms, human rights and democratic reforms for the Cuban people. To the contrary, since the first set of sanctions were eased, yearly political arrests in Cuba have more than quadrupled from 2,074 political arrests in 2010 to 8,899 in 2014.
Moreover, since Obama's policy of appeasement began in 2009, the Castro dictatorship has felt further emboldened to take an American hostage to (now) successfully coerce the United States into further concessions; to traffic heavy weapons to North Korea in violation of international law; to obstruct investigations into the mysterious deaths of renowned democracy leaders Laura Pollan, of The Ladies in White, and Oswaldo Paya, of the Christian Liberation Movement; to subvert democratic institutions and direct violence against peaceful student protesters in Venezuela; and to mobilize its diplomatic arsenal in support of Assad's genocide in Syria, North Korea's crimes against humanity, a nuclear Iran, Vladimir Putin's illegal annexation of the Crimea and of the violent actions by Russian separatists in the Ukraine.
Furthermore, the lack of transparency and accountability by the Obama Administration in its handling of the list of the 53 Cuban political prisoners, which it had negotiated for release, also raises concerns. Upon the list being leaked, pursuant to weeks of Congressional and media pressure, it was revealed that 14 of the political prisoners listed had been released before the December 17th announcement. Some up to 6-8 months ago, and one over one-year ago. At least three, had already completed their sentences. Such secrecy only leads to further distrust of the Obama Administration in pursuing this policy.
Finally, the new regulations announced by the Treasury and Commerce Departments raise questions regarding the legal authority under which President Obama has implemented some of the changes. It also raises questions whether some of the newly-authorized transactions towards Cuba are in violation of statutory prohibitions. These are issues Congress should look closely into during the coming weeks.
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