Analyzing Obama’s Cuba Policy

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
By Elliott Abrams of The Council on Foreign Relations:

Analyzing Obama’s Cuba Policy

The shortcomings of the new Obama administration policy toward Cuba have been sharply described in a recent blog post at the Cuban civil society web site Estado de SATS, by Antonio G. Rodiles. Rodiles, a human rights activist, was beaten and arrested in 2012, and released after Amnesty International and other groups protested this arrest.

What does Rodiles say?

First, the Obama approach grants treats the Castro regime as the legitimate government of Cuba. But it has never been elected, and should not be granted that legitimacy.

Second, the Obama approach grants that Cuba’s future and its “transition to democracy” will be in the hands of the current regime and its top officials. No political preconditions have been put in place before the United States moves forward toward diplomatic relations, removing the embargo, and taking other steps that aid the regime. The assumption seems to be that today’s powers that be –the Castros and their closest collaborators–will remain tomorrow, but that is a formula for continuing authoritarianism.

Third, the Obama approach treats democratic development and respect for human rights as the eventual product of supposed economic transformations in Cuba. But freedom should be the prime goal, not a hypothetical by-product of economic change.

Finally, Rodiles notes that this Obama approach will of course favor those Cubans who go along, as against those who seek a quicker move toward liberty and view the regime as brutally repressive and illegitimate. This too helps the Castro regime. Instead, the goal should be to open sufficient space for political actors and civil society to have the main say in the direction of change in Cuba.

Cuban dissidents, democracy activists, and human rights activists have many opinions about U.S. policy, all the products of a living under the Castro regime where they face and often experience brutality and prison. It’s unfortunate in the extreme that those views appear to have no role in the formulation of American policy toward Cuba.