Yesterday, a State Department delegation, led by Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson, arrived in Havana for a third round of normalization talks.
This is the second time that Cuba's regime hosts the talks.
During the first round of talks in January, the Castro regime welcomed a Russian spy ship, The Viktor Leonov, to dock in the Port of Havana throughout the exact duration of Jacobson's stay.
So how did Cuba's regime welcome Jacobson this time?
First, it simultaneously hosted a visit by North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Su Yong. Ri, a close confidant of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, arrived in Havana directly from a visit with Putin's regime in Moscow. Last year, a U.N. Panel of Experts found Cuba to be in violation of international sanctions -- the most egregious violation by any country to date -- for attempting to smuggle 240 tons of heavy weaponry to Pyongyang.
Then, it staged an anti-U.S., pro-Nicolas Maduro protest. The Castro regime has declared "unconditional support" for its puppet regime in Caracas, led by Nicolas Maduro, in the face of U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan human rights violators. Maduro's most recent authoritarian measures, including the arrest of the Mayor of Caracas and the death of a 14-year old student protester, were preceded by direct consultations in Havana with Fidel and Raul Castro.
Finally, it arrested over 100 Cuban dissidents. Over 100 members of the opposition group, the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPCU), were intercepted and violently arrested on Sunday as they tried to attend Mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity. These arrests were in in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba alone. Other arrests took place throughout the island.
Some lessons are learned hard -- and others not at all.
As we had warned pursuant to President Obama's December 17th announcement:
"[T]hose who lobbied for Obama to attend the [April 2015] Summit of the American regardless of the violation of the 'democracy clause' weren't to be satisfied with his attendance alone. They also wanted the President to arrive with a gift bag for Cuba that includes a further lifting of U.S. sanctions. That, they argued, will ensure a warm reception for Obama from 'troubled' Latin American leaders. And naturally, Castro would be thrilled.
If this sounds familiar, it's because the exact same arguments were made in the months and weeks leading up to the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Just days before that summit, the Obama Administration did ease sanctions against Cuba. Despite this 'gesture,' Obama was not received in Trinidad as a hero. He was treated as a pushover."
That's exactly how the Castro regime currently perceives the Obama Administration -- as pushovers.
After all, it just successfully coerced the release of imprisoned Cuban spies -- including one serving a life-sentence for murder conspiracy -- and secured itself an economic lifeline by holding an American hostage for nearly five years.
And for his next Act -- Castro seeks to coerce the United States into removing Cuba from the "state-sponsors of terrorism" list.
In the last few weeks, the Castro regime has not been shy in its demands to be removed from the list -- whether completely or by having Obama announce his intent to do so -- prior to establishing diplomatic relations.
It even tried to smuggle "war materiels" (again this month) disguised as a grain shipment under the noses of the United States and the international community.
Because its coercive tactics have worked.
And regardless of your views on U.S.-Cuba policy -- that is never a good position for the U.S. to be placed in.
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