As Predicted, Obama's Cuba Deal Goes From Bad to Worse

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
This week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Miami Herald have all expressed grave concern about the the Castro regime's continued repression and regional misbehavior, despite its December 17th deal with (and concessions from) Obama.

Even The New York Times sounded a note of disillusionment. The biggest "accomplishments" they could could note were a visit to Cuba by Google executives and Airbnb's renting of "casa particulares." Of course, it fails to mention that none of these "developments" were legally prohibited prior to Obama's December 17th deal -- hence rendering the President's concessions gratuitous.

Meanwhile, this week's Summit of the Americas promises to be another embarrassment -- again, despite Obama's Cuba concessions.

Seeking amelioration, the President has sent former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Tom Shannon, to Caracas today to plead with Nicolas Maduro to play nice. And is pressuring the State Department to expedite its de-listing of Cuba's terrorism designation, so he can hand over another unmerited gift to Castro.

Even Chris Sabatini, formerly of the Council of the Americas, and original team cheerleader for Obama's inclusion of Cuba in the Summit, has a piece in Foreign Policy noting the impending disaster.

Unfortunately -- because it provides us no pleasure -- we predicted this back in January ("Obama Give Cuba a Hemispheric Coup," The Huffington Post, January 11, 2015):

"[T]hose who lobbied Obama to attend the Summit 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. Then Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez even engineered a photo-op with the President that featured copies of anti-American book, Open Veins of Latin America. Latin America's 'extreme Left' considers the book to be its bible. (The author, Eduardo Galeano, has recently disavowed his creation.)"

Even more concerning is the damage to regional democracy that has been accelerated by Obama's short-sighted Cuba deal.

Last month, The Economist fretted -- "Venezuela's 'Bolivarian' regime is lurching from authoritarianism to dictatorship."

And what's to stop it?

If Obama has opened the doors to Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship, then why not Venezuela's authoritarian dictatorship?

How will the U.S. argue for the Democracy Clause and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, when it has already been violated (with Obama's support) this Summit?

What will happen if (when) Maduro decides to dispense with this fall's parliamentary elections?

Unfortunately, we also predicted this -- over a year ago ("Latin America Has Democracy, But Lacks Democrats," The Hill, February 10, 2014):

"What inhibits (Maduro et al.) is the institutionalization of "representative democracy" as the backbone of hemispheric relations, as was agreed upon in the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter signed by 34 of the 35 countries of the Western Hemisphere. To skirt the Charter, they try to manipulate laws and institutions and exert greater executive control while maintaining a facade of democracy.

The biggest deterrent to breaking their public commitments to 'representative democracy' is the omnipresent economic isolation of Cuba as the result of U.S. sanctions. So these leaders pay homage to Castro and engage in fiery rhetoric, but tip-toe around serious aggression. They are keenly aware that they need the United States to survive economically. A case in point is Venezuela, whose struggling economy is entirely dependent on exporting oil to the United States. Thus U.S. sanctions on Cuba serve as 'the stick' to 'the carrot' of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and obeisance, if not enforcement, of its principles.

It's precisely the authoritarian underbelly of these Latin American leaders that makes them such zealous lobbyists for the end of U.S. sanctions on Cuba. It's for this reason that they want to see the Castro regime embraced and 'fully integrated' into inter-American system despite its blatant disregard for representative democracy. Such a U.S. policy change would allow them to accelerate their own authoritarian tendencies and free their zeal for absolute power."