N.Y. Post: An ‘Obama Doctrine’ Fail: Cuba Still Won’t Love Us

Thursday, April 9, 2015
By Benny Avni in The New York Post:

An ‘Obama doctrine’ fail: Cuba still won’t love us

With a kiss on the cheek from President Obama, or at least a handshake, Cuba’s brutal Castro brothers are about to gain a stomach-turning dose of regional respectability.

The two men will cross paths at the Organization of American States’ seventh summit, a meeting of 35 Western hemisphere heads of state that kicks off today in Panama.

Cuba was finally invited to attend the two-day affair this year.

Because the Communist regime’s membership in the OAS has been suspended in 1962 (it only accepts democracies as members), and because in past years Washington insisted Cuba be banned from the summit, the island nation wasn’t being invited before.

But this year, the United States dropped its objections, and so Cuban President Raul Castro and Obama can be expected to hug it out like the bros they’re fast becoming.

It’s all part of something that — thanks to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s recent interview with the president — is now known as “the Obama Doctrine”: Our enemies will get less enemy-ish, maybe even less ruthless, if we just make nice with them.

Since allowing Cuba to become our new buddy-next-door doesn’t pose “many risks for us,” Obama explained, why not try ending isolation?

As Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Havana’s transformation may not be quick, but there’s “a great hunger within Cuba to begin a change, a process that ultimately, I think, can lead to more freedom and more opportunity.”

So how’s that working out for ya so far, Mr. President?

Actually, not so good.

Start with something small, like the freedom to use the Internet. Fans of Obama’s new opening to Havana hail the recent visit there by Google executives, who promise to spread the Net’s magic throughout the country. And the home-renting Web site Airbnb snared 1,000 Cuban listings in mere two months.

But so far, only 5 percent of Cubans have Internet access. The government continues to make sure that high costs and restrictions prevent everyone else from logging on.

And so, the vast majority of those Airbnb listings are controlled by a handful of Castro-favored operators. And even if, as promised, 50 percent of Cubans will be online by 2020 (a big if), expect more censorship than even in China.

Meanwhile, much was made back in December of Obama’s plan to restore relations with Havana, and the Castros’ promise to release political prisoners.

Since then, Havana has perfected new forms of oppression, arbitrarily arresting hundreds more prisoners on various pretexts: Some 610 dissidents were arrested in March alone.

As Havana-watcher Maria Werlau of the Miami-based Cuba Archive group says, since the opening with Washington, “There’s an air of new impunity [within the Cuban regime].

The authorities taunt dissidents, telling them, ‘hey, nobody will protect you now.’ ”

Havana’s agents even go off-island to do their dirty work: Known Cuban dissidents, such as independent lawyer Laritza Diversent, activist Rosa Maria Paya and others, were detained and harassed this week upon arrival at Panama’s Tocumen airport.

On Wednesday, activists in Panama City were beaten as they tried to stage an anti-Castro march.

Meanwhile, Havana has actually made new demands — such as that American hand Guantanamo to Cuba and that the State Department take Cuba off its list of terror-supporting states, right away.

Both should be non-starters. For example, given the Castros’ support for Colombian narco-terrorists and other subversive activities in the region, even Foggy Bottom’s most brilliant legal minds will have a hard time finding grounds for Cuba’s removal from the list.

Things go, uh, south from there.

Heck, we can’t even get the Castros and their cat’s paws to stop bashing America for all their failures: Word is Cuban lapdog and benefactor, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, will ambush Obama at the Panama summit with a petition signed by 10 million people denouncing our president for saying Caracas is a “security threat.”

No, things may look rosy for Cuba with Obama’s gesture, but there’s nary a sign the Castros and their allies will end their hostility toward the Yanquis — or that the love Obama envisions will ever be a two-way-street affair.

It’s early yet, but Cuba may soon serve as a lesson to anyone holding out hope from that Obama Doctrine: Don’t.

Oppression and anti-American hostility are in the DNA of regimes like those in Havana, Pyongyang and Tehran. Showing them love won’t change them for the better but will only contribute to spreading their evil.