Cuba's Crackdown Should Make Obama Think Twice

Thursday, May 28, 2015
From The Washington Examiner's Editorial Board:

Cuba's crackdown should make Obama think twice

In December, President Obama announced a historic thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba's 56-year communist dictatorship. As part of this thaw, Cuba's regime will be formally removed from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism this week.

At the time this move was first announced, we questioned just what it was that the Obama administration was receiving in exchange. There was and is still no evidence that Cuba has agreed to the extradition of the many murderers and terrorists who sought and received refuge in Cuba throughout the Cold War.

Without something to show for it, Obama seemed to be doing an awfully big favor for an unelected regime that has few if any redeeming qualities.

The Cuban regime is more like a national disease than a national government. Its hallmarks are the imprisonment of political dissenters and the suppression of economic and human rights, such as free expression and freedom of religion.

Cuba owes its dire poverty to its regime's legendary economic mismanagement. As in every other place it has been tried, their socialist experiment has failed despite open trade with most of the world and decades of annual Soviet subsidies equal to $8 billion in today's dollars.

In post-Soviet times, the Cuban regime has essentially blocked its 11 million citizens from any meaningful participation in the Internet age. Until recently, Cubans had to obtain permits just to own home computers. Today, they still need government permits to have Internet in their own homes, and as you can imagine, the government is careful about who gets a permit. At government-sponsored access points, most Cubans can only afford to visit a tightly controlled domestic version of the Internet, and at incredibly slow speeds.

This is not how benign governments behave. It is what petty tyrants do to control public opinion.

Just as the Cuban regime prepares to exploit and enjoy America's indulgence, the regime has set off another one its periodic on-again-off-again persecutions of religious believers. World Magazine reports that earlier this month, the government announced it was seizing the property of the Maranatha First Baptist Church church in Holguin.

This growing congregation, which has operated in the same location since 1947, drew the Communist Party's attention because it made the mistake of applying for building permits so that it could expand. The government not only denied the permit, but announced that the church will have to pay rent for a space it rightfully owns. Just this year, the regime has similarly threatened to confiscate as many as 100 Protestant church properties in eastern Cuba, World reports. That's after Obama's overtures.

Again, this does not look like the kind of action undertaken by a regime whose officials are genuinely interested in opening their country up to the world.

All of this should make Obama think for a moment about just whom he is courting and empowering with his "thaw." The Cuban people deserve free and fair elections to choose a new government that is compatible with the modern world. As long as the dead weight of the Castro regime is hanging around their necks, there is no superficial U.S. gesture that can truly improve their lot.