Obama's "Back to the Future" Cuba Policy

Friday, July 24, 2015
A Letter to the Editor of The New York Times:

Effects of Our Cuba Policy

In “The New Era Begins With Cuba” (editorial, July 21), you acknowledge: “It would be naïve to expect that the Cuban government, a dynastic police state, will take big steps in the near future to liberalize its centrally planned economy, encourage private enterprise or embrace pluralistic political reforms. In fact, in the face of potentially destabilizing change and high expectations at home, Cuban officials may be tempted to tighten state controls in the short term.”

That, in fact, is what has been occurring since President Obama’s Dec. 17th announcement of a policy change, and, given the regime’s totalitarian proclivity and apparatus, the state’s repression of dissidents and civil society, and its control over the lion’s share of the island’s economy, it is likely to continue into the distant future.

As an academic and policy consultant specializing in Cuba, I came to the conclusion several years ago that the United States faced a moral and political conundrum in its Cuba policy: how to help the Cuban people without helping the Castro regime. Unfortunately, the president’s new engagement policy now makes the United States complicit in propping up the regime both economically and politically, while leaving Cuban society even more isolated and defenseless vis-à-vis the all-powerful, coercive state.

If so, we are “back to the future,” whereby Washington coddled or looked the other way toward the Somoza, Trujillo and Batista dictatorships in Latin America — only in the case of today’s Cuba, the longevity of the regime may now be assured.

Edward Gonzalez
Malibu, Calif.
The writer is professor emeritus of political science at U.C.L.A.