Obama’s Outrageous Cuba Capitulations

Monday, July 13, 2015
By former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, in The New York Daily News:

Obama’s outrageous Cuba capitulations

President Obama’s decision to resume full diplomatic relations with Cuba on July 20 represents the purest form of ideological diplomacy. By exchanging ambassadors, reopening embassies and calling for Congress to lift decades-old trade and travel restrictions, Obama has untethered our foreign policy from any discernible American interests.

Obama may even travel to Cuba before he leaves office. Undoubtedly, Fidel and Raul Castro will turn out cheering crowds to greet him as a hero. Why not? Obama will feel right at home in their company.

In return for enormous U.S. concessions to Cuba’s authoritarians, the Obama administration has received essentially nothing. Havana’s promises to lessen its repressive domestic policies have already been violated, and there is little chance that a more “open” American policy will aid the Cuban people more than the caudillos running the country.

Cuba’s last “opening” followed the USSR’s 1991 disintegration. Moscow ended its annual practice of trading oil priced well below international levels in exchange for roughly 80% of Cuba’s sugar exports. But when the Clinton administration loosened some U.S. economic constraints, far from “liberalizing” Cuba, that lifeline simply abetted the Castros’ continuing authoritarian rule.

Similarly, last year’s drop in global oil prices devastated Venezuela, which had become Cuba’s chief economic benefactor. Forced yet again to seek help, the Castros will nonetheless ensure that Cuban citizens do not benefit from increased economic relations with America. Instead, Havana will rigorously control the increased flow of dollars resulting from expanded trade and travel, providing the Castros once more with a path to survival. Make no mistake, they know this playbook well.

Even worse is what lies ahead under Obama. While he refers blithely to “normalizing” relations, Fidel and Raul have a different definition of “normal.” What will emerge in the next 18 months, unless Congress acts, is whether Obama agrees with the Castros.

On July 1, “the Revolutionary Government of Cuba” issued a statement, distributed in New York by Cuba’s UN Mission. In the kind of Cold War rhetoric that shows it’s still the early ’60s for the regime in Havana, it says that in exchange for truly “normal” relations, the United States must:

“Return to Cuba the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base; cease the radio and television broadcasts, which violate international regulations and are harmful to our sovereignty; stop the implementation of programs aimed at promoting internal subversion and destabilization; and compensate the Cuban people for all the human and economic damages caused by the United States.”

Since it does not strain credulity to believe Obama would return Guantanamo Bay to Havana’s control, Congress should move quickly through appropriate legislation, enacting multiple prohibitions against giving away Guantanamo, or any other U.S. “compensation” to Cuba. Moreover, House and Senate members should remember that Obama has proven himself all too ready to ignore or reinterpret statutory language he finds inconvenient. A legislative belt-and-suspenders approach is entirely appropriate.

Nor is there any reason to suspend or in any way reduce broadcasts by Radio and TV Marti into Cuba. Rather, Congress should augment its appropriations, especially for TV Marti. Given the inevitable Cuban restrictions and surveillance, an increased number of U.S. tourists visiting Cuba will not increase the flow of information to the Cuban people. Instead, we should be playing on the Castro brothers’ fears of continued U.S. information outreach to Cuba’s human-rights activists such as the “Ladies in White” — truly the heart of the long-term threat to the Castro regime, and why what they call “subversion” is what others call free speech and free association.

We can only hope the Castros do not successfully use the next 18 months to buttress their regime’s staying power. Obama’s policy is a tragedy for the Cuban people, and a top priority for America’s next President to reverse.