Obama's Short-Sighted Cuba Policy Has Regional Consequences

Thursday, September 10, 2015
As Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro and Ecuador's Rafael Correa intensify their assault on human rights and democracy this week, here are two warnings we've previously given about the short-sightedness of the U.S. embracing Castro's regime.

First, on February 10, 2014 (in The Hill), before Obama's new Cuba policy announcement:

"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.

If U.S. sanctions toward Cuba are lifted and Castro's dictatorship is "fully integrated" -- what's to keep a return to the Latin American dictatorships of the 20th Century?

The people of the Americas can’t afford a return to the dictatorships -- whether leftist or rightist -- that once ruled Latin America. Some of those governments may have seemed to be 'good' for business at their time, but would be severely damaging to the national interests of the United States and the Western Hemisphere in the 21st century.

For the United States to 'normalize' relations with Cuba's dictatorship without political reforms or a rule of law opens a Pandora's Box that can lead to history repeating itself.  Sadly there are plenty of Latin American 'leaders' who would gladly seize the opportunity to permanently close the door on democracy.  Let’s not hand them the opportunity."

Then, on January 11, 2015 (in The Huffington Post), after Obama's new Cuba policy announcement:

"Advocates for lifting sanctions would happily sacrifice our national interest in regional democracy to advance their narrow agenda. Not only is this dangerous and irresponsible, it also begs the serious question: What do they consider to be a 'successful' policy alternative?

Is it the 'China model,' whereby U.S. business helps to build the most lucrative dictatorship in human history?

A 'Vietnam model' of state capitalism under an iron-fisted rule?

A 'Burma model,' whereby reforms achieved through pressure are rolled back as soon as sanctions are lifted?

Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro and their puppets revel in such models. But none should have a place -- geographically or politically -- in the Western Hemisphere. In this hemisphere, every nation (except Cuba) made a commitment to representative democracy in 2001. It was a historic commitment that, backed by the United States, has blocked the authoritarian ambitions of wannabe dictators in Latin America and generated continued support for democracy and civil society. It was a commitment that Obama's December 17 announcement has now placed on the chopping block."