Washington Times Editorial: Obama's Open Hand to Cuba Has Been Met With Fist

Monday, November 30, 2015
From The Washington Times' Editorial Board:

More bad news from Cuba

Hundreds flee to Central America, reprising the Mariel Boatlift

The continuing crisis in the Middle East has pushed the continuing crisis in Cuba off the front pages, but it’s nevertheless a disaster, and getting worse. Not since the Mariel Boatlift of 1994 has the hemisphere seen anything like it. Thousands of Cubans are abandoning the island, often selling their last belongings to put together the $15,000 needed to reach some part of Central America. From there they hope to reach the United States to join relatives or friends in the United States.

Last week, more than 2,000 Cubans were stranded on the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Government spokesmen on Havana’s government radio boast that the cost of getting abroad is proof that these are not poverty stricken refugees. The facts are different. The money usually comes from abroad. Estimates of the legal and illegal transfers from the United States and goods in kind totals more than $5 billion annually.

The U.S. remittances and in-kind aid have been keeping Cuba’s economy from total collapse. With the Venezuelan government now tottering, it has suspended its concessionary oil shipments to Cuba. Following the suspension of Soviet aid after 1990, remittances from the United States had permitted Raul Castro’s dictatorship to attempt another negotiation of its foreign debt. The lenders are counting on the new relationship between the United States and Cuba, such as it is, to revive the bankrupt economy.

Nicaragua’s closing of its borders to Cubans has not stopped the attempts by Cubans to flee. Cuban body snatchers are using flights to Ecuador, where they hope the plight of the migrants will get the attention of U.S. authorities for special entry arrangements. Cubans trying to cross the 90-mile Strait to Florida have special immigration status which permits them to remain here — if they can reach land in the United States before their flimsy crafts sink, or they are picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. If they are, they are returned to Cuba.

Despite the optimistic talk of Cuban agents and Castro friends in the United States, including businessmen who want to sell their wares in Cuba, the mood on the island is dark. Hopes for formal abandonment of what remains of the Cuban embargo, and U.S. government credits as the next step, has kept a steady stream of optimistic reports from Havana. But that is not how the people who actually live there see it. The young have no memory of anything but the misery of the Castro years and they are eager to take whatever chances they must take to get overseas.

There is a growing fear that the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which accorded Cubans who made it to the United States special privileges, might be victim to a general overhaul of the immigration law. Cubans are aware that immigration has become the central issue in the Republican primaries. Many see escape to Central America as the only route to the United States at a time when that door could be closing.

Even President Obama can see that his open hand of friendship has been met by a fist. Concessions were not negotiated in the re-establishment of relations. Consideration of special interests has taken over. The United States will probably have deal with the plight of the growing number of the stateless in Central America. The price of incompetence is more misery.