One Year Later: Obama's Cuba Policy Proves to Be Counter-Productive

Monday, December 14, 2015
A year ago this week, President Obama announced a new Cuba policy that diplomatically recognized the sole remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, unilaterally eased a series of trade and travel sanctions, and commuted the sentences of Castro agents convicted for serious crimes -- including murder conspiracy -- against Americans.

Meanwhile, the Castro regime promised nothing in return -- a commitment that it has followed-through upon, stressing that it will "not cede one millimeter" on fundamental rights and freedoms for the Cuban people.

By all metrics, Obama's new policy has not only proven to be irresponsible, but counter-productive.

When Obama announced that his new policy is "what change looks like" on December 17th, 2014, perhaps few anticipated that it would mean "change -- for the worse."

Yet, here are the irrefutable facts of 2015:

-- There has been a historic number of political arrests. With a few weeks still to go, there have been well over 8,000 documented political arrests in Cuba throughout the year. The Castro regime will quadruple the year-long tally of political arrests recorded in 2010 (2,074) and double that recorded in 2011 (4,123). Last month alone (November 2015), there were over 1,447 documented political arrests, which is the highest monthly tally in decades.

-- A Cuban migration crisis has unfolded. The number of Cuban who have entered the United States has spiked by nearly 80% compared to last year. Over 43,000 Cubans have managed to arrive in the United States during the year, while tens of thousands more are stuck desperately trying to make the journey -- via Ecuador -- up South and Central America. Compared to 2009, when President Obama took office, these numbers have sextupled from less than 7,000.

-- Internet connectivity ranking has dropped. According to the ITU's Measuring the Information Society Report for 2015, which is the world’s most reliable and impartial global data and analysis on information and communication technology (ICT) access, Cuba has dropped ten spots in this ranking from #119 to #129. Cuba fares much worse than some of the world's most infamous Internet suppressors, including Zimbabwe (#127), Syria (#117), Iran (#91), China (#82) and Venezuela (#72).

-- U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba have plummeted. Despite the Obama Administration's easing of sanctions, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba have precipitously declined by nearly 40% compared to last year -- from $290 million to $160 million. In August 2015 alone, U.S. agricultural exports dropped 84% from $14.3 million in 2014 to $2.25 million, one of the lowest numbers since U.S. agricultural exports were first authorized in 2001.

-- Castro has lied about terrorism without accountability. While recognizing that the Castro regime continues to harbor terrorists, the Obama Administration removed Cuba from the "state-sponsors of terrorism" list based on vague commitments, which it has failed to uphold. There has been zero progress on the ETA terrorists sought for extradition by the Spanish government or the "Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorist" sought by the FBI. Meanwhile, FARC narco-terrorists continue to enjoy luxury accommodations in Havana's finest confiscated homes. As for the February 2015 illegal arms cache intercepted in Colombia, which was brokered by the Cuban military -- mum remains the word.

-- Castro has lied about political prisoners without accountability. While over 200 Cuban dissidents were being arrested on International Human Rights Day (December 10th) last week, Castro's Attorney General told the international media that there are no political prisoners on the island. Meanwhile, most of the 53 political prisoners released in the months prior and after Obama's December 2014 announcement have been beaten and rearrested on multiple occasions, while some have been handed new long-term prison sentences.

-- International political and economic pressure has further eroded. Despite the Obama Administration's prediction that its new policy would allow other countries to hold the Castro regime accountable for its repressive practices, the opposite has been the case. Presidents, foreign ministers and other dignitaries have flocked to Cuba to discuss business opportunities with Castro's state monopolies. Yet none has made any minimal gesture of solidarity with Cuba's civil society. Meanwhile, international creditors have pardoned tens of billions in the Castro dictatorship's debts.

-- Castro's state monopolies have been strengthened. Despite the Obama Administration's rhetoric that its new policy seeks to empower Cuba's "cuentapropistas" ("self-employed sector"), the opposite has been the case. The Castro regime's military conglomerates, led by GAESA, have been at the center of all trade delegations. Even the limited spaces in which "cuentapropistas" previously operated are being constricted so that GAESA can further centralize its control of the island's travel, retail and financial sector. This has led to the widespread expulsion, arrest and confiscation of "cuentapropistas" from designated tourist zones.

Finally, in an extraordinary failure of leadership, President Obama has yet to offer any sympathy or support to the mothers and other relatives of the young Americans who were murdered by the Castro regime in collusion with the Cuban agents whose prison sentences he commuted. In addition to losing their loved ones, these American families saw justice aborted -- without any notice or gesture -- by a stroke of their own President's pen on December 17, 2014.

"It's like they murdered my son all over again," said one of the mothers.