Statement on Obama's Trip to Cuba

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
This morning, President Obama announced a trip to Cuba by the end of March.

In the 20th century, various U.S. Presidents visited and fêted Latin America's military dictators. A trip by Obama to Cuba would be the first visit by a U.S. President to a dictatorship in Latin America since Lyndon Johnson's 1968 visit to Nicaragua with Anastasio Somoza Debayle. That should be unacceptable in the 21st century.

After decades of military dictatorship -- both of the left and the right -- thirty-four (34) out of thirty-five (35) nations in the Western Hemisphere are representative democracies. Albeit some imperfect, and while Cuba's regime has worked diligently to subvert democratic institutions in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Argentina -- those efforts are being slowly thwarted. Unfortunately, a Presidential visit to Cuba, prior to that nation's government taking any steps towards democratic reforms -- or even making any commitments to do so -- would harken back to the days of "business as usual" with the military dictatorships of the Americas.

Cuba is the only country in the Americas ranked as "Not Free" by Freedom House. It is the worst violator of human rights in the region. Rather than legitimizing the sole remaining military dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, the United States should be focused on celebrating the advancement of democracy in most of the remaining others. We should be embracing a new generation of democratic leaders in the Americas, rather than emboldening the regime of General Raul Castro, his heirs and military cronies.

Upon taking office, Obama famously stated to the world's tyrants that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." That turned out to be a lie -- Obama has extended his hand, and left it extended, as political arrests and repression in Cuba have intensified throughout the last year.

During a December 2015 interview with Yahoo News, Obama stated that he would only travel to Cuba if he can meet with pro-democracy dissidents there. Such meetings should -- at the very least -- include internationally-recognized dissidents, such as Sakharov prize recipients, The Ladies in White and Guillermo Farinas; U.S. Presidential of Medal recipient Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet; Estado de Sats' Antonio Rodiles and former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez". Otherwise, Obama will have lied -- again.