CFR: Burying Cuba's Regime

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
By Elliott Abrams of The Council on Foreign Relations:

Burying Cuba

President Obama’s speech to the Cuban people today included many nice lines about democracy and human rights.

But the ideological content was found in this line, early in the speech: “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.”

If only that were so.

The last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas, in the Obama view, is apparently the American embargo of Castro’s Cuba. But I would beg to differ. The last remnant is instead the communist regime that continues to deny freedom to the Cuban people.

Toward the end of his speech the President says “The history of the United States and Cuba encompass revolution and conflict; struggle and sacrifice; retribution and, now, reconciliation. It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind.” Again, this is a nice phrase, but its content is all wrong. The critical thing about leaving the past behind is not whether the U.S. Interests Section is henceforth called an embassy, or whether cruise ships can soon dock in Cuba. The critical thing would be leaving behind communism: no free elections, no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, a court system subordinate to the Party, an economy whose wealth is all directed toward and controlled by the Party, and all the other elements that make communism loathsome.

In the months since the Obama opening to Cuba, the regime has gotten stronger. In exchange for the loosening of all regulations about traveling to and spending money in Cuba, the United States and the people of Cuba have gotten nothing. The regime is led not only by Raul Castro, but by his son and son-in-law, who are obviously preparing a communist-style monarchy: the ruling family stays forever. When Americans stay at a hotel in Cuba, they are giving their money to GAESA, a holding company belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces that is run by General Luis Alberto Rodríguez, President Raúl Castro’s son-in-law. American firms investing in Cuba will have the Army and the Castros as their partners.

Cuba is not the only country in the hemisphere that is not free, but it is the one being visited and celebrated by Mr. Obama. If only he would truly try to bury the “last remnant of the Cold War” by bringing freedom to Cuba instead of making life easier for its communist regime, that would be cause for celebration. This visit is not.