IBD Editorial: Obama’s Cuba Trip Showing Signs Of Imploding

Tuesday, March 8, 2016
From Investor's Business Daily's Editorial Board:

Obama’s Cuba Trip Showing Signs Of Imploding

President Obama’s “historic” trip to communist Cuba is showing signs of falling apart. Far from the beisbol and mojitos junket that the president’s PR team is selling, disputes are all over, starting with which dissidents the regime will let the president see. It goes to show what a bad idea this was.

Making the first visit to the island since the Coolidge administration, President Obama’s public relations men are touting a host of fun-filled photo-op activities, such as a “shared love” of baseball, as well as new State Department talks with the Castroites “on cybercrime,” as Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted, apparently naive to the fact that any hackers in Cuba are agents of the Cuban government.

In reality, there are signs of trouble all over with the March 21 visit. After all, this is not a normal relationship. The Cuban government’s goodwill toward the U.S. is nil, even as Obama showers goodies on them and caves in to their every demand. A presidential visit is the last thing they deserve.

Yet the administration justifies the junket by saying the president’s trip will “advance our progress and improve the lives of the Cubans,” as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough tweeted in Spanish. And indeed that’s an echo of President Obama’s original precondition to not visit Cuba until the Castroites improve the rights of Cuba’s citizens — who are fleeing the island in droves now, out of fear the Obama-Castro bromance will lead to an end of their migration privileges, a topic seemingly ignored. Notice the verbal sleight-of-hand: The Obama administration has subtly shifted its goal to now say the trip itself will improve the conditions of Cubans.

For Cubans, there have been nothing but problems. For one, dissident arrests have risen five-fold since Obama announced the normalization of ties in late 2014. Some “improvement.”

Now there’s even a question of which critics of the regime Obama will be allowed to meet in Havana. In repeated messages, Obama has stated that he wants to meet Cubans from “all walks of life” to justify this trip to Americans.

The situation got so bad last week that Secretary of State John Kerry canceled his preparatory trip to Cuba after Cuban officials told him which Cuban dissidents President Obama could meet — and which ones he couldn’t. It was a valid reason to call off a trip. Heads of state in countries with normal relations don’t tell each other who they can meet.

But President Obama’s trip is still a “go,” even as Cuba’s henchmen dictate which dissidents he can see — and which will wind up in prison to keep them out of sight.

This is now a pattern. At the U.S. embassy opening in Havana last summer, Cuban dissidents were kept away to please the regime, while the U.S. public was told there was no room for them — as reporters (such as CNN’s Jake Tapper) tweeted pictures of wide open space and empty chairs. It was an obvious lie.

At a minimum, the President should be shaking hands with Berta Soler, who leads the wives of imprisoned dissidents group called Ladies in White, a group whose members are routinely beaten and jailed every time they walk the streets to church to remind people of their husbands. Jorge "Antunez" Garcia Perez, an Afro-Cuban leader who has been assaulted and jailed for speaking out against the Castroites’ Bull-Connor-style discrimination against black Cubans, also belongs in the list. Rosa Maria Paya, whose dissident father was murdered by Castro’s agents in a “car accident,” merits a presidential visit, too. So does Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, thrown into Castro’s dungeons for years for advocating nonviolent resistance inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Even the “beisbol” issue reeks of tyranny: The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration and Major League Baseball have been in private talks for months with the Castro regime to let more Cuban players come to the U.S. to play here. But many already come here, by escaping Castro. These talks sound like a way to give Castro a cut of the players’ high professional earnings. Just another way that the Castro dictatorship leeches off its own people. Workers in Cuba, remember, have no rights, not even the right to their own earnings.

If this isn’t a Potemkin trip in the making, what is?