Curbelo: What Are the Concrete Results of Obama's Cuba Policy?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016
By U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) in El Nuevo Herald:

Concrete results of Cuba policy

The White House offers a false choice: support his policy or punish the Cuban people

When Congress was debating the nuclear agreement with Iran, the White House told us glibly that our option was to support the deficient product of its negotiation or go to war. The reply of a bipartisan majority in Congress was to reject both war and the agreement, and ask for a more robust product that would eliminate the nuclear threat and create a more stable situation in the Middle East. In the current debate over Cuba, the White House and its allies are offering another false choice: either we support its policy or we punish the people of Cuba.

The first thing that must be made clear is that the only ones responsible for the misery and suffering in Cuba are the brothers Castro. The United States and its government until recently maintained a posture of absolute solidarity with the Cubans, denouncing the dictatorship and supporting its principal victims, the domestic opposition. The United States also has been the biggest source of humanitarian assistance to Cubans. But let's evaluate the president's new policy according to the facts, its achievements and failures, and leave passion aside.

As a member of the U.S. Congress, I have to first ask what this new policy has achieved for the national interests of our country? The dictatorship continues to maintain one of most sophisticated espionage networks within the United States, with the goal of causing us harm and sharing sensitive intelligence with the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans. Fugitives from U.S. justice are still living well in Cuba – criminals who defrauded Medicare, murderers like the woman who killed a policeman in New Jersey, and the pilots who shot down and killed four young men from Brothers to the Rescue, among others.

The Castro brothers, who were the architects of the chaos in Venezuela, continue to support the criminal regime of Nicolas Maduro. Venezuelans continue to suffer, and Florida has lost billions of dollars in commercial activity due to the Cuban intervention. And there's been little talk about the biggest theft of U.S. properties in the history of our country. What little the U.S. can claim as a victory is the release of one hostage and one spy and the tardy return of a Hellfire missile that mysteriously wound up in Cuba – something the White House tried to cover up.

As for the people of Cuba, more than 51,000 have tried to escape from the island since the president made the announcement. Some died at sea or in the jungles of Central America, part of a migration crisis. There is more repression and fewer "self-employed" workers. No one will forget the abuses against the Ladies in White while the president and his family were flying toward the island. Without a doubt, the president's speech on the second day of his visit deserved praise. He supported pluralism and asked for human rights and free elections. He was far more explicit than all the popes, and met with the opposition. We are grateful to him for all of that.

But we must conclude that up to now the party that most benefited from this process started by the White House is the Cuban dictatorship. The United States and its people have achieved little, while many concessions have been made to the Cuban government – among them the official acknowledgment of the Cuban dictatorship as a legitimate government, an injection of millions and millions of dollars into its coffers and the return of Cuban spies whose hands will always be stained by the blood of young U.S. citizens.

Within the Cuban-American community there is now a debate between those who support the new policy and those of us who oppose it. I have met with several people from both sides to listen, learn and debate respectfully. Not to make secret agreements, as was reported in a perverse column published in these pages last week, full of lies, insinuations, conjectures, intrigues, gossip and baseless allegations. The intent of the column was to divide and sow discord, without any evidence and quoting a faceless and nameless source that was totally wrong.

The truth is that we can disagree without disparaging, and work toward a consensus on the assumption that the great majority of us wish the best for the people of the United States and Cuba. My doors are always open to those who want to talk about this issue, within a democratic framework and with good intentions.

Until now, the policy of unilateral concessions has produced few benefits for this great country, which has been so generous with Cubans, and crumbs for our brothers on the island. Returning to the example of the agreement with Iran, what many of us want is a policy that advances the interests of our country in concrete ways, and that helps the people of Cuba without legitimizing and strengthening its oppressors.