IBD Editorial: Despite Obama's 'Normalization,' Cuba As Repressive As Ever

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
From Investor's Business Daily's Editorial Board:

Despite Obama's 'Normalization,' The Castros' Cuba Is As Repressive As Ever

It's now been almost two years since President Obama began easing relations with Cuba to make "the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous." How's that working out? No so well, it seems.

Responding to the extraordinary changes then taking place, the left-wing British Guardian in December 2014 predicted, "The easing of U.S. restrictions on Cuba will provide a telling case study in one of the longest running debates in foreign policy: whether sanctions or engagement represent the best way to change authoritarian regimes."

They were right. And so far, this "case study" doesn't show Obama's "engagement" works any better than sanctions. Far from it.

After the "normalization" of relations agreed to by Obama and Cuban associate dictator Raul Castro, the Cuban government made 8,616 politically motivated arrests in 2015 and 7,418 more in just the first half of this year, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights. Meanwhile, Cuban government violations of religious freedoms surged from just 220 in 2014 to 2,300 in 2015, says Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious rights group.

"There is no such thing as dictator-down economics," said Ana Quintana, a policy analyst who focuses on Latin America and the Western Hemisphere at the Heritage Foundation. "There is no evidence this will help the Cuban people. It will help the Cuban government and the Communist Party elite."

The fond hope of many that, once the Castros are gone, communism will simply melt away, seems to be foolish.

Just look what has happened in Venezuela following the death of socialist strongman Hugo Chavez. His successor, the pathologically inept Nicolas Maduro, has doubled down on Chavez's socialist mistakes. He has set Venezuela onto a path of economic and social collapse with more Castro-like policies of government control — of everything from the oil industry to food supply, along with a crackdown on all freedoms.

The inevitable outcome has been widespread hunger, rapid economic decline, collapsing incomes, soaring murder and street crime, surging infant mortality rates, the destruction of the middle class, even reports of cannibalism as food shortages leave government-run store shelves empty and inflation makes even everyday goods prohibitively expensive for all but the socialist elite.

It's a human rights nightmare. And it has nothing to do with U.S. sanctions.

The idea that U.S. sanctions destroyed Cuba's economy is a long-cherished myth pushed aggressively by the left-leaning U.S. media and their Democratic Party friends.

Yes, the U.S. imposed sanctions for over 50 years. But Cuba was free to trade with other nations, and did so, including Canada, Japan, Europe and, of course, the former nations of the Soviet Union. Tourists from all over the world traveled there for a cheap beach vacation, quaffing drinks, eating food and sleeping in rooms that were forbidden to Cuban citizens.

Cuba remains an island prison of slave-citizens, and no amount of U.S. trade will change that. After all, every moneymaking industry in Cuba is owned by the government. So more trade only bolsters the despised Castro regime. The only thing that will change things for the better in Cuba is the ouster of the communist regime that is responsible for impoverishing a nation that was once the second-wealthiest in Latin America.

OK, you say, but why should this matter? After all, Obama has called his latest policy shifts, announced just last week, "irreversible."

Well, we would direct you to a recent survey showing that just 37% of millennials have a "very unfavorable" view of communism, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation's first "Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Toward Socialism," released Monday. That compares to 57% of all Americans having a "very unfavorable" view of communism.

Moreover, just 42% of millennials have a favorable view of capitalism. Nearly half of those aged 16 to 20 said they would vote for a socialist, and 21% said they'd vote for a communist.

This is a shocking indicator of the failure of civics education in our nation's schools. Socialism and communism have always failed wherever they've been tried — always. Yet this message hasn't gotten through to America's youth, who know nothing of the mass murders, gulags and deprivation of basic human rights that mark all Marxist-inspired regimes.

That Americans who live in the most prosperous country in the history of the Earth — a capitalist prosperity that derives from individual freedom, free markets and respect for private property — could think otherwise is alarming, and should be a wake-up call.