The Oklahoman Editorial Board: Obama's Cuba Policy Produces More Suffering

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
From The Oklahoman's Editorial Board

Obama's Cuba policy produces only more suffering

It may not be getting much attention, but President Barack Obama's decision to liberalize U.S.-Cuba policy is rapidly shifting from naive and ill-advised to an act of willful obliviousness.

The administration's foreign policy often appears predicated on the idea that enemies will become allies if only the United States embraces appeasement. In Cuba, that theory is being disproved daily.

This fact was highlighted recently in a letter sent to the Obama administration by Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. Both question the legality of Obama's action, which defies federal law regarding the Cuba embargo, but they also note the policy has been wholly ineffective.

“Since you laid out your vision for re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014, human rights conditions in the country have worsened,” Lankford and Diaz-Balart wrote.

Citing the congressional testimony of Mauricio Claver-Carone, a former Treasury official who is now executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, Lankford and Diaz-Balart noted that “political arrests in Cuba have intensified, Internet connectivity has dropped, and religious freedom violations have increased tenfold since the policy change was announced.”

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation documented 8,616 political arrests in 2015, and 8,505 political arrests through September of this year. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition last year in Cuba. That group also “documented 1,606 separate violations of religious freedom in Cuba.”

Lankford and Diaz-Balart noted that “several of the prisoners released by Cuba as part of the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations were rearrested with even longer prison sentences, according to your State Department's own human rights report.”

In other words, even the Obama administration tacitly admits its policy is failing.

At the same time, Lankford and Diaz-Balart noted the Castro regime was caught smuggling 240 tons of military weapons to North Korea in 2013. In August and September 2016, the Cuban government “deepened ties with Iran, and has allowed Russian spy ships to dock from its territory.” Russian official have announced they may open a military base in Cuba. In congressional testimony, the director of national intelligence, Gen. James R. Clapper, said the Castro dictatorship remains an espionage threat on par with Iran, behind only China and Russia.

Fabiola Santiago, who initially supported Obama's Cuban policy change, has since written in the Miami Herald that the results aren't benefiting the Cuban people. In particular, Santiago is upset that supposed economic development benefits are going to the Cuban military, which runs major hotels now receiving investment funds from American firms.

Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady noted last week that the Cuban economy is “in tatters” while the Castro regime “is backtracking on promises of reform” and “beatings and detentions of dissidents have soared since the U.S. extended the olive branch.”

“Yet Mr. Obama keeps making concessions to the Castros…”

Obama's presidency has been marked by extreme hubris. In Cuba, the price of the administration's unwillingness to acknowledge policy mistakes is being measured in ever-greater human suffering.