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Last Sunday’s Washington Post carried an editorial titled “Failure In Cuba,” taking the Obama administration to task for its failure to achieve what it declared were the goals of its policy restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries — “to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans” and “to engage and empower the Cuban people.” The Post is downright scathing about what has happened since normalization began in December 2014, after the mid-term elections, when the President felt it was safe to undertake his initiative:
Yet there is scant evidence so far of a sea change in Cuba — perhaps because Mr. Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral concessions requiring nothing in return. Since the United States has placed no human rights conditions on the opening, the Castro regime continues to systematically engage in arbitrary detention of dissidents and others who speak up for democracy. In fact, detentions have spiked in recent months. The state continues to monopolize radio, television and newspapers.
The administration has defined one of its goals as opening Cuba to the Internet, but the nation still suffers from some of the lowest connectivity rates in the world. The regime established a few dozen Wifi spots but charges people $2 an hour to use them; the average salary is $20 a month. The state retains a chokehold on the economy, including tourism; the benefits of a 50 percent increase in U.S. visitors are being garnered by Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, the industry’s boss. Meanwhile, Cuba’s purchases of U.S. goods have fallen by a double-digit percentage.
What’s most evident over the past year is that the Castro brothers are effectively preventing real change and reform even as they reap the rewards of Mr. Obama’s opening. The president’s only response has been more unilateral concessions, along with talk of a visit to the island before he leaves office. Autocrats everywhere must be watching with envy the Castros’ good fortune.
I’ve written before about the reality of Cuba today (see Top 5 Reasons We Ended Cuba Embargo, Solving Income Inequality (reporting on Cuba’s maximum wage of $20 a month), and New York Times Has Second Thoughts On Cuba (I was joking)). I was not opposed to a change in America’s policy towards Cuba if it involved a mutual opening up, but that is far from what has happened. Instead the Castro brothers, reputed to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, are thriving while the Cuban people continue to suffer.
Beyond what even the Post editorial mentions is that US government contact with dissidents is now less than it was before December 2014, because our contacts are now directed through the government instead of around it. The dissidents report they are demoralized by what has happened.
President Obama’s actions have been shameful, yet another example of an own goal scored by his foreign policy. Well, at least he may get to fulfill his often expressed desire to make an official presidential visit before the end of his administration. How nice for him.Published in