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NORIEGA – Chamber of crony capitalism sells out Cubans

NORIEGA: Chamber of crony capitalism sells out Cubans
U.S. trade concessions without regard for would betray
By Roger F. Noriega Friday, May 30, 2014

For the past 15 years, the Castro regime has sought to entice foreign
companies to Cuba by offering slave wages and stolen property. The cost
of doing business there is that you pay workers’ salaries to the regime,
take the government as your business partner and agree to lobby against
the U.S. .

As astonishing as it sounds, there are American businessmen who look
upon these woeful conditions and ask, “How do I get in on this?” U.S.
policy bars “trading with the enemy.” People who have no particular
interest in changing “the enemy” set out to change U.S policy.

For example, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas J. Donohue, just
wrapped up a visit to Cuba, citing “evidence that we’re seeing an
extraordinary expansion of free enterprise.” Of course, that is utter
nonsense, demonstrating that Mr. Donohue has learned nothing since he
first hyped ’s “reforms” 15 years ago.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic 2014,
Cuba actually recorded “double-digit declines in business freedom and
freedom” in the past year. That is quite a feat, because only
North Korea ranks worse than Cuba among the 178 countries rated in the
annual Heritage study. If Mr. Donohue is interested in touting economic
freedom, almost literally the last people on the planet he should be
courting are cronies of the Castro dictatorship.

In recent weeks, several other groups have appealed for reform on Cuba —
not for reform in Cuba, but reform of U.S. policy. The New York-based
Council of the Americas issued a May 19 “Open Letter to President Obama”
recommending initiatives to support “independent economic activity.” The
signers of this message include retired U.S. officials, most of whom, in
my personal experience, never showed the slightest interest in the cause
of freedom in Cuba when they were in a position to do something about
it. Many of the ideas they endorse for encouraging economic freedom have
some merit. However, the fatal flaw is their call for a dialogue that
would legitimize the regime that is an intractable obstacle to political
and economic liberty in Cuba.

“Giving oxygen to the Cuban government would mean that the United States
is turning its back on the Cuban people.” That’s how leader
Berta Soler sized up the council’s proposal. Dissident Manuel Cuesta
Morua assessed that the signers “don’t know how things work here,” and
questioned their failure to refer to human rights. “Given the reality
and the rules imposed by Castro, it would be impossible” for Cubans to
benefit from the initiatives recommended in the letter, according to
Jose Daniel Ferrer of Cuba’s Patriotic Union.

The Chamber of Commerce trip and Council of the Americas letter come on
the heels of a February poll on Cuba policy released by a Washington
website committed to ending the U.S. embargo. For decades, these same
pundits sneered at U.S. policy, saying it was driven merely by crass
politics. Their monumental contribution to this debate is an appeal for
unilateral concessions to the Castro regime because of a poll. You can’t
make this stuff up.

Three things these initiatives have in common is that they would benefit
the regime, they could end up hurting average Cubans, and they are being
offered by people who have no real stake in what happens on the island.
These pundits have a hunch that they know better than people with
knowledge, experience and family ties. With very few exceptions, they
don’t know anyone on the island who will pay the price if the United
States clumsily helps the gasping regime catch its breath.

Of course, not everyone who cares about the Cuban people thinks the same
about how best to bring about change there. However, most draw the line
at concessions that would clearly benefit the regime without helping 11
million Cubans.

Then there’s Charlie Crist — who, as governor of Florida, looked into
the eyes of Cuban exiles, heard their heartbreaking stories and maybe
wiped away a tear or two. In his bid to win his old job back, Mr. Crist
has flip-flopped on Cuba policy, pledging to confer and trade with the
Castro regime — playing the angles on an issue in which he knows lives
are at stake.

President Obama has relaxed some restrictions on family and cash
remittances. He has refused to make more concessions, though, unless the
regime makes meaningful changes in how it treats the Cuban people. Let’s
hope he sticks to that simple, principled position.

Roger F. Noriega is a former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of
American States and assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere
affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

Source: “NORIEGA: Chamber of crony capitalism sells out Cubans –
Washington Times” –

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