How Obama’s Cuba Deal Hurts Cubans
How Obama’s Cuba Deal Hurts Cubans
James Carafano / @JJCarafano / January 04, 2015
James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign
policy challenges, is The Heritage Foundation’s Vice President, Foreign
and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
Read his research.
President Obama’s decision to make nice with Cuba’s repressive,
anti-American regime creates a great number of losers.
Topping the list, of course, are the people of Cuba. They are starting
from a bad place, lacking fundamental freedoms. And Obama negotiated no
promises from the Castro brothers to ease up on the repression.
It offers no relief from the Freedom House assessment of Cubans’
political rights and civil liberties — “Not free.” It leaves them mired
in 170th place — out of 180 countries — in Reporters Without Borders’
rankings of press freedoms.
The claim that opening markets will transform Cuba is utterly bogus. The
kleptocracy that runs the country will figure out how to exploit every
dollar that flows in — just as it has managed to funnel every incoming
cent of foreign money through the government sieve. Opening a new cash
flow will only allow the regime to further enrich itself and dig in deeper.
Opening markets cannot magically transform totalitarian regimes into
democracies — at least, not as long as the rulers maintain a
stranglehold over civil society.
Look at China. The ruling elite has embraced many free market policies,
yet freedom is waning on the Chinese mainland, and Beijing is now
squeezing it out of Hong Kong, too.
Or consider Russia. It, too, embraced Western economic reforms after the
Cold War. Yet President Vladimir Putin resurrected strongman rule and
has turned his country into a Gulag Lite.
Does anyone seriously believe that tourists buying cigars in Havana will
convince the Cuban cabal to change its ways?
Sure, some U.S. companies will turn a profit doing business in a country
under the thumb of thugs. But they could just as well make that money
If the Obama administration were really interested in boosting American
business, it would cut needlessly costly regulations, reform the tax
code and green-light initiatives like the Keystone XL pipeline that can
generate American jobs and reduce consumer prices here at home.
Instead, America loses under this decision. It strengthens an odious
regime that aids our enemies. Cuba encourages and supports some of the
most anti-American countries on Earth, from Venezuela and Iran to North
Just last year, authorities intercepted a ship bound from Havana and
purportedly bearing a “humanitarian gift of sugar from Cuba to the North
Korean people.” Hidden under the sugar were other gifts, including
fighter jet parts, missile components, rocket-propelled weapons and
America also loses because presidents are not supposed to take steps
counter to the intent of current U.S. law without at least consulting
Not only did Obama not work with Congress on this matter, he waited
until Congress had adjourned and left town before announcing he was
going to “normalize” relations with Cuba.
Coming on the heels of his end-around action on immigration — extending
executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants — the Cuban gambit
destroys any chance of lawmakers working with the Oval Office in trust
and confidence for the next two years.
Finally, America loses because Obama’s deal with the dictators betrays
the very thing that has made ours a truly exceptional nation.
“Unlike other nations that derive their meaning and purpose from some
unifying quality — an ethnic character, a common religion, a shared
history, an ancestral land — America is a country dedicated to the
universal ideas of equality and liberty,” writes constitutional scholar
The premise of our existence is that only government of, by and for the
people is truly legitimate. When Obama embraces the Cuban regime with a
sham freedom agenda, he turns American exceptionalism into American
hypocrisy. Freedom-loving Cubans deserve far better than that.
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