Wrong way to open up Cuba
ALG Editor's Note: Rarely does ALG News lead its daily feed with a "Too Hot Not To Note." But the sagacity and urgency of the editorial below prompts us to make an exception. One of the many unanswered questions about the homage paid by key Congressional Black Caucus members to the Castro regime is why they so willingly allowed themselves to be used as propaganda tools of a dictator who has spent the past 50 years attacking the U.S., funding violent gangs of so-called "revolutionaries" to terrorize his own people, and sabotaging all efforts to bring economic and political stability to Latin America. As the editorial notes, the dying Castro regime is a last vestige of "boot in the face" authoritarian dictatorships, a hangover from the Stalinist delirium of decades past. Why would any sane and honest government want to bail out this gang of thugs? And why, indeed, would representatives of the world's greatest democracy want to serve as "useful idiots" for one of the world's worst tyrannies?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The congressional delegation that met with the Castro brothers Monday and Tuesday has taken the wrong path toward deeper American engagement with the island. The right way is to free up U.S. trade and tourist visits but keep the Cuban government at arm's length.
The visit by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, led by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., was eagerly seized upon by Fidel Castro, who wrote, "I highly assess the gesture of this lawmakers group."
Mr. Castro praised the delegation for "strictly complying with the visit program" laid out for them by the Cuban government where they could see "the total absence of illiterate people or children shining shoes on the streets." Castror cited "the swarms of children, teenagers and youths attending schools and universities; the day-care centers, senior citizens homes, hospitals and polyclinics run by highly skilled medical staff offering assistance to all citizens," and the lack of joblessness.
It is unfortunate that Rep. Lee and her colleagues lent themselves to this highly misleading picture. Any visitor not blinded by the party line quickly learns how unpopular the government is, how large unreported unemployment has become, and how much the government controls the daily lives of Cubans through neighborhood supervisors, rationing, employment controls, and restrictions on movement. Most Cubans now recognize that party members, high officials and people fortunate enough to work in the tourist and import-export businesses have a much higher living standard than other Cubans. Truly, some Cubans have become more equal than others, and it rankles.
Mr. Castro contends that President Obama's position "coincides with a current of opinion that is in favor of the normalization of relations."
While the aging tyrant demanded that Cuba be taken off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, he also asked his visitors, "How can we help President Obama?"
He could start by granting the Cuban people basic freedoms he has long denied them. Fortunately, he seems to underestimate President Obama, who recognizes Cuba's appalling human-rights record.
Alas, Rep. Lee said her delegation discussed this topic "only generally with the Cubans," The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Obama says he will maintain the current trade embargo until Cuba shows progress on human rights and democracy. But he is thinking of lifting travel restrictions.
There are better ways to gain leverage. Ending the embargo would allow an influx of American ideas, capital and energy that, if handled skillfully, would lift the spirits of Cubans generally and embolden their demands for full democratic rights. It would make the Castros and their cadres increasingly irrelevant to the future of the island.
Bypass the Castros. That's the way to go.