Editorials: Greater expectations for Cuba
Rolling back Obama policies, Trump strikes a blow for freedom
There’s more to life than pursuit of the dollar. It’s not a message necessarily expected from a billionaire president, but in reversing his predecessor’s Cuba policies, President Trump reminded the world that prosperity grows in the sunshine of freedom, and dwindles in the darkness where democracy dies.
Before a large and appreciative audience in Miami’s Little Havana, Mr. Trump announced last week that he would roll back some of President Obama’s initiatives meant to liberalize travel and trade with Cuba. “We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer,” said Mr. Trump. “I am moving immediately to cancel the completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”
In particular, the president’s new policy will steer commercial exchange away from official tourism-oriented businesses controlled by the Cuban military, which enrich only the Castro regime’s elite, and toward enterprises run by private citizens. The Trump policy strengthens a previous ban on unrestricted U.S. travel by individuals, and limits visits for non-academic educational purposes, to approved travel groups. Airlines and cruise ships will still be permitted to carry passengers between the U.S. mainland and the island nation.
While imposing new restrictions on commerce, the Trump reforms will preserve diplomatic channels. The U.S. Embassy in Havana, which Mr. Obama reopened with great fanfare 14 months ago, will remain open. Cuban Americans have long harbored deep enmity for the injustice of death and disenfranchisement visited on their forebears during the Communist revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, and for the human rights outrages imposed on Cubans throughout Fidel’s 49-year reign, followed by his brother Raul’s subsequent nine-year rule.
Mr. Obama argued that ending Cuba’s isolation would “accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous and stable Cuba,” and asked for nothing in return for the pretty words. He gave no thought to the thousands of political prisoners held in inhumane conditions. Nothing even for them.
President Mr. Trump has done what President Obama should have done. He made it clear that if Cuba wants normal relations with the United States, human rights violations must end, and so must the harboring of criminals, including Joanne Chesimard, a Black Panther who escaped from prison while serving a life sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper.
Mr. Trump related a moving account of a young violin prodigy forced at gunpoint to perform for the Castro leadership in the early days of their rule. Enraged by the execution of his father, a police chief, the boy played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Now a renowned conductor and performer, Luis Haza strode to the podium last week, lifted his instrument and once again played the anthem dear to “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
In addition to the wheeling and dealing that is Mr. Trump’s calling card, the glint of principle flashes when he talks about human rights. Americans of a certain age are reminded of Ronald Reagan’s Cold War stand for freedom, and the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” The words ring clear and true today.