Why the new Cuba pol­icy misses the mark

Em­bargo not­with­stand­ing, deal­ings with the Cuban peo­ple is a naive idea

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By An­to­nio Benedi An­to­nio Benedi, a for­mer spe­cial as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, is a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors of the Pa­trick Henry Cen­ter for In­di­vid­ual Lib­erty. He is a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen, born in Cuba.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced his Cuba pol­icy in Mi­ami last week. I com­mend him for many of his ef­forts. He un­veiled a re­place­ment pol­icy for the dis­as­trous Cuba pol­icy Pres­i­dent Obama put into place. The high­light of Mr. Obama’s pol­icy was lift­ing an eco­nomic em­bargo that was placed af­ter the Com­mu­nist revo­lu­tion of Fidel Cas­tro brought the world to the brink of nu­clear war with the Mis­sile Cri­sis in 1962.

Ten U.S. pres­i­dents were faced with John F. Kennedy’s em­bargo on Cuba. Five Democrats and five Repub­li­cans had up­held the em­bargo. By the end of the fifth Demo­cratic pres­i­dency, Mr. Obama de­cided to break with tra­di­tion. He did this with­out any con­ces­sions or re­forms by Com­mu­nist Cuba. Mr. Obama gave away ev­ery­thing and threw the Cuban peo­ple un­der the bus. The pol­icy en­sured no guar­an­tees on hu­man rights, free­dom of speech, free­dom of re­li­gion, the right to assem­ble or have free and fair elec­tions. The Cuban peo­ple re­ceived noth­ing in re­turn for this new U.S. pol­icy. Nada.

Now we have a “new” pol­icy en­dorsed by Sec­re­tary of La­bor Alexan­der Acosta, and Sen. Marco Ru­bio, both Cuban Amer­i­cans. The pol­icy states that the United States will no longer deal with the Cuban mil­i­tary or gov­ern­ment; now we will deal with the Cuban peo­ple di­rectly.

The new pol­icy em­pha­sizes that we will by­pass the mil­i­tary and com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment of Cuba. This is a farce. I was shocked when I heard this mis­guided, naive idea that the “Cuban peo­ple” are free to do busi­ness and be en­trepreneurs in­side Cuba and deal with the United States and U.S. com­pa­nies di­rectly. Do we re­mem­ber any­thing about com­mu­nism dur­ing the many years spent un­der the Cold War?

I trav­eled to com­mu­nist oc­cu­pied coun­tries un­der the Soviet Union. I vis­ited Bel­grade, Yu­goslavia. I was trav­el­ing with Vice Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush in the early 1980s. The se­cret po­lice fol­lowed us ev­ery­where prior to his ar­rival. To­tal con­trol of the cit­i­zens there was bla­tant. They had no free­doms at all. Could we have dealt di­rectly with them? I also trav­eled to Moscow in 1983 for Chair­man Brezh­nev’s fu­neral. I wit­nessed peo­ple liv­ing un­der the con­stant fear of be­ing taken away and dis­ap­pear­ing to Siberia or worse for any rea­son. Cuba is no dif­fer­ent to­day.

My fam­ily fled Cuba just af­ter Cas­tro and his com­mu­nist mis­fits came down from the Sierra Maes­tra with the Ar­gen­tinean killer Che Gue­vara in tow. They vi­o­lently went through the coun­try­side killing ev­ery­one in their paths that they felt were not sup­port­ive of the revo­lu­tion. They com­pletely took con­trol of the peo­ple to se­cure their obe­di­ence and con­form­ity with the new revo­lu­tion. This is unimag­in­able to us liv­ing in free­dom. They sus­pended the Cuban Con­sti­tu­tion of 1940, very sim­i­lar to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. They re­placed it with a Soviet style man­i­festo. They sus­pended habeas cor­pus and all rights of the in­di­vid­ual putting in its place manda­tory al­le­giance to the Com­mu­nist Revo­lu­tion.

This has not changed. It’s worse un­der the Obama pol­icy. Peo­ple have been taken and im­pris­oned or dis­ap­peared per­ma­nently if the gov­ern­ment thought they would be a threat to the sta­tus quo. Tourism flour­ished af­ter Mr. Obama’s pol­icy en­rich­ing the mil­i­tary and the Com­mu­nist Party. Noth­ing is to be kept or owned by the peo­ple. If rel­a­tives in the U.S. send dol­lars to their loved ones in Cuba, the gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials take a cut. Food and wa­ter is ra­tioned. If you are found with an abun­dance of food or pos­ses­sions you risk go­ing to prison for deal­ing in the black mar­ket. Ob­tain­ing things needed to feed and sus­tain your fam­ily be­comes a crime.

The Cuban peo­ple are not free. They can’t even visit the beau­ti­ful beaches that bring so many Cana­di­ans and Euro­peans to Cuba, a breath­tak­ing is­land that Christo­pher Colum­bus called “The Pearl of the An­tilles.” Now even U.S. cit­i­zens are spend­ing money that never reaches the av­er­age Cuban.

I dis­agree with this no­tion that we can by­pass the Cuban mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment and deal di­rectly with the Cuban peo­ple to bet­ter their lives. This only ex­ists in the minds of peo­ple that have no com­pre­hen­sion of the con­trol and the to­tal dom­i­na­tion that has en­slaved and im­pris­oned the Cuban peo­ple for so long. This is un­re­al­is­tic. Could we deal di­rectly with the North Korean peo­ple and set up busi­nesses and en­ter­prises with­out the gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary be­ing in­volved?

Let’s bring real change to Cuba by forc­ing this bru­tal Com­mu­nist regime to its knees. Some say this will only hurt the Cuban peo­ple. The Cuban peo­ple are in ex­treme pain now. The only ones not hurt­ing in Cuba are the Com­mu­nist Party lead­ers. Let’s bring real free­doms and hu­man rights to the Cuban peo­ple. De­mand the re­lease of dis­si­dents’ im­pris­oned with­out tri­als. Deal­ing di­rectly with the peo­ple of Cuba is im­pos­si­ble with the sys­tem that ex­ists now. They will not re­lin­quish con­trol. I won­der who will ever get the Cuban so­lu­tion right. We need to fi­nally help bring real re­forms and free­dom that has eluded Cubans on that is­land only 90 miles from our shore.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS

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