We have seen Cuba’s brave and courageous dissidents bear the brunt of Obama’s policy of appeasement towards the apartheid Castro dictatorship. They have been harassed, beaten, sexually assaulted, and imprisoned while U.S. officials enjoy cocktail parties with Cuban regime operatives in Washington D.C. Obama’s policy of appeasement (along with every other world leader who has refused to stand up to the Cuban tyranny) has only served to embolden and further entrench the Castro dictatorship.
History clearly shows that appeasement of a brutally repressive and corrupt regime never works and only makes the situation worse. It is no different in Cuba and unfortunately, the Cuban people are paying a heavy price for this failed policy.
Appeasement Never Works
And it’s making matters worse in Cuba.
At first blush, Luis Almagro would seem an unlikely candidate for the disfavor of the current Cuban regime. A man of the political Left, he took office as the tenth secretary general of the Organization of American States in 2015, vowing to use his term of office to reduce inequality throughout the hemisphere. Yet Secretary General Almagro was recently denied a visa to enter Cuba. Why? Because he had been invited to accept an award named in honor of Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Payá, who died in 2013 in an “automobile accident” that virtually everyone not on the payroll of the Castro regime’s security services regards to this day as an act of state-sanctioned murder. Payá’s “crime” was to organize the Varela Project, a public campaign for basic civil liberties and free elections on the island prison, and he paid for it with his life.
The regime’s refusal of a visa for the head of the OAS caused a brief flurry of comment in those shrinking parts of the commentariat that still pay attention to Cuba, now that Cuban relations with the United States have been more or less “normalized.” But there was another facet of this nasty little episode that deserves further attention: While Almagro’s entry into Cuba was being blocked, a U.S. congressional delegation was on the island and, insofar as is known, did nothing to protest the Cuban government’s punitive action against the secretary general of the OAS.
There were and continue to be legitimate arguments on both sides of the question of whether the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba should be lifted. And those pushing for a full recission of the embargo are not simply conscience-lite men and women with dollar signs in their eyes. They include pro-democracy people who sincerely believe that flooding the zone in Cuba with American products, American technology, and American culture will so undermine the Castro regime that a process of self-liberation will necessarily follow. That this seems not to have been the case with China is a powerful counterargument. Meanwhile, my own decidedly minority view — that the embargo should have been gradually rolled back over the past decade and a half in exchange for specific, concrete, and irreversible improvements in human rights and the rule of law, leading to real political pluralization in Cuba — seems to have fallen completely through the floorboards of the debate.
But as pressures to “normalize” U.S.–Cuba relations across the board increase, there ought to be broad, bipartisan agreement that Cuban repression, which has in fact intensified since the Obama initiative two years ago, should have its costs. If, as Congressman McGovern averred, he and others want to move Cuba–America relations into the 21st century, then let him and others who share that goal agree that Cuba should be treated like any other country: meaning that when it does bad things, it gets hammered by criticism and pressures are brought to bear to induce or compel better behavior in the future.
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