It is clear that human rights are not at the forefront of the administration’s Cuba policy.
When President Barack Obama arrives in Havana next month, he will be greeted by an old-school autocrat, hungry for resources to sustain his oppressive regime. His visit will do little to improve the lives of every day Cubans, but it will significantly strengthen the regime that rules them at gunpoint.
It is clear that human rights are not at the forefront of the administration’s Cuba policy, so this rapprochement will do little else than to lend unearned legitimacy to a murderous dictatorship.
No sitting U.S. president has set foot on Cuban soil since Calvin Coolidge visited the democratically-elected Cuban President Gerardo Machado in 1928.
The reason: for over half a century, the island-nation has been ruled by a military dictatorship born from a bloody revolution and preserved through foreign-subsidized repression.
Led by Raul Castro, the Cuban regime has murdered, imprisoned, and silenced countless of its own citizens. Internationally, it has actively worked to undermine democracy in the Americas, using its puppet in Venezuela to incubate and spread the anti-democratic disease that ails most of the Western Hemisphere.
This cavalier behavior has compromised America’s stance abroad. Lending recognition to the Cuban regime betrays American values and sends the wrong message to both our allies and adversaries. His administration’s continued unilateral concessions have emboldened the regime and undermined the democratic efforts it oppresses. How can America justify crossing oceans in the defense of liberty if it chooses to ignore abuses occurring less than 90 miles away from our shores.
When asked about visiting Cuba in a December 2015 interview, Obama said he wished to meet with Cuba’s dissidents “who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.”
However, considering his decision to stand with the regime, instead of the civil society it oppresses, this statement rings hollow.
Even if the president musters the courage to ask for such a meeting or to initiate a serious human rights discussion, his concessions have left the U.S. no real leverage to advocate for human rights. Raul Castro has rightly judged Obama’s interest in the rapprochement to be more about his political legacy than the plight of the Cuban people. As it stands, the president will be another tourist in Havana. He will see and do only what he is allowed to, and will leave the regime richer and stronger than when he landed.
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