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Canada: An accomplice of tyranny in Cuba

In an editorial in Canada's The Star, the newspaper's editorial board believes the Canadian government can become an agent of change in Cuba and help facilitate reforms on the island. On the surface, this may appear as a reasonable proposition and some may even think it shows good will. However, considering Canada's decades-long complicity with the brutal and tyrannical Castro dictatorship, it is actually quite outrageous.

The Canadian government has blatantly provided aid and cover for the Cuban dictatorship for decades, extending and maintaining lifelines to the Castro regime with trade and tourism while turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed on the Cuban people by the totalitarian government. As you read this editorial, it becomes painfully obvious that Canada's singular objective in Cuba is to protect its business interests on the island. The only way they can do that is to ensure the dictatorial government they have business agreements with remains in power.

The only "reforms" The Star is interested in are the same reforms the Castro dictatorship is interested in: Reforms that ensure Cuba's ruling elite maintain their position of power and control. Anything else -- freedom, democracy, respect for human rights -- is way down their wishlist for Cuba, and nonexistent if it means the Castro family loses control of the government.

In other words, Canada remains an accomplice to tyranny.

As the Castros bow out, Canada can help spur Cuban reform: Editorial

As Cuba’s Castro brothers bow out, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is right to cultivate ties with the next generation of leaders.

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, announced he will retire in 2018 after his next five-year term. He and his brother Fidel, seen here in Feb. 2012, have run the country since 1959.

Cuban President Raúl Castro, 81, plans to cheat not only the Grim Reaper but also a dozen American presidents by bowing out on his own terms in 2018. By that point he and his ailing brother Fidel will have ruled the island nation for nearly six decades.

For many Cubans — most born after the 1959 revolution — change can’t come too soon. “You thought that with all these old men, it would never end,” Havana resident Regla Blanca told The Associated Press. “I am very satisfied.” In their hearts, many would agree.

Castro plans to hand power to Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, 52, a Communist stalwart of the post-revolutionary generation and chess-playing engineer. Still, this leaves 11 million Cubans looking anxiously down a dark corridor. Power struggles may yet erupt.

It’s good, then, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stepped up Canada’s engagement by sending Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on a recent and rare trip to Cuba to encourage both political and economic reform, and to push for more trade, investment and tourism. Harper’s next step should be to drop Canada’s objection to Cuba rejoining the Organization of American States.

Few Canadians envy Cubans their lack of political freedom under the Castros’ rule, but we shouldn’t pass up any chance to strengthen ties in the hope of bettering people’s lives.

Life has improved since Raúl took over from Fidel in 2008. He has turned state land over to private farmers, encouraged small business, let people travel abroad, and legalized the sale of homes and autos. Still, Cuba has yet to recover from the fall of its Soviet backers in 1991. Most people still struggle a generation later. Cuba is overly dependent on cheap oil from Venezuela and on remittances from abroad.

While American law forbids fully normalizing relations as long as the Castros are in power, the Harper government should also encourage the U.S. to further ease the trade embargo that has cost Cuba $100 billion over the years. The embargo failed utterly to oust the Castros, and can’t be justified when they are on the way out. Not when Washington trades freely with Communist China, Vietnam and others. The embargo served only to give the regime a pretext to jail dissidents under the guise of defending the revolution.

As the cult of Fidelismo fades to grey, the time seems right for psychic change on both sides of this long, sterile feud. That’s something Ottawa can usefully encourage.

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