Cuba After Obama’s Departure: What is Fidel and Raul Castro’s Actual Agenda?
A few weeks have passed since President Obama’s trip to Cuba, where he gave a historic speech that was broadcast throughout the country, and the next day appeared at an exhibition baseball game between the Cuban national team and an American team from Tampa, Florida. Cubans, who for years had been instructed to yell anti-American slogans, now were told to show up, cheer the American president, and hold both Cuban and American flags.
Obama’s trip was heralded throughout the United States for initiating a historic turn in America’s policy towards Cuba which until now has been hostile since the Revolution’s radical turn in 1961. Since then, as the Council on Foreign Relations notes, “successive U.S. administrations have maintained a policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of Cuba.” Now, full diplomatic status exists between the two countries, and the United States has its embassy functioning at full speed on the banks of the Malecon on Havana’s waterfront.
President Obama has said this change in U.S. policy will be in the interests of both countries, and hopefully will lead to major reforms by the Castro regime. Unfortunately, Obama’s rapprochement was made without asking for or receiving any concrete signs of liberalization in advance of the restoration of diplomatic relations. Indeed, it was the U.S. that gave in to Raul and Fidel Catro’s demands.
As I have previously written, Obama did make some good points in his speech, including his championing of America democracy and the free market system. Yet, his critics are correct when they say that he could have done more, especially like calling for the freedom of all political prisoners and then mentioning specific names that had been provided him by various human rights groups.
Obama had plenty of information about the true situation in the prison island, and by the very gesture of being buddy-buddy with Raul Castro the day after his speech he made it appear that he approved of and was giving legitimacy to the regime. Indeed, he also publicly said that the United States was not in the business of regime change. And by praising Cuba’s health and education systems — especially since the health system is hardly functional when it comes to treating the average Cuban, and the education system is a mechanism for producing loyal communists — and equating them with the free political system that the U.S. has, he was making a morally equivalent comparison between American democracy and Cuban communism.
As for human rights, they are actually far worse today than they were in Batista’s time. Human Rights Watch, hardly a right-wing organization, portrays the situation in Cuba in these words:
Prisons are overcrowded, unhygienic, and unhealthy, leading to extensive malnutrition and illness. More than 57,000 Cubans are in prisons or work camps, according to a May 2012 article in an official government newspaper. Prisoners who criticize the government or engage in hunger strikes and other forms of protest are subjected to extended solitary confinement, beatings, restrictions on family visits, and denial of medical care. Prisoners have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress.
Today, as Humberto Fontova has noted, “Cubans are suffering a wave of terror –involving everything from thousands, upon thousands of arbitrary arrests by KGB-trained secret police to machete attacks by regime-paid mobs against peaceful women dissidents—surpassing anything seen in decades.”
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