Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Obama gets a reaction

Maybe, regardless of our views on the issue, we can all thank Senator Obama for two things: in calling for an end to restrictions on Cuban American visits and remittances, he didn’t engage in the typical pandering, and he smoked everybody else out. Here’s a roundup from news stories:

  • Senator Clinton, who had called for “some discretion” in family hardship cases last May, today calls for sticking with the status quo: “Until it is clear what type of policies might come with a new government, we cannot talk about changes in the U.S. policies toward Cuba.” (AP)

  • Senator Biden supports the status quo too. Governor Richardson was already on record agreeing with Obama. Senator Edwards wants to end restrictions on visits and maintain restrictions on remittances. Senator Dodd wants to lift the travel ban for all Americans. Congressman Kucinich wants to lift the entire embargo. (AP)

  • Governor Romney said that “unilateral concessions to a dictatorial regime are counterproductive,” and it would be wrong to “weaken our policy on Cuba until the Castro regime is dismantled, all political prisoners are freed and Cuba transitions to free and fair elections.” (AP)

  • Senator Martinez said it would be “a big error at a sensitive and critical time for Cuba” to “take away the strength the embargo now has,” and it would “throw away all the great successes of the policy of strength” pursued by President Bush. (EFE)

My favorite reaction came from a non-candidate, Mauricio Claver-Carone of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, who told AP that Obama is “well intentioned,” but his proposal sends the wrong message: “It entrenches the regime at this critical time.”

If a one-party government that has been in power since 1959 is not already entrenched, then what is?


Juan Cuellar said...

Obama Misreads Cuban Reality
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2007 4:20 PM PT

Election 2008: Seeking to change his reputation for naivete, Sen. Barack Obama now presents his new vision for Cuba. But what he thinks is new is in fact already U.S. policy. He's been asleep.


Related Topics: Election 2008 | Latin America & Caribbean


To read Obama's sunny new manifesto on Cuba policy, published Tuesday in the Miami Herald, you'd think he'd invented sunlight.

He paints a picture of the U.S. hopelessly benighted about Cuba, having shut the door to the tyrannical communist regime long ago through a trade embargo, which he calls a failure. He advocates free travel to Cuba and an end to trade restrictions.

"A democratic opening in Cuba is, and should be, the foremost objective of our policy," he wrote, seemingly unaware that that's been the aim of U.S. policy since 1960.

U.S. efforts to spread democracy in Cuba have been more than talk. In July 2006, the inter-agency U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba recommended $80 million to encourage Cubans to form civil society groups as building blocks for a future democracy. Millions were allocated for for Internet access, civil society support, and education. The commission recommended $20 million for Cuban democracy efforts "until the dictatorship ceases to exist."

That's hardly the "grand gestures" of which he claims the Bush administration has been guilty. If you're a Cuban seeking freedom, it's real help.

U.S. diplomacy has been on the case, too.

Brave U.S. diplomats, like U.S. interests section chief Ambassador James Cason, openly stood up for democracy in statements inside Cuba and ran a news ticker of free world news across the de facto embassy windows in Havana until an enraged Castro erected a wall of black flags.

Meanwhile, Castro's secret police delivered their own payback, intimidating U.S. diplomats by tapping their phones and breaking into their residences, leaving repulsive Castroite mementos like urine in their mouthwash.

All of this happened during the Bush administration, which has taken more steps to encourage, but not force, democracy in Cuba than any other administration.

Having published this screed in Miami, Obama clearly wanted to appeal to Miami Cuban voters, particularly those recent economic migrants who've come to the U.S. claiming to seek asylum but who would really like the freedom to go back and forth to Cuba as part of the privileged class of U.S.-passported tourists.

Obama doesn't say precisely, but he implies he might give these Cuban-American "asylees" special travel rights other Americans don't get. That may be because he doesn't want to advertise the other supporters who want an end of travel restrictions: Castro's own apologists in the U.S. — revolutionary tourists like Global Exchange or Michael Moore, known for doing Castro's bidding.

That brings up what this really is about — dropping the trade embargo and letting more tourist hard currency into Cuba, which is exactly what the Castro regime wants.

More hard currency and travel will strengthen his regime because he controls the entire economy.

Fidel and his brother, Raul, run Cuban hotels, conference centers, nickel plants, shipping companies and tobacco concessions. That's the main reason why Forbes magazine has declared Fidel's net worth at almost $1 billion.

Any business coming into Cuba must be done exclusively through the Castro brothers' personal monopolies.

Obama failed to understand the role of money in entrenching the Castro regime when he wrote: "U.S. policies — especially the fact that Cuban Americans were allowed to maintain and deepen ties with family on the island — were a key cause of that 'Cuban Spring,' " he said, referring to the 1990s when the communists loosened restrictions on small businesses and hard currency remittances.

As a matter of fact, the Cuban Spring was not the result of Cuban-Americans visiting the island state; it was was due to Castro losing his $3 billion-a-year subsidy from the Soviet Union. Fidel was especially desperate for ways to stay off the end of a meat hook as embittered, impoverished Cubans during his "special period" grew restless.

Only the appearance of another sugar-daddy subsidizer, Venezuela's profligate Hugo Chavez, saved Castro with his $1 billion subsidies, which may now be $3 billion.

As soon as Chavez's cash rolled in, Castro ended his "Cuban Spring" in 2003 with a brutal crackdown on 75 dissidents. And he put in place new restrictions on holding foreign currency and ended tiny private enterprises. Cuban-American travel had nothing to do with it.

Meanwhile, there's no absence of trade with Cuba. U.S. food and medicine roll into Cuban ports daily, with more than $300 million in goods sold to Cuba in 2006. The U.S., in fact, now is Cuba's top food source.

Meanwhile, Europe, Japan and Venezuela also are substantial trading partners. It hasn't improved Cubans' material circumstances or freedom in any significant way.

Obama naively said he'd sit down with Castro and talk to him without preconditions, and his new effort to pander to one segment of the Miami Cuban population would give him everything he wanted.

His statements show he's grossly uninformed about Cuban realities, has no idea about U.S. efforts to encourage democracy and would be a pushover for Castro's agenda, without even drinking a cafecito with the dictator.

Even through the controlled medium of print, Obama's showing himself to be naive and not ready for prime time.

leftside said...

There are more untrue sentences than true in that Investors Business Daily piece. I would expect nothing less...

Clinton's hypocritical reply is explained by her knowledge that she can not afford to come out on anything slightly weak in this campaign. A few years ago she not only talked, she voted on lifting travel for all Ameicans. Is it significant she said "new Government" in reference to Raul?

It is telling that everyone opposed to Obama's policy uses some variation of "we can't weaken," we can't uniliaterally reverse any policy no matter how misguided. Hillary and the rest disagreee with nearly every other Bush policy, but not this insignificant (to the CP) ban on family contact and remittances? No, it is about the lies the US political system makes people tell to get elected. Viva the electoral colege.

Anonymous said...

Obama just got the endorsement of the MINREX in the words of Perez Roque. Any candidate endorsed by the MINREX would not get many votes with the block of Cuban-American voters in the Democratic party in any presidential election. I am sure Obama is thrilled at the prospect of this new endorsement by the Cuban government. Is like the kiss of death as far as the Cuban-American community is concern. He will be perceived as "Cuba's favorite candidate".

Anonymous said...

Peters' wrote: "I’m no expert on Florida electoral politics, but I have wondered why it has taken so long for one of the Democratic candidates to make this move."


Either Joe Garcia is a dope for having suckered Obama into this, or he is a genius for having knocked Obama out of play in Miami on Hillary's behalf.

leftside said...

We all know that fear has kept politicians from telling the truth about changing out Cuba policy. The question is whether Florida has changed enough to make a new approach politically viable. Obama is gambing that it has. He is testing the waters on 2 narrow anti-family policies that are unpopular even among the Cuba-American electorate. He knows 60 some percent or whatever of Cubans will vote Republican no matter what. He figures among the more moderate Democrat voters, this "change" approach will prove more popular than "continue the old Bush approach." We shall see... But I don't think he did this without a lot of thought (and polling).

Anonymous said...

Geez, Obama only wants to allow Cuban-americans to be able to visit their immediate family. By the responses of the hard-liners and some on this blog, one would think that Obama wanted to include Cuba in the WTO.

The reaction from the Miami hardline community over Obama's statement is hyperbole. Anyway, what happened to those good old "family values" that Republicans and Cuban american from Dade county purport to share????

I guess all of those wishing to see their dying elderly parents will have to continue to go through 3rd countries to do so - whether it be Mexico, Canada, Spain, Costa Rica or any country on this planet, besides USA. Those cuban-americans too poor to pay for two tickets to arrive in their homeland to see their family, will just have to turn their backs on their family then, even in times of real need. Thanks Miami.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

A one party state that has been built around the personal whims of one man who is either dead or moribund and owes every country it's ever done business with billions of dollars, and that has to repress its own people to avoid things frome getting out of hand is not entrenched. It's very weak and rickety. And Mr. Obama would like to give Felipe Perez Roque and the rest of the ruling cabal there what they want. More cash to breath at least another breath of oxygen in to the repressive machinery.