Quote of the Day:
We wish there were more evidence that his rapprochement with the Castro brothers will do as much for the Cuban people as he hopes it will for his legacy.
–Wall Street Journal
Leaving aside whatever you think of President Obama's policy towards Cuba, you have to be outraged that in a gabfest with the loathsome Raul Castro, the President of the United States found merit in a dictator's assailing our system. The president said he "would not personally disagree" with the dictator's criticisms of the U.S.
A good argument can be made that normalizing relations with Cuba, especially if it would help the Cubans, isn't such a bad idea. But this would not have required the spectacle in Havana. The Wall Street Journal writes:
Nor did it require Mr. Obama on Monday to balance his pro forma criticism of Cuba’s human-rights violations with the concession that Mr. Castro also has some good points about America’s ills—such as the lack of universal health insurance.
Mr. Castro, no political fool, chimed in that Cuba has equal pay for equal work for women and men—unlike some other countries. The American President didn’t point out that Cuba’s pay is the equality of mass poverty except for political elites.
Here is another quote from the president's meeting with Raul Castro (Fidel was nowhere in evidence):
"And the goal of the human rights dialogue is not for the United States to dictate to Cuba how they should govern themselves, but to make sure that we are having a frank and candid conversation around this issue. And hopefully that we can learn from each other."
A better goal might to be to relieve the sufferings and enhance freedom for the Cuban people, but to president Obama the goal of anything is more dialogue, more international conferences, more talk, more stays at fabulous hotels to attend meetings and be on stage. He feels he excels at such four-star meetings. But any more serious goal than engaging in international meetings eludes him.
As for the actual conversation, does he even realize Raul made mincemeat of him or is he too vain?:
“Give me a list” of political prisoners, Mr. Castro said at their dual press conference, “and I will release them immediately.” The Cuban American National Foundation immediately released a list of “47 verified political prisoners.” Will they be freed before Mr. Obama leaves town?
Human-rights groups estimate that last year there were more than 8,600 political arrests in Cuba, followed by more than 2,555 in the first two months of 2016. The government arrested more than 200 dissidents in a broad crackdown over the weekend, and a procession by the peaceful dissidents known as the Ladies in White on Palm Sunday in Havana was disrupted by police only hours before Mr. Obama arrived. The ladies were roughed up and arrested.
The one interesting thing I've noticed in talking about the administration's Cuba policy is the implicit idea that normalization of relations with the U.S. will bring some needed economic activity to Cuba. I hope that is so and I hope (but do not expect) that such a boon would trickle down to Cubans. But this assumes that U.S. policy is a source of the intense poverty in Cuba, which President Obama has just bolstered. The Wall Street Journal writes:
As for ending Cuba’s economic isolation, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Canada have been trading with, and investing in, Cuba for more than two decades. The problem is that the state controls the economy to a greater extent than any government outside of North Korea. Private foreign investors can only be minority owners with government entities, which are seeking new capital without new management.
Foreign companies on the island aren’t allowed to contract with workers. All Cubans are hired and paid by the state, which takes their hard currency wages and pays them in pesos. Employees may not organize into unions. It is illegal for a foreign employer to compensate a worker with something extra for a job well-done. Foreign investors can be stripped of their assets and jailed without due process.
But perhaps we’re missing Cuba’s historic turn toward freedom, which Mr. Obama keeps promising is just around the corner. On Monday he announced that Google has “a deal to start setting up more Wi-Fi access and broadband access on the island,” adding that “change is going to happen here, and I think Raúl Castro understands that.” Thanks to Chinese investment Wi-Fi is already available on the island. The issue is whether individual Cubans will be allowed to use it uncensored, which they currently cannot.
A naive man has gone legacy hunting and in the process built up a cruel regime that robs its suffering people.