President Obama just returned from an historic visit to Cuba, the first American president to have visited the island since 1928. The trip took place 15 months after Obama announced the process of normalization with Cuba.

On his visit to Cuba, Obama began by quoting from a poem by Cuban independence hero and poet Jose Marti. That poem, “Cultivo una Rosa Blanca” or “” I plant a white rose”, is a classic that refers to the importance of reconciliation. The poet plants a white rose for a true friend and also for “the cruel person’ that “tears my heart”.

Obama spoke about the superiority of democracy over authoritarianism, the higher quality of life of a free person over the oppressed and the importance of a free economy for the self-development of the individual.

Likewise, he stressed the need to end discrimination against those Cubans living on the island who are of African descent. Obama also called on the Cubans not to define their identity by being against the United States.

He chided the Cuban regime’s ridiculous prejudice that views Miami Cubans as conspirators. Obama defended the Cuban/American exiles living in the U.S. as being passionate, loving people who care about their lost homes and are not merely anti-Castro fanatic militants.

Obama made clear what the differences between the U.S. and Cuba are. However, like Marti’s poem, the president spoke about the need for reconciliation based on “the recognition of common humanity”, despite the brutality and rogue character of the Cuban regime. He made a call to leave the past behind and to look forward to the future together.

Although the president said all the right things acknowledging that this was a first step towards an evolving relation (and hopefully an evolving Cuba), he made clear that he came to put an end to cold war antagonisms.

However, the reality is that Cuba reinvented itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It helped create the Forum of Sao Paulo, an organization composed of Brazil’s Worker’s Party, communist parties, guerilla groups, and other anti-Western entities that promoted leftist ideologies in an effort to undermine democratic capitalism and to save the extreme left from collapse.

Cuba also established an alliance with Hugo Chavez, and helped him create a quasi-totalitarian state that like Cuba, half a century earlier, became a revolutionary force that began to expand across the continent. As a condition of normalization, Cuba demanded that the U.S. remove it from the state sponsor of terrorism list which we did even though the Cuban government still maintains ties to terrorist groups.

As Jaime Suchliki reminds us, Cuba supports Venezuelan “Tupamaro” groups that use vicious violence against students.  Cuba also manages the Venezuelan immigration system which aids drug trafficking, Colombian guerillas and radical Islamist organizations. Cuba is also helpful to Venezuela in issuing passports to these groups. Hezbollah and the Turkish based IHH have a presence in Cuba. Meanwhile, the island maintains strong ties to Iran and North Korea, including military ties.

All this without mentioning the human rights violations in Cuba, insolently denied by Raul Castro, in a joint press conference with President Obama.

Nice, conciliatory words are one thing but the question is, did the president demand the cessation of Cuban support for the oppressive Venezuelan regime or the terrorist cells that both countries harbor?

On these pages and on Capitol Hill we have warned that the Western Hemisphere, the neighborhood where we live, is becoming a land of anarchy, organized crime, and though less visible but real an increasing presence of terrorists promoted by many of Cuba’s best friends with the blessing of the Cuban regime.

Obama claimed that the U.S. has evolved since the cold war. That was his argument in support of lifting the embargo. But has Obama demanded a change in the regime’s human rights policy or told the Cuban leaders that the embargo is more likely to be lifted if Cuba changes its ways, releases political prisoners and enables some “apertura” (openness)? We doubt it.

Obama believes, as Jose Azel has asserted, that American investments and trade with the U.S. will encourage self-employment (a word that the president used in his speech again and again). Self-employment will be a first step in a series of freedoms that will slowly evolve into the expansion of more freedom as a result of raising expectations coming from civil society. This will lead eventually to democracy.

In other words Obama’s policy is based on that evolutionary theory that does not require the U.S. government or anybody else to interfere in the natural course set up by the mere normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. So no pressure on the Cuban government is needed even when Castro continues to control every single aspect of Cuban life and will continue to do so even on those self-employed (who as Azel pointed out, will also be Castro cronies).

Likewise, the revenues generated by American tourism will find their way to the coffers of the Cuban government that has never tolerated anything that is being produced or generated outside the realm of the totalitarian state.

So, in Obama’s view, normalization has unleashed a process that will automatically lead to democratization. This view is hyper-naïve but apparently very comfortable to hold because all it requires is passivity, so characteristic of the current Administration. This is also serves as a justification of the policy of disengagement from the world that has been a key feature of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.



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