Obama to the Castro regime: Do whatever you want
By Editorial Board October 18 at 8:07 PM
ON FRIDAY, President Obama unveiled a Presidential Decision Directive
trumpeting further overtures to the Cuban government designed to make
the thaw he announced on Dec. 17, 2014, "irreversible." That would imply
"regardless of results" — which so far have been paltry, at least in
terms of freedom and prosperity for Cuba's long-suffering people.
Indeed, Cubans are "worse off now than how they imagined their future"
when normalization began, opposition journalist Yoani Sanchez noted
The Castro regime has arrested almost as many peaceful opponents so far
this year (8,505) as it did in all of 2015 (8,616), according to the
nongovernmental Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation. The ranks of the repressed include dissident lawyer
Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, who was thrown in prison Sept. 23. His law
firm was also ransacked and documents were taken. Havana's municipal
government has just banned new licenses for private restaurants and
instructed existing ones that it will start enforcing onerous taxes and
regulations more tightly. It was, Reuters reported, "a new sign that
Cuba's Communist-run government is hesitant to further open up to
private business in a country where it still controls most economic
activity," following similar retrenchment in agriculture and
transportation last year.
The economy is stagnating due to the Castro regime's perennial
mismanagement and cutbacks in aid from Cuba's chaotic patron, Venezuela.
In July, Cuba's economy minister warned that fuel consumption would have
to be cut by nearly a third in the rest of the year, along with
restrictions in state investments and imports. Cuba's cash crunch helps
explain why sales of U.S. goods (those permitted under long-standing
humanitarian exceptions to the embargo) are running well below what they
were before the thaw. Some 89,000 Cubans have fled to the United States
since the policy began.
Havana's response to Mr. Obama's latest olive branch was to demand more
concessions. Mr. Obama's directive "does not hide the purpose of
promoting changes in the political, economic and social order," top
diplomat Josefina Vidal asserted. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Vidal led a
large nationally televised rally at Havana University to protest the
"genocidal" embargo, part of a broad anti-U.S. propaganda campaign timed
to coincide with Mr. Obama's announcement.
An optimistic view of these developments would be that the
administration's strategy is working: Frightened by the prospect of
freer business activity, and ideologically challenged in the absence of
a Yanqui enemy, Cuba's leaders must clamp down on the former and invent
the latter — and round up the usual dissident suspects. That may be
true; but recent events also show the tension between the president's
twin goals of doing business with the Cuban government as a legitimate
equal and relieving the misery of the Cuban people, which is caused by
their government. Even on the ideological defensive, the Cuban regime
retains the capacity to resist change and to punish citizens who seek to
bring it about.
We have never opposed a thaw in relations, only Mr. Obama's decision —
contrary to his earlier promise — to exclude from the process all those
Cubans who have been bravely fighting for increased freedom. Now Mr.
Obama is giving the regime a green light: No amount of repression can
derail his policy. That is a strange and unfortunate message.
Source: Obama to the Castro regime: Do whatever you want - The
Washington Post -