Elliott Abrams: Has Trump Made the Right Move in Cuba?
Elliott Abrams, Newsweek • June 22,
This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.
Congratulations to President Trump for a serious (though not total)
reversal of the terrible Obama policy toward Cuba.
Why? Because the Obama policy was values-free, granting all sorts of
advantages to the Castro regime in exchange for nothing.
That was no bargained-for exchange, winning more freedom for the Cuban
people. Instead it was a prime example of Obama's ideological politics,
abandoning decades of American policy that he thought right-wing or
old-fashioned and wrong and in the process strengthening the vicious
Castro regime and paying little attention to the people of the island.
In the years since Obama acted, human rights in Cuba have gotten worse.
If Obama's approach was an experiment, it has failed. Human Rights
Watch's World Report 2016 said this of Cuba:
The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public
criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish
its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders,
independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in
The Miami Herald's lead analyst on Latin America, Andres Oppenheimer,
wrote this in July 2016:
One year after Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington on July 20, 2015,
Cuba's human rights situation is much worse. It's time for Latin America
and the U.S. to stop clapping, and demand that Cuba's dictatorship start
allowing fundamental freedoms
On the first anniversary since Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington,
D.C., one thing is clear: The reestablishment of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic
ties — which I have cautiously supported in this column — has not helped
improve by one iota Cuba's human rights situation. On the contrary,
human rights abuses have worsened.
That's a fair epitaph for the Obama policy: it made human rights in Cuba
worse. And that is why it was politically sensible and morally right to
Trump is maintaining diplomatic relations and allowing flights and
cruise ships to Cuba, but trying to end the phony individual beach
gambols that masquerade as something more serious. And he is ending the
bonanza for the Cuban military, which owns most of Cuba's tourist industry.
The overall effect of Trump's moves is logically to push Americans
toward group visits that have a serious purpose beyond tourism, and
toward individual Cuban economic efforts like Air BnB accommodations,
rooms in private homes, and small private restaurants—all of which help
the Cuban people.
And if the regime is caught between the people's desire for economic
progress and the end of Obama's foolish policy, perhaps this will push
Castro to allowing even more private economic activity.
Hats off to Senator Marco Rubio, a key architect of the new policy whose
pressure on the Trump administration has now put human rights in Cuba
right back at the heart of U.S. policy. And to the President, who made
the right decision just a few months into his administration.
Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC. He served as
deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor
in the administration of President George W. Bush, where he supervised
U.S. policy in the Middle East for the White House.
Source: Elliott Abrams: Has Trump Made the Right Move in Cuba? -