Monday, February 22, 2016

Dear President Obama: Don’t turn into Raul’s new North American ‘amigo’

President Obama will be visiting Cuba in March.  
I guess that he needs to go to a place where people will be happy to see him.  
Frankly, there aren’t too many of those places left in the U.S.: his job approval is 45% in the RCP average of polls. A whopping 63% believe that the country is in the wrong track. Only 38% approve of how he is handling foreign policy.
So let’s go to Havana and let Raul Castro stage a nice welcome party. He will close the government offices and fill the streets with Cubans.
Let’s hope that President Obama finally calls for change in Cuba rather than play the role of Raul’s new American friend. He will be speaking to a skeptical Cuban audience who thought that “los Americanos” would bring prosperity and change. So far, the only thing that most Cubans have seen is repression and more of it.
He should start by calling for multiparty elections in Cuba, as Roger Noriega said “Let the Cubans vote“:
“Let Cubans vote.” Those three words, spoken by President Obama on his planned trip to Cuba, could unite all Americans — including those Americans in neighboring countries — behind a worthy cause. Will a man elected promising “hope and change” advance those objectives in a country where they are genuinely needed?
We shouldn’t have to ask.
The president’s visit to Cuba comes as the winds of change have shifted toward freedom, away from the authoritarian populism promoted by the Castro brothers for 60 years. Voters in Argentina recently elected a pro-free-market conservative who has pledged to seek a positive relationship with the United States. In December, Venezuela’s democrats won congressional elections in a landslide and now represent a majority that opposes the Cuban-backed regime that has brought the country to political and economic ruin.
Castro’s acolytes in Bolivia and Ecuador have seen their political prospects plummet in recent months. A socialist government in Brazil is besieged by corruption investigations, succumbing to the rule of law after squandering the country’s oil wealth and taking the economy into recession.
In other words, Castro is now the odd man out after the elections in Venezuela and Argentina. Let the Cubans vote.
He should explain to the Cuban people the real history of the U.S. embargo and what it would take for the U.S. Congress to lift it:
a) The embargo became a reality when the Cuban government unjustly expropriated U.S. property in the island. In fact, there are thousands of claims against the Castro regime related to those properties; and
b) He should further say that the shooting down of 4 U.S. citizens over international waters in 1996 strengthened the embargo.  
And let’s hope that he reminds Cubans that the U.S. embargo does not stop other countries from doing business in Cuba. In other words, Cuba’s economic problems are not related to the U.S. embargo but rather to misguided economic policies that benefit the Castro family and their bodyguards in the Cuban Army.
Again, Cuba does not need to President Obama embrace a dictator, as Senator Menendez said. They would rather see a U.S. president embrace freedom.   
Finally, it would be nice if President Obama would drop by Gitmo and thank the troops!
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

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