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Mona Charen
Mona Charen
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Obama: Cuban Information Minister?

Comment

Two relatively recent photos of Barack Obama with foreign leaders reveal much about his deep-dyed leftism. The first features President Obama and democratically elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of one of America's most loyal friends. Obama looks strained. His face is stiff, and his eyes are veiled. The second is a snap of Obama at the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama. He's seated with "President" Raul Castro, leader of a bitter enemy, who has never received a single free vote. Obama is grinning, his eyes dancing with pleasure.

In contrast to the bitterness with which Obama addresses Netanyahu, he is all honey with Castro. "So I want to thank President Castro for the spirit of openness and courtesy that he has shown during our interactions. ... President Castro earlier today spoke about the significant hardships that the people of Cuba have undergone over many decades. I can say with all sincerity that the essence of my policy is to ... make sure that the people of Cuba are able to prosper and live in freedom and security. ... "

Did you catch that? Castro was assigning blame for the "hardships" Cuba has endured since the revolution to the U.S. — and Obama was agreeing with him! It wasn't the first time. Back in December, when he first announced the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, Obama said, "I believe in the free flow of information. Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe." So the U.S. embargo is responsible for the Cuban peoples' denial of the "free flow of information." Not Cuba's iron-fisted repression? A Cuban propaganda minister couldn't have put it better.

While Obama and Castro were speaking, goons from the Cuban security services beat Cuban human rights activists who had traveled to Panama City at the invitation of summit organizers. That's a ho hum story. Happens every day of the week in Cuba. But this one happened under Obama's nose, yet he didn't retreat an inch from his embrace of the man who ordered it.

Everything is forgiven when it comes to the Castros. Putting homosexuals (and later AIDS patients) in camps? Ruthlessly suppressing women? Beating and jailing those who criticize the regime? Shooting down American planes in international air space and killing three Americans? Consigning teenagers to forced labor because they were Christian or because their parents were political prisoners? Leftists of the Obama stripe wave it all away.

Look, they protest, we tried "isolating" Cuba for 50 years and it didn't work.

Depends what you mean by "work." No, the embargo didn't force the Castros to stop torturing democracy activists, or to stop fomenting communist revolutions in other Latin American countries, or to stop shipping weapons to North Korea. But at least we didn't have it on our consciences, and we didn't subsidize it.

Well, they reply, we have relations with other bad actors like China and Saudi Arabia. True, the world's a savage place. But 1) we established relations with China to keep another enemy (the USSR) off balance, not because we imagined we would change the nature of the regime by being more friendly, and 2) our cooperation and "people to people" contacts with China haven't relaxed the regime's repression one iota; and 3) Saudi Arabia is no picnic, but our capacity to affect its behavior is limited.

Cuba, by contrast, was dangling by a thread economically. Read Michael Totten in City Journal on Havana. Outside of the tiny tourist zone, it looks like post-Katrina New Orleans. Cuba depended upon subventions from the USSR. When those ended, it relied on Venezuela. The latter's rapid decay (due entirely to adopting economic policies like Cuba's) combined with the oil price drop left Cuba uniquely vulnerable. Had Obama been interested in reform, he could have asked for some. A freer press? Release of political prisoners? Liberalized labor laws? He asked for and received nothing in exchange for everything the Castros wanted. Otto Reich, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, who was born in Cuba and maintains close ties, says the Cuban regime thought it was some sort of trick. That's why the negotiations — in which we gave everything and they gave nothing — took 18 months. They were looking for the catch.

Who benefits from the thaw with Cuba? Not the Cuban people, who earn a maximum wage (yes, you read that correctly) of $20 per month. More trade and commerce will benefit their oppressors — the worst regime in our hemisphere, a sworn enemy of the USA, but Obama's newest pals.

Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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