As momentous as was Monday's face-to-face meeting in Havana, Cuba between President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro, it's hardly the only example of how dramatically American views are changing toward the communist island nation. Consider the visit in December by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who led a trade delegation to Cuba to take early advantage of Obama's executive orders eliminating some trade sanctions that had been in place for more than five decades.
Abbott is a staunch conservative, constant critic of Obama and a close ally of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Cuban-American GOP presidential contender who is among the harshest critics of Obama's rapprochement. On pretty much any other issue of national import, Cruz and Abbott march in lockstep. On Cuba, however, Abbott sides with Obama.
So do about 60 percent of Americans, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. It's time to end Cuba's isolation and bring it into the fold of nations trading and interacting freely with the United States.
Try as conservatives might to criticize the president's bold normalization moves, many, if not most, recognize that Obama made the right decision. No one in either party can credibly argue that 55 years of a unilateral U.S. economic embargo of Cuba have helped dislodge the Castro dictatorship from power.
How about trying something new? Instead of blocking American businesses from competing in Cuba and sharply limiting the availability of U.S. goods, dollars and tourism, Obama wants to accomplish the opposite: flooding the island with all things American.
"The funny thing about freedom is that when people experience a little more of it, they don't want to give it up, and they want more than they have," Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., stated in December. Relaxing restrictions is good for democracy, he has long argued. "That has been the case with travel and will continue to be the case in Cuba."
If anything, the embargo has helped strengthen the Castro regime's grip on power. It locked American companies out of international competition with other countries, such as Canada. U.S. tourists could not interact, which meant that Cubans on the street heard no counter argument to the government's propaganda about the evils of American capitalist society.
The Castros controlled all dollars coming into the economy. Thus, they controlled the economy itself.
The Cuban regime is unquestionably repressive and must bring its human rights standards out of the dark ages — as should Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China. Yet America maintains multibillion-dollar trade relationships with those countries. Why continue isolating Cuba?
Congress should follow the lead of politicians like Flake and Abbott. Give the Cubans a heavy dose of freedom by repealing the embargo altogether.
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