Just a quick rundown of the foreign policy news that just ruined my day.
Just as its patron Venezuela hit the rocks, Cuba got a last-minute rescue from none other than President Obama, who announced a Santa Claus-like package of wish-list goodies for the Castro brothers. Why?
In many ways, President Obama’s announced plan to normalize relations with Cuba, lift the embargo, extend trade credits and remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terror list is about on par with the rest of his foreign policy.
It was done by executive order without consulting Congress, just like last month’s decision to temporarily legalize 5 million illegal immigrants.
It was justified by a claim the U.S. embargo was “not working,” comparable to Obama’s claim the U.S. immigration system is “broken.” In reality, the problem in both cases is that of a halfhearted willingness to enforce the law, rendering it full of holes.
As for the hostage swap in the bargain, that of U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Gross and another U.S. agent for three professional Cuban intelligence officers linked to the murder of U.S. citizens in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown, it was a deal that gave far more than it got, just like the hostage swap with the Taliban of U.S. army deserter Bowe Bergdahl for five terrorists.
[…]One is the strange timing of the announcement, coming just as Venezuela and other nations ruled by petrotyrants are on the verge of collapse.
Venezuela has played sugar daddy to Cuba for years, shipping 100,000 barrels of free oil to the communist state. It can no longer afford to. Rather than use that as leverage, Obama rescued Cuba despite its repressive human rights record. That’s one odd bailout.
And the bailout won’t be free for U.S. taxpayers.
Obama administration officials have said they are moving swiftly to extend trade credits to Cuba so the $483 million in American goods Cuba now pays for in cash can expand further, thanks to taxpayer-supported U.S. ExImBank trade credits.
In effect, we’ve handed the odious Castro brothers Uncle Sam’s credit card. Given that the Castroites have defaulted on all of their trading partners since 1961, to the tune of at least $70 billion, it’s assumed the Castros, having no sustainable economic model, will eventually default on us too.
IN RECENT months, the outlook for the Castro regime in Cuba was growing steadily darker. The modest reforms it adopted in recent years to improve abysmal economic conditions had stalled, due to the regime’s refusal to allow Cubans greater freedoms. Worse, the acceleratingeconomic collapse of Venezuela meant that the huge subsidies that have kept the Castros afloat for the past decade were in peril. A growing number of Cubans were demanding basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly.
On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regimeeverything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S. leverage for political reforms.
[…]No wonder Yoani Sánchez, Cuba’s leading dissident blogger, concluded Wednesday that “Castroism has won” and predicted that for weeks Cubans will have to endure proclamations by the government that it is the “winner of its ultimate battle.”
[…]Mr. Obama says normalizing relations will allow the United States to be more effective in promoting political change in Cuba. That is contrary to U.S. experience with Communist regimes such as Vietnam, where normalization has led to no improvements on human rights in two decades. Moreover, nothing in Mr. Obama’s record of lukewarm and inconstant support for democratic change across the globe can give Ms. Sánchez and her fellow freedom fighters confidence in this promise.
The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely. Mr. Obama may claim that he has dismantled a 50-year-old failed policy; what he has really done is give a 50-year-old failed regime a new lease on life.
We lost our diplomatic leverage by propping up a communist regime.
But maybe communism is working well for the middle class and the poor in Cuba? Is it?
Marxists have ruled Cuba for more than a half-century now. Fidel Castro, Argentine guerrilla Che Guevara, and their 26th of July Movement forced Fulgencio Batista from power in 1959 and replaced his standard-issue authoritarian regime with a Communist one. The revolutionaries promised liberal democracy, but Castro secured absolute power and flattened the country with a Marxist-Leninist battering ram. The objectives were total equality and the abolition of money; the methods were total surveillance and political prisons. The state slogan, then and now, is “socialism or death.”
[…]Cuba has a maximum wage—$20 a month for almost every job in the country. (Professionals such as doctors and lawyers can make a whopping $10 extra a month.) Sure, Cubans get “free” health care and education, but as Cuban exile and Yale historian Carlos Eire says, “All slave owners need to keep their slaves healthy and ensure that they have the skills to perform their tasks.”
[…]The police expend extraordinary manpower ensuring that everyone required to live miserably at the bottom actually does live miserably at the bottom. Dissident blogger and author Yoani Sánchez describes the harassment sarcastically in her book Havana Real: “Buses are stopped in the middle of the street and bags inspected to see if we are carrying some cheese, a lobster, or some dangerous shrimp hidden among our personal belongings.” Perhaps the saddest symptom of Cuba’s state-enforced poverty is the prostitution epidemic—a problem the government officially denies and even forbids foreign journalists based in Havana to mention. Some Cuban prostitutes are professionals, but many are average women—wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers—who solicit johns once or twice a year for a little extra money to make ends meet.
[…]Citizens who take public transportation to work—which includes almost everyone, since Cuba hardly has any cars—must wait in lines for up to two hours each way to get on a bus. And commuters must pay for their ride out of their $20 a month. At least commuter buses are cheap. By contrast, a one-way ticket to the other side of the island costs several months’ pay; a round-trip costs almost an annual salary.
[…]As for the free health care, patients have to bring their own medicine, their own bedsheets, and even their own iodine to the hospital. Most of these items are available only on the illegal black market, moreover, and must be paid for in hard currency—and sometimes they’re not available at all. Cuba has sent so many doctors abroad—especially to Venezuela, in exchange for oil—that the island is now facing a personnel shortage.
[…][A]lmost everyone in Havana lives in a Detroit-style wreck, with caved-in roofs, peeling paint, and doors hanging on their hinges at odd angles.
[…]Even things as simple as cooking oil and soap are black-market goods. Individuals who, by some illegal means or another, manage to acquire such desirables will stand on street corners and whisper “cooking oil” or “sugar” to passersby, and then sell the product on the sly out of their living room. If they’re caught, both sellers and buyers will be arrested, of course, but the authorities can’t put the entire country in jail. “Everyone cheats,” says Eire. “One must in order to survive.
When Barack Obama uses American taxpayer money to prop up communism, he keeps this system going. The only solution is for the people to revolt against communism, but when he hands money to the government, they buy more guns and keep the people down in poverty and squalor while the rich communist elites rule over them. It’s evil.
Meanwhile, North Korea is able to attack our private industry without even a peep from cowardly Obama and his retreat from Iraq now allows Islamic State terrorists to execute 150 captured women, many of them pregnant, who refused to become “wives” to the terrorists. Any husbands they had would have been shot right in front of them. There is only one way to do something about these problems in the world and that’s with a strong U.S. military, strong sanctions and tough negotiations. Obama has failed these victims in every way because of his approval of the evildoers and his rejection of our democratic allies. We need to have more confidence in the goodness of American power and the American way of life.