There is a strong wind that all of a sudden seems to be moving US-Cuba relations in new directions.
Presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton are going to have to decide whether they are going to spend political capital to keep US-Cuba relations in grooves carved out over five decades and defended by Bush — or whether they are going to be part of charting a new, more constructive course.
The Los Angeles Times today ran an editorial that pulls no punches in highlighting the failures of a five-decade old American strategy that has yielded nothing for American interests. The editorial juxtaposes Clinton and Obama — who are on conflicting pages when it comes to loosening the tight noose that Bush has strangled Cuban-American families with when it comes to family travel.
But impressively, the Times calls for full, unrestricted travel, which is my own position as well as that of Senator Chris Dodd, whose statement on US-Cuba relations still sets the gold standard.
Here is a segment of the Los Angeles Times editorial, “Obama’s Right on Cuba“:
. . .after the U.S. has tried for nearly 50 years to force a regime change in Cuba by way of economic embargo with no success whatsoever, Obama is one of the few presidential contenders who dares to suggest that it’s time to try something different.
Some might consider Obama’s move courageous given the political power of Florida’s Cuban American community, which helped put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000 and has cheered his efforts to tighten sanctions on Cuba. But the minority of Cuban immigrants who vote Democratic is deeply divided on the travel ban and would like to be able to send more money to relatives at home, so Obama may not be staking out such a bold position after all.
Regardless of the political implications, Obama is clearly right — the only problem is, his proposal doesn’t go far enough. The travel ban should be lifted for everybody, not just Cuban immigrants. It is the height of irony that Americans can freely travel to countries such as Venezuela and Iran, which represent genuine threats to our security and economic interests, but not to Cuba, whose government is a threat only to its own people.
The ban has done nothing to weaken Castro, but it does keep U.S. tourist dollars out of the hands of Cubans, who might be less inclined to heed their regime’s anti-U.S. propaganda if Americans were helping to raise their standard of living.
The U.S. shouldn’t lift all economic sanctions on Cuba until the island’s regime makes progress on democracy and human rights, but policies such as the travel ban and limits on remittances are simply counterproductive. Score one for Obama.
I’d say that Obama has scored a “big one.” I hope Hillary Clinton modifies her position because a foreign policy that promotes Cold War era thinking is not what this nation needs to get its national security posture back in to some kind of acceptable shape.
— Steve Clemons