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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 01/17/2011

Easing sanctions on totalitarian Cuba

By Jennifer Rubin

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of House foreign affairs committee, issued a tough statement on Friday regarding the Obama administration's decision to ease Cuba sanctions: "Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them. These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime."

Likewise, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), son of Cuban immigrants, issued a statement:

"I strongly oppose any new changes that weaken U.S. policy towards Cuba. I was opposed to the changes that have already been made by this administration and I oppose these new changes. I believe that what does need to change are the Cuban regime's repressive policies towards the independent press and labor unions, its imprisonment of political prisoners and constant harassment of citizens with dissenting views, and its refusal to allow free multi-party elections. It is unthinkable that the administration would enable the enrichment of a Cuban regime that routinely violates the basic human rights and dignity of its people."

Many critics of the administration's approach to Cuba argue that the central error was not insisting on meaningful democratic reforms in exchange for lifting the sanctions. Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told me over the weekend: "I guess I'd say the general rule is: If you give something, get something."

What are we getting, or more precisely, what are the Cuban people getting? At a time when the Castro regime is pinched for cash, we will be allowing foreign tourist dollars to flow into Cuba. Really, what is the sense in that?

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 17, 2011; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Human Rights  
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If the American Left fully had their way all restrictions would be lifted for no quid pro quo. There is no shortage of Hollywood and assorted other lefties that ignore the repression and snuggle Fidel.

Those foreign tourist dollars that will flow in... will they mostly go to the Nomenklatura (political leaders and cronies) or the Proletariat (people)?
Mostly to the Nomenklatura I think.

Posted by: TominColorado | January 17, 2011 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I think once Jennifer or anyone else can explain why we sanction Cuba until they offer pro-democracy reforms, while at the same time allowing open relations with totalitarian regimes like China, Saudi Arabia or Vietnam without demanding similar pre-conditions, then they can criticize any opening of relations with Cuba as much as they want to. Until then, it's just partisan posturing to play to a segment of voters in Florida.

Posted by: mustangs79 | January 17, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Cuba is a trashy, little place. An island rathole since Spain owned it.

Organized crime was replaced by a worthless, commie regime that has starved its peole for over 50 years now.

My question is this:

When will we be able to get Havana cigars?

That's all Americans really want from Cuba.

Posted by: battleground51 | January 17, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Fresh off the press from the cold war:

"Luis Posada Carriles trial: Prosecutors, defense outline cases
El PASO, Texas -- To the prosecution, Luis Posada Carriles' trial is a simple case of lying. To the defense, it's a ``political hot potato'' created by U.S. officials"

So here's the question for Rubio,was Carriles the equivilant of Black September because he murdered the Cuban olympic fencing team?
" A CIA agent, who masterminded the downing of a Cuba-bound flight in 1976 that killed 73 people, goes on trial in the U.S. this week. Stephen Kinzer, who had tickets for the flight, reports."
"It was a simple whim that saved my life: I had finished reporting in Barbados quicker than anticipated and so I changed my flight to Havana, getting on an earlier plane. Two days later, a terrorist blew up the Cuba-bound flight I had been booked on.
All 73 people aboard perished.
I would have been the 74th."

Naturally,his crimes committed while working for the CIA,are not an aspect of this farce of a trial.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 17, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse


I find the Dominican cigars as good or better than the Cuban Cohibas.

During the revolution many of the major growers sacked up their best seeds, went to similar climes in free countries and are doing very well.

Wife and I are heading to Costa Rica for vacation in two weeks. I'll try a few Cubans since I can get them down there but I bet my favorite DR will be as good and cheaper.

Posted by: TominColorado | January 17, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Ros-Lehtinen is not motivated by love of country but hatred. Seventy percent of Americans (and more than half of all Cuban Americans) favor normalization of relations with Cuba because it is in the best interest of our country. Human rights? Yes it is an issue, just as it is for China, whose leader is getting a state dinner in Washington. Wow! And what about the right of U.S. citizens to travel? How is it a good idea to promote freedom in a foreign nation by denying a basic liberty to our own citizens?

Posted by: Petercswanson | January 17, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Newsflash for those who think Americans don't already travel to Cuba:
I invite you to do a web search on 'USA travel to Cuba' or something similar.

There are all sorts of ways to travel to Cuba legally. And for those who are willing to risk it, travel to Cuba via several other countries is feasible.

So that's already happening.

With respect to US relations with other non-democracies and Americans' ability to travel to these places, mustangs79 has already covered that one.

As to Cuba's being a backwater, World Bank data suggest Cuba's infant mortality rate is lower than the United States', and overall life expectancy at birth is about equal. Anyone care to guess which country spends more per capita on health care?

Posted by: MsJS | January 17, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I agree entirely with Mustangs79 and Petercswanson. If we do not apply our demands for "democracy" or "human rights" across the board, what is the point, other than to say that because Cuba is more or less powerless and there is a large anti-Castro contingent in Florida, we won't normalize relations with Cuba. But because Vietnam and China and Saudi Arabia (and Pakistan) are "important" to us economically, we will have more or less normal relations with them.

The U.S. approach to Cuba has always, in my opinion, been absurd. Unlike nations like Iran or North Korea, Cuba is relatively powerless, physically close to us, and for decades its economy was intertwined with and dependant upon the U.S. If we actually wanted to bring about change in Cuba, we should have increased Cuba's economic dependence upon the U.S. rather than forcing it to find other supports for its economy.

Posted by: vklip | January 17, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Marco Rubio is NOT a Cuban immigrant, as stated in the article.
He was born in this country and that is why he has been mentioned as a possible V.P. candidate in 2012 and even a possible presidential candidate in 2016.
If he was a Cuban immigrant, he couldn't could not be a candidate for vice president or president.

Posted by: gutset | January 17, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

The World Bank Infant Mortality rates aren't apples-to-apples comparable due to variations in when a live-birth is define.
Also, Cuba's maternal mortality rate is 4X the U.S.

Posted by: TominColorado | January 17, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Nice catch, gutset.

Ms. Rubin, a quick look at Rubio's own web site states he was born in the US to Cuban-born parents.

Of course, he might have been born in Kenya :-)

Posted by: MsJS | January 17, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I get that mortality rates (or maternal mortality rates for that matter) aren't strict apples to apples comparisons, Tom. I hope one day that will change, but it won't without more open relations between the US and Cuba.

Have fun in Costa Rica and enjoy your cigar comparison experiment.

Posted by: MsJS | January 17, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks MsJS, will do!

I think one major barrier to normalization with Cuba is that their revolution siezed all private property and many of those title-holders and their heirs are in the US.

Posted by: TominColorado | January 17, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them. These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime."

Ros-Lehtinen is undoubtedly correct.

Imagine what would have happened if President Reagan for instance had been foolish enough to meet with President Gorbachev in November 1985 and begin a thaw in US-Soviet relations.

We would probably all be Communists today.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 17, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Of course there is no logical reason for the embargo to Cuba, something Obama himself acknowledged many times before actually deciding in 2007 that he was willing to punish American companies and American travelers in order to to win the votes of those diminishing number of Cuban Americans in Florida who still favor the embargo. If he cared at all about the American economy, he could allow American farmers. construction companies, hotels, cruise lines and other businesses to sell to Cuba and participate in all the new construction and joint business ventures going on there. Imagine all the jobs that would create. But as usual, he cares only about himself and how the political map looks for 2012 rather than what is good for American business. By the time the embargo is gone. all the hotels, condos, golf courses and new infrastructure being built now will be completed, and American companies will have lost all opportunities to benefit, and to create the jobs we need, thanks to Obama and our Congress.

Posted by: 7007 | January 17, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

7007 wrote:

"By the time the embargo is gone. all the hotels, condos, golf courses and new infrastructure being built now will be completed, and American companies will have lost all opportunities to benefit, and to create the jobs we need, thanks to Obama and our Congress."

So Obama wants to ease restrictions and Congress in the form of Rep. Ros-Ilehtinen wants to stand in the way, and you blame Obama.

I'll ponder that.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 17, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

If the government will open it up, Cuba will be a huge US travel destination. It's very popular with Canadians.

Posted by: danw1 | January 17, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The notion that tourist dollars don't flow into Cuba is ridiculous on its face. Heck, my brother-in-law (who lives in Costa Rica) went there for his honeymoon. Sure, there are fewer tourists in Cuba, but it's only a fraction of the total. We're also depriving Miami of quite a number of tourist dollars as I'm sure there are many Europeans who would happily stop over on the way to Havana.

BG - don't speak that of which you know little. It's quite beautiful.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 17, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Whoa, Castro's Cuba is a Stalinist state with NO MARKET ECONOMY (nor any willingness to allow one), oppressed to the core (2nd after North Korea), a state in ruins, and this is what liberals and democrats call a long overdue business opportunity? Are you kidding me?

Indeed, the whole world has been doing business with Castro's Cuba since the fall of the USSR in '91. It's been 20 years and so what. Since then in Cuba there have been NO economic reforms, NO political changes, NO freedoms, NO significant growth, development, NO NOTHING.

All that such nations have done by doing business with communist Cuba is finance those who still perpetuate such fraudulent oppression as a post-soviet revenue source while Cuba continues wasting years, slaved, rotting, and crumbling at gun point. Plus, it is a known fact that Castro's government owes everyone from whom it buys on credit, and big time.

More so, wasn't it slave-master Castro who, under the wing of the USSR, expropriated (without pay) all American and Cuban businesses and properties on Cuban soil to ultimately slave and destroy the Cuban republic, its economy, its high standard of living, and turn the island into a mere gloomy governmental sect-camp?

Also, wasn't Castro the one that wanted a Cuba isolated, free from Yankees, and free from the "ills" of capitalism? So? There you go Castro. Oh I see, he can no longer sit comfortably in power by pimping the Cuban nation to the soviets, so now the USA must finance his unproductive plantation and do so without any re-compensation.

Funny, according to Castro (and his leftist apologetics), the U.S. corporations are the ones responsible for all of the world's problems but now, it turns out, it is the absence of U.S. corporations in Cuba which are responsible for Cuba's misery and destruction, HIS unpardonable destruction, come on. Talk about shamelessness and contradiction.

The question then is, who with dignity and in their right mind would do business with the very same frauds, thieves, and enemies that already lied to you, robbed you, and aside from it all have proven to be nothing but economically inept self-centered thugs?

Guess what Obama, you really want to do business with Cuba and get the best out of Cuba for the sake of American businesses and the Cuban people, get that communists pest out of power, ok. The USA got Noriega out of Panama in a weekend for trafficking cocaine but leaves a broke dinosaur like Castro in power? Give me a break, ok. USA has needlessly propped and tolerated that cancer for too long and as a socialist you simply want to help secure it, period.

US interests my ass.

Was bullying Honduras to reinstate a leftist poppet of H.Chavez also in the interest of USA? Was ignoring Iran's opposition in the interest of US? Was visiting Rev. Wright's "church" also out of your love for USA? Giving pro-Islamic bs speeches in the middle east and pushing for the mosque in NY? It's rather called socialist sympathy.

Posted by: mambochango | January 18, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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