Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cuba Libre? No Way Jose

Cuba Libre? No Way, Jose
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 21, 2014

American contractor/aid worker Alan Gross became a free man on Wednesday, December 17 – released from a Cuban prison after five years incarcerated as an enemy of the Communist state. Mazal tov, happy Chanukah, and welcome home. But what of the 11 million Cubanos who are not free to leave their island penitentiary?

In yet another sterling example of Barack Obama doing his impersonation of the New York Mets ownership when on December 10, 1971 they traded future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi, Obama made the egregious error of swapping three convicted Cubans in American jails for spying on the United States for Gross. (Antonio Guerrero, 56, Gerardo Hernandez, 49, Ramon Labanino, 51)

Gross “shouldn’t have been in prison to begin with,” said former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, adding this is “another failed attempt to appease rogue regimes.

“This president is the worst negotiator,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose family fled Cuba in 1956. “This is a murderous, tyrannical regime,” added Rubio, noting the United States got nothing in this lopsided deal.

Obama noted the Cubans also released Cuban-born spy for America Rolando Sarraff Trujillo. However, this trade is as deleterious to American safety and security as the one executed on May 31, 2014 bringing home US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, having been held in Afghanistan for five years in exchange for releasing five Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay prison. Largely suspected of desertion, Bergdahl serves little purpose other than to his family.

Gross, taken hostage in December 2009 while working as a subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development, worked to endorse democracy in Cuba. This was his fifth trip to Cuba where he was working with the tiny Jewish community to establish internet access that would override Cuban censorship when he was nabbed.

These trades demonstrate a feebleness of the United States and sends a message to recalcitrant dictatorships that this nation will deal for hostages and will do so from a position of weakness. With an ever weakening Cuba, currently getting little relief from Russia and Venezuela who are engrossed with their own crises and difficulties, the United States is in a position to negotiate from strength.

Instead, the United States received nothing in return from Cuba in terms of human rights for the Cuban people, in terms of free elections for the Cuban people, in terms of free speech, religion, and press for the Cuban people, in terms of garnering bona fide internet and information access for the Cuban people.

“Cuba is a dictatorship with a disastrous human rights record, and now President Obama has rewarded those dictators,” said Bush.

Obama immediately announced his desire to normalize relations with the island nation that sits 90 miles from Florida. He wants to build and open an embassy there as well as end the 54-year embargo – something with which Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) agrees.

However, both the building of an embassy and the cessation of economic sanctions will only strengthen the communist regime run by the despotic Fidel Castro since the revolution in 1959 that ousted Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s brother Raul has been running the show since Fidel’s abdication in 2006 with the same iron fist that has kept Cuba in the information Dark Ages and the financial doldrums for more than a half century. For example, the average Cuban earns roughly $20 per month, and the average doctor on the island brings home about $67 per month ( and

Responding to the one-sided deal favoring Cuba, Raul Castro commented that “Obama deserves recognition and respect.” This coming from a state sponsor of terror – on the list since 1982, just three years after Syria made the list.

US Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), a Cuban native, opposes Obama’s desires to normalize relations with his country of origin. He was asked if sanctions for national security reasons have worked, Diaz-Balart said “you better believe it,” then calling Obama the “appeaser in chief,” for making such a misguided deal. The Congressman then called for the immediate release of all political prisoners, free elections, the provision of human rights, and open internet access – something Gross was working to provide prior to his capture.

And while Paul supports Obama demonstrating some bi-partisan support, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) added his voice across the aisle in opposition to his party’s leader. “It’s a fallacy to believe Cuba will reform because a president opens his hand,” said Menendez. “Just because Obama opens his hands doesn’t mean the Castros will unclench their fists,” he added.

But Obama, in his feckless and obtuse manner, said “it’s time to begin a new chapter with Cuba,” when the current chapter has yet to be finished being written. As long as the Castro brothers are at the helm, Obama is simply making more concessions to tyranny, while attempts to end 54-years of isolation gets the United States nothing, and more importantly, firms up the Castros stranglehold on their own citizens.

Obama continued to demonstrate his lack of historical knowledge by saying the United States is a former colonizer of Cuba following the Spanish-American War (1898-1901). While the United States did establish a military government after the war, they were not a colonizing force and lived up to the Teller Amendment in 1902 by relinquishing control of the island to the Cuban people with one caveat – the Platt Amendment (1901). In an effort to thwart any designs by another powerful nation to take control of Cuba after just gaining freedom from Spain, the Platt Amendment gave the United States a Cuban base – which did not create a colonizing effect. Not only was Obama not accurate, he offered an apology to Cuba. “We can never erase the history between us,” said Obama.

“Obama betrayed the Cubans fighting for the freedom and liberty of the island,” said Rubio, noting that Cuba is not an open society and still a repressive society. “If they [the Obama administration] think this will bring democracy to Cuba, they’re out of their minds.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) also expressed his displeasure with Obama’s plan, calling Cuba a state sponsor of terror with close allies Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran. “Friends don’t trust us, enemies don’t fear us,” said Cruz.

There should be no embassy built by the United States in Cuba nor should the embargo be lifted as long as the corrupt, communist, despotic “government” is still in power. Congress must thwart all efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, and they can do that by performing its job of controlling the purse strings, until the Castro brothers are either ousted or dead. Raul is 83 and Fidel is 88, but don’t count them out yet, as they have outlasted 11 American presidents. Additionally, it is incumbent upon Cuba to institute the reforms mentioned above before the United States even considers amending its relationship with the island nation.

It’s crazy to think real Cubans – the rank and file of the population would benefit from any deal made between Obama and the Castros. This is a most untrustworthy regime. Money from business ventures will only end up in the hands and pockets of the dictatorship, thus strengthening the despotic regime and military rule.

There is an enormous amount of money to be made in a largely untapped Cuba. It is important for Americans to understand a weak Cuba is not worth doing business with, while a democratic, burgeoning Cuba benefits all who invest. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Remember, Alan Gross was not required to go to Cuba, yet those are still there may not leave.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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