Thursday, September 23, 2010

The U.S. should stay the course on Cuba

The U.S. should stay the course on Cuba
Thursday, September 23, 2010

In his Sept. 18 op-ed, "Easing the impact of Cuba's coming crisis,"
Edward Schumacher-Matos wrongly suggested that the United States bail
out Fidel and Raúl Castro by lifting the U.S. trade embargo. He claimed
such action will help prevent an economic crisis on the island, kick out
the supports propping up the regime and reward the Castros for their
recent release of political prisoners. None of this makes sense.

The economic crisis is forcing Cuba to make limited market reforms and
renew a lapsed experiment in self-employment. Lifting the embargo and
U.S. tourist restrictions would help replenish government coffers with
foreign currency and revive Cuba's army-run tourism industry, helping to
prop up the status quo. As for encouraging positive behavior by Cuba's
leaders, there is little to reward when political prisoners must agree
to exile as a condition of their freedom.

In his final sentence, Mr. Schumacher-Matos warned of another
Mariel-style exodus of dissatisfied Cubans. Yet instead of a giving Cuba
a bailout, the United States should look to experience that shows that
clear policies and effective immigration enforcement are better
migration deterrents.

So far, the Obama administration has chosen a prudent course, denying
aid to a repressive regime, pursuing purposeful contact and looking for
ways to help ordinary Cubans expand their civil liberties until a true
transition is at hand.

Stephen Johnson, Silver Spring

The writer was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western
Hemisphere affairs from 2007 to 2009 and is currently an associate at
VisionAmericas, a Washington-based international business consultancy.

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