U.S.-Cuba policy: Myth vs. reality
By Yleem D.S. Poblete and Jason I. Poblete
In announcing the move to "normalize" relations with the Cuban regime,
President Obama referred to U.S. policy as an "outdated approach." This
claim was reiterated in his State of the Union address, as if repeating
it enough would make it true.
A little history and clarification are in order.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower's response to Cuban aggression was
prompted by Havana's systematic assault on U.S. interests. One of the
early affronts was the unlawful confiscation and nationalization,
without compensation, of private property owned by Americans. Today,
those certified claims are valued at between $8-$10 billion. While it is
seldom mentioned in recent debates, this issue is the foundation on
which U.S. law and policy was constructed.
As the regime began to purchase weapons from the Soviet Union and
distance itself from the civilized world, there was a proportional
increase in foreign policy tools used by Washington to address growing
threats and policy challenges.
From missiles pointed at the U.S. and sending agents to Vietnam to
torture American POWs at a camp called "The Zoo", to exporting violence,
and destabilizing democratic allies, this pariah state has earned every
punitive measure imposed by the U.S. Havana helped create and grow the
Western Hemisphere drugs for arms network, as documented in numerous
official reports. Hostile acts carried out by Havana's spy recruits in
the U.S. government are linked to American deaths.
The regime also continues to collaborate with fellow rogues such as
Iran. It harbors terrorists, as well as murderers and other dangerous
fugitives of U.S. justice. Despite assertions to the contrary, Cuba
continues to earn its slot on the state sponsors of terrorism list and
that is one of many reasons why the embargo should remain firmly in place.
But the sanctions do not tell the whole story, as they are just one
component of a multi-prong U.S. strategy that aims to weaken and isolate
the regime, while supporting those struggling to free their island
nation from a totalitarian dictatorship.
U.S.-Cuba policy is both punitive, to hold Havana accountable for
actions against U.S. interests, and preventive, as it seeks to rein in
the regime's dangerous policies. It protects American property rights,
as well as the U.S. economy and financial system from the regime's
criminal activities. It has been formulated to ensure American
taxpayers are not implicitly or explicitly financing terrorism or
subsidizing bad investments. U.S.-Cuba policy is also formulated to
ensure the U.S. will have a privileged standing and relationship with a
future democratically elected Cuban government.
These priorities are again in jeopardy.
Leaders of the Cuban resistance movement, many former prisoners of
conscience as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (Antunez), have called the Obama
administration's "normalization" efforts "a betrayal." Antunez,
described as the Nelson Mandela of Cuba, and his wife Yris, were present
for the State of the Union address, as guests of Speaker John Boehner.
They described the Administration's initiatives as benefiting only the
regime and creating further roadblocks to freedom.
This is not, however, the first Presidential attempt at rapprochement
with the Cuban regime. Under President Carter, for example, sanctions
were weakened or allowed to lapse. President Clinton was preparing to
go even further when two civilian humanitarian aircraft, piloted by
three Americans and a U.S. resident, were shot down by Cuban military
jets over international waters. President Clinton was left with no
other choice but to sign the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity
Act, known as Helms-Burton. This bipartisan law enshrined the
multi-track approach and codified existing prohibitions to ensure these
could not be unilaterally abrogated through Executive action.
What specific steps can Congress take to stop the Obama administration?
These could include but are not limited to:
- Resolutions disapproving of the president's December 17 proposals and
subsequent action pursuant to such announcement for potential violations
of U.S. laws;
- Adding Cuba matter to other legislative and legal action pertaining to
abuse of executive power;
- Cross-committee hearings and investigations with the use of subpoenas,
as necessary, for documents, U.S. government officials and those acting
as representatives thereof;
- Prohibition on the use of appropriated funds for the implementation of
proposals announced on December 17 or related subsequent action, as well
as holds on funds for other Administration priorities, until
Congressional review and investigations are completed;
- Prohibition on the use of any funds for the U.S. Interests Section in
Havana if the status of the mission or its personnel is altered, without
expressed Congressional authorization, from that in effect on December
The 114th Congress must, as Winston Churchill used to say, "never
surrender" to totalitarianism.
Yleem D.S. Poblete is a PhD and former chief of staff of the House of
Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee. Jason I. Poblete is an
attorney and former co-chairman of the National Security Committee of
the American Bar Association's Section of International Law.
Source: U.S.-Cuba policy: Myth vs. reality | TheHill -