Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Human rights are on the ropes in Cuba, but Obama is eager to visit

Human rights are on the ropes in Cuba, but Obama is eager to visit

President Obama makes no secret of his eagerness to visit Cuba, but as
recently as December he insisted that there would be no such trip until
human rights and civil liberties on the island had improved.

"What I've said to the Cuban government is, if . . . we're seeing some
progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary
Cubans, I'd love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress,"
Obama told Yahoo! News. "If we're going backwards, then there's not much
reason for me to be there."

Cuba is going backwards. By all accounts, the Castro regime's repression
has grown worse, not better, since the renewal of diplomatic ties with
the United States in 2014. Beatings and arrests of dissidents have
soared. There has been a crackdown on churches and religious groups.

Yet Obama announced last week that he's going to Cuba anyway, thus
abandoning his December pledge and rewarding the hemisphere's sole
dictatorship with the enormous prestige of a presidential visit. Obama
claims he'll "speak candidly" to Raul Castro about human rights and
democracy. But his desire to go to Havana isn't about the plight of
Cuba's dissidents. It's about making his diplomatic embrace of the
Castro government a permanent fact of life. As deputy national security
adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Thursday, the president's goal is "to
make this an irreversible policy."

So far, Obama's "engagement" with the Castros hasn't opened even a crack
in their Stalinist system. It is folly to imagine that his trip next
month will do anything to expand freedom or justice for Cuba's
beleaguered people. But, oh, what a boon it will be for their brutal
rulers: the ultimate stamp of approval for the only totalitarian regime
in the Americas.

A visit from the president of the United States is a huge deal in most
countries. The opportunity to host the leader of the free world is a
coveted prize, especially for nations that are not global powers in
their own right. President Obama has traveled widely, visiting more than
50 countries to date. But that still leaves nearly 150 countries he
hasn't been to, many of which would relish the chance to welcome an
American president and bask in the international spotlight that
accompanies him.

Some foreign journeys presidents undertake because they have to.
Attendance at NATO or G-20 summit meetings is part of the job.
Authoritarian states such as Russia, China, or Saudi Arabia merit
presidential visits because they are too important to snub.

But when it comes to discretionary travel, shouldn't a president visit
nations that the United States admires or particularly wishes to
encourage? If Obama is concerned to promote liberal democracy and civil
rights, why go out of his way to bolster the odious Castro government?

Instead of honoring Latin America's only dictatorship with a visit, he
could travel to Tunisia, and publicize his support for the Arab world's
fledgling democracy.

Instead of lending legitimacy to Cuba's entrenched communists, the
president could visit countries like Lithuania, Mongolia, or Slovenia —
all of which used to be communist-ruled, but today are robust multiparty
democracies whose leaders are chosen in free elections.

Instead of bestowing the trappings of a presidential visit on a country
where human rights are routinely strangled, Obama could head to Finland
or New Zealand or Slovakia — civilized nations where human rights are
firmly upheld.

From Cape Verde to Belize to Taiwan, there are worthy destinations
aplenty for a president seeking to make a statement about American
values and friendships. Cuba isn't one of them, and Obama shouldn't be

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at Follow him on Twitter

Source: Human rights are on the ropes in Cuba, but Obama is eager to
visit - The Boston Globe -

No comments:

Post a Comment