Sunday, July 31, 2016


No Americans should be dancing and dining their way through Cuba,
enjoying the beaches, while those struggling for freedom lie in prison.

The motto of the American Bar Association (ABA) is "Defending Liberty,
Pursuing Justice."

It should perhaps be revised to "Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice,
and Travel to Cuba." Right now the ABA is sponsoring at least two trips
to Cuba–but neither one has anything to do with liberty or justice.

One could dream of an ABA-sponsored trip that would try to visit
political prisoners, or meet with the "Women in White" and other
peaceful protesters for human rights. One could envision a confrontation
between ABA members and officials of the Cuban regime's "courts" or its
"Ministry of Justice."

But don't hold your breath. The two tours advertised in the ABA Journal
right now are "Cuba: People, Culture and Art" for next March and "Cuban
Discovery" for next February.

In the latter, one does not "discover" anything about Cuba's
dictatorship and its complete disrespect for law–theoretically of some
concern to the ABA. "People, Culture, and Art" has nothing to do with
those Cuban people who are trying desperately to gain a measure of
freedom and live under a system of law.

The brochure describes the latter trip this way:

A uniquely designed itinerary provides opportunities to experience the
Cuban culture, history and people in four destinations: Havana;
Cienfuegos; Trinidad; and Pinar del Río. Discover the arts during visits
to art, dance and music studios, and talk with artists, dancers and
musicians about their craft and their lives in Cuba.

Savor authentic flavors of Cuban cuisine at state restaurants and
paladars, privately owned and operated restaurants. Learn about
contemporary and historic Cuba during insightful discussions led by
local experts.

Want to bet how many of the "local experts" are dissidents or human
rights activists, fighting for a state of law?

The actual state of life in Cuba is described this week in The
Economist. Here is an excerpt:

Queues at petrol stations. Sweltering offices. Unlit streets. Conditions
in Cuba's capital remind its residents of the "special period" in the
1990s caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, the benefactor
in trouble is Venezuela. For the past 15 years Venezuela has been
shipping oil to Cuba, which in turn sends thousands of doctors and other
professionals to Venezuela.

The swap is lucrative for the communist-controlled island, which pays
doctors a paltry few hundred dollars a month. It gets more oil than it
needs, and sells the surplus. That makes Cuba perhaps the only importer
that prefers high oil prices. Venezuelan support is thought to be worth
12-20 percent of Cuba's GDP.

Recently, the arrangement has wobbled. Low prices have slashed Cuba's
profit from the resale of oil. Venezuela, whose oil-dependent economy is
shrinking, is sending less of the stuff. Figures from PDVSA, Venezuela's
state oil company, suggest that it shipped 40 percent less crude oil to
Cuba in the first quarter of 2016 than it did during the same period
last year. Austerity, though less savage than in the 1990s, is back.
Cuba's cautious economic liberalisation may suffer.

The regime ought to be worried indeed–but help is on the way, suggests
The Economist:

Tourism has surged since the United States loosened travel restrictions
in 2014, which will partially offset the loss of Venezuelan aid.

So that's where the ABA—remember, "Defending Liberty, Pursuing
Justice"—comes in. This vicious, repressive regime depended on the
Soviets, and then the Venezuelans, and may now depend on American tourists.

Will it be enough? One cannot know. One can only know that the American
Bar Association wants to lend a hand.

This is unconscionable, and in fact no American should be lending a hand
to oppression in Cuba. No Americans should be dancing and dining their
way through Cuba, enjoying the beaches and the architecture while those
struggling for freedom lie in prison.

That American lawyers are willing to do this, and that their main
professional association wants to promote it, is a sad reflection on the
profession. If the ABA said we want our members to visit if and only if
they can do something to promote liberty and law and human rights in
Cuba, such visits might be a genuine contribution.

Perhaps the ABA has secretly done this and actually all these trips do
include spending time with dissidents and pressing officials to respect
the rights of the Cuban people. I wouldn't place a lot of money on that
wager. If it has not, it is betraying the cause of justice and assisting
the most repressive regime in the Western Hemisphere.

That isn't "Defending Liberty" or "Pursuing Justice." It's shameful.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations.

Source: Is It Right to Vacation in Cuba's Oppression? -

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