The good, bad, and ugly of Trump’s new Cuba policy
By Ilya Somin June 18 at 3:18 PM
Late last week, President Trump announced a change in US policy towards
the communist dictatorship in Cuba. Although Trump claimed he was
“canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with
Cuba,” his new approach actually leaves most of Obama’s policies in
place. It does not end normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba,
nor would it bar most US trade and investment there.
Trump’s new policy has some good elements, some bad ones, and one truly
awful perpetuation of the worst of Obama’s policy. On the plus side, the
new policy bars US trade and investment in enterprises owned by the
Cuban military and secret police. Even if you believe that trade and
investment are beneficial and likely to stimulate liberalization in
Cuba, that is surely not true of commerce that directly enriches the
very entities that perpetuate repression in one of the world’s last
largely unreformed communist despotisms.
Also potentially beneficial is the plan to convene a State Department
task force on increasing internet access for Cubans. This could make it
easier for dissidents to organize, and other Cubans to utilize
information sources not controlled by the state. Obviously, whether this
initiative actually achieves anything remains to be seen.
Much more dubious is Trump’s policy of tightening restrictions on travel
to Cuba by Americans. I can understand the point that such travel often
enriches the regime. On the other hand, travel restrictions are a
significant infringement on freedom, and it is far from clear that they
actually do much to undermine the government’s grip on power. Americans
are not restricted from traveling to other nations with oppressive
governments, including some that are as bad or almost as bad as Cuba’s.
At the very least, we should not restrict Americans’ freedom to travel
unless there is strong evidence that doing so really will have a
substantial beneficial effect on human rights in Cuba.
Contrary to the expectations of its defenders, Barack Obama’s
normalization policy has not resulted in any improvement in Cuban human
rights. Its onset actually coincided with an upsurge in repression, and
the liberal Human Rights Watch group reports that, in some ways, the
government has actually increased its harassment and persecution of
dissidents in recent years. Whether Trump’s policy brings better results
remains to be seen. They could hardly be much worse.
One one key point, however, Trump has perpetuated the very worst of
Obama’s approach. He has decided to maintain Obama’s cruel policy
reversal on Cuban refugees, which effectively bars the vast majority of
them from staying in the United States, ending decades of bipartisan
policy welcoming at least those who manage to make it to US soil.
Some defend Obama’s shift by arguing that the previous approach unduly
favored to Cuban refugees over those fleeing other repressive regimes.
But any such inequality should be cured by treating other refugees
better, not consigning Cubans to oppression. It is better that at least
some refugees be saved than that all be condemned to further abuse in
the name of equality.
In a speech in Miami announcing his new Cuba policy, Trump denounced
Cuba’s repressive policies, including its “abuse of dissidents” and
“jailing [of] innocent people.” But his crocodile tears about the plight
of Cuban victims of communist oppression ring hollow, so long as he bars
virtually all of them from finding refuge in the US, and instead
perpetuates Obama’s new policy of consigning them to the tender mercy of
Sadly, Trump is not the only hypocrite here. To their credit, liberal
Democrats have rightly condemned Trump’s travel ban executive order, and
attempt to bar Syrian refugees. But most Democrats have either ignored
or actively supported the cruel new policy on Cuban refugees – perhaps
because that policy was initiated by a Democratic president (though now
also continued by Trump).
Here, as elsewhere, we should try to set aside partisan bias. The
barring of refugees fleeing brutal oppressors is unjust regardless of
whether it was done by a Democratic president or a Republican one, and
regardless of whether the rulers oppressing them are communists,
right-wing despots, or radical Islamists. In most cases, the US is not
responsible for the misdeeds of oppressive governments abroad. But we
are morally responsible for using government coercion to prevent them
from finding safety, and returning them to the control of the very
forces they are fleeing.
Source: The good, bad, and ugly of Trump’s new Cuba policy – The
Washington Post –