Jorge Luis García Pérez is the Nelson Mandela of Cuba. In June, he was one of nearly a thousand pro-democracy dissidents rounded up by the Cuban state security.
“Antúnez,” as Perez is known, recounted that he was confined to a room where he was severely beaten by four muscular men, placed in a choke hold that resulted in him losing consciousness several times and, finally, injected with an unknown substance.
He was warned to stop protesting Havana’s repressive policies.
In Washington, the State Department rebuked the Castro regime for its brutal treatment of Perez and other dissidents, which followed similar large-scale crackdowns in January, February and May of this year.
“We strongly condemn the Cuban government’s systematic use of physical violence and arbitrary detention to silence its critics,” said deputy spokesperson Marie Harf. “We urge the government of Cuba to end these practices and respect the universal human rights of Cuban citizens.”
Six months later, the feckless administration Harf serves has committed a complete about-face on Cuba.
President Obama has gifted the Marxist-Leninist government in Havana with “normalized relations” with the United States. And he has left Antúnez and other Cuban dissident to the tender mercies of Raúl Castro, younger bro of Fidel.
And so what changes have the Castro regime made since June in its repressive practices to merit normalized relations with the United States?
Has it promised to stop detaining the regime’s critics? Uh-uh. Has it promised free elections? Negative. Has it renounced communism? Hell no.
In fact, Presidente Raúl this past Saturday gave a speech to the Cuban Parliament during which he declared Obama’s appeasement of Havana a victory for the Cuban revolution.
“We won the war!” Castro declared.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to make an unpersuasive case for reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, opening again a U.S. Embassy in Havana and pressing Congress to lift the trade embargo.
“President Obama is taking action,” the White House website pronounces, “to cut loose the anchor of failed policies of the past, and to chart a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba.”
It doesn’t “serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people,” Team Obama argues, “to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.”
But the Obama administration’s pronouncement is dubious; it’s arguments facile.
Indeed, the Cold War with the Soviet Union spanned six decades. And because every president from Harry Truman to George Herbert Walker Bush stood up to the communists, the Soviet Union eventually collapsed, and democracy spread throughout Eastern Europe.
In 1986, the United States imposed economic sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the ensuing decade, not only were the pillars of apartheid dismantled, former imprisoned dissident Mandela was elected the nation’s president.
There were some who pronounced the Cold War unwinnable, who maintained that the U.S. strategy of “containment” was a failed policy.
They were wrong.
There were some who argued that “constructive engagement” was the best way to end apartheid in South Africa, who insisted that the black population somehow would be harmed by U.S. sanctions.
They were wrong.
Now comes Obama, thinking he knows better about how to deal with Cuba’s communist government than every president since Dwight Eisenhower. He believes that normalized relations with Havana will somehow encourage and support reform.
He, too, is wrong.