In his excellent column on the homepage, Elliot Abrams concludes that President Obama’s prisoner swap with Cuba was essentially the shiny object to divert our attention from the real, underlying deal: Obama gave away the store – normalization of diplomatic relations, international legitimacy for a brutal dictatorship, and the consequent lavish income streams that will prop up the regime – in exchange for … nothing. As Elliot puts it, “The Castros made no promises at all to reduce oppression, allow freedom of speech or assembly, or make any political reforms or foreign-policy adjustments.”
Are we on the right overstating the degree of repression in the Castros’ dictatorship that Obama has effectively chosen to reward? You be the judge. Here is what the U.S. Agency for International Development, which takes its foreign policy guidance from the White House and the State Department, has to say about Cuba:
Cuba is a totalitarian state which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. Criticism of national leaders or the political system can lead to imprisonment. Members of the security forces harass and physically assault human rights and pro-democracy advocates, dissidents, detainees, and prisoners. The Cuban Government does not allow independent monitoring of prison conditions by international or national human rights groups and continues to refuse access to detainees by international humanitarian organizations (U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011).…
The Cuban Government routinely denies its citizens freedom of association and does not recognize independent associations. The Cuban Constitution prohibits any political organization that is not officially recognized. As a result, grassroots community efforts which operate in a democratic manner are extremely limited (U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011)….
The Cuban Government owns and the Communist Party controls all print and broadcast media outlets. News and information programming is nearly uniform across all outlets, and the law prohibits distribution of printed material from foreign sources considered “counterrevolutionary” or critical of the government. Foreign newspapers or magazines are generally unavailable, and distribution of material with political content, interpreted broadly to include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is not allowed and can result in harassment and even detention.
The Cuban Government controls nearly all internet access, with the exception of extremely limited facilities, where foreigners and citizens are allowed to buy Internet access cards for use at hotel business centers, where the price of Internet access is beyond the means of most citizens. Authorities review the browsing history of authorized users, review and censor e-mail, employ Internet search filters, and block access to Web sites considered objectionable (U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011).
Under the arrangement Obama has crafted, Cuba is required to do not a damn thing about reforming any of this. In “exchange,” the United States of America gives Cuba full diplomatic recognition. Plus, Obama tells the world’s other despots that a windfall from Uncle Sam could be awaiting them, too, if they abduct American citizens and hold them for ransom.
What a deal.