Cuba on Obama’s Checklist

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts on President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba.  On the one hand, having no diplomatic relations with an island 90 miles from Key West seems an archaic relic of the Cold War.  The reasons for having no diplomatic relations and maintaining an economic embargo made sense when the US was engaged in a chess game with the Soviets, but those reasons are largely irrelevant now. We engage in diplomatic relations and economic trade with plenty of other despotic regimes, why not Cuba too?Raul Castro

On the other hand, Cuba is among a handful of countries that are among the worst of the worst in terms of political and economic repression of its own people.  It’s not quite North Korea, but it would like to be if it could.  It’s in the top 16 or so most repressive countries. It just doesn’t seem that it’s the type of country that we should be reaching out to. But President Obama feels differently…  It’s as if standing fast as a brutal dictatorship pays off in getting the US to say Uncle.  Not for the people of Cuba of course, but for the regime.

Cuban politicians of both parties seem none too happy about the move.  That’s surprising in that the Cuban American community seems split, mostly along an older versus younger axis, at least based on TV news reports.  But then most Cuban politicians fall within that older crowd and began their careers with the passions that were totally uncompromising where Cuba was concerned.

I think the timing of it all though, doesn’t make much sense.  We would have been in a much better bargaining position if we had waited until the Castro brothers were dead and buried.  At that point, Cuba would be more open to changes, and would be more open to the political and economic benefits of opening relations with the United States.  But with Obama, I think he just doesn’t care.  It seems that since the election, he’s decided to work off his lefty check list of things to do before leaving power.  And of course, that means ignoring Congress and doing whatever he wants to do.

Although foreign policy and diplomacy is mostly the providence of the Presidency, with Cuba there is a history of US law in the way.  The embargo is codified into law by the Helms-Burton Act, which the President can’t just wave away without Congress repealing or modifying the law.

Or maybe he can.  I dunno, we live in a new age in which the executive seems to be able to ignore laws he doesn’t like.

Other laws that regulate our relations with Cuba include the LIBERTAD Act and the Cuban Democracy Act.  Is Obama going to ignore them all?  Probably so.  He hasn’t seemed to pay any price for ignoring any other law so why not these as well?

Does the news media even care about these laws?  Not that I can tell.  In fact, based on my viewing of at least one of the network news programs, NBC, the primary impact of normalization of relations with Cuba is that American collectors will be able to purchase classic American cars and Cuban owners of those same classic American cars will be able to purchase parts for them from the US.  All illegal under US law of course, but that went unmentioned in the news reports I saw and sadly, probably not thought of as that important a consideration.

 

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