Idaho Mountain Express: Anti-Obama politics produce whiplash on Cuba

Idaho Mountain Express


It’s easy to mistake roller coaster whiplash with the Making America Great Again announcement this week that relations with Cuba might be reversed because of a human rights record.

Under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Cuba after dictator Fidel Castro, whose Communist philosophy was anathema at the height of the Cold War, took power in 1959. Refugees who fled to the U.S. voted Republican for decades after.

Flash forward to 2014. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., wanted Cuban isolation to continue, but President Barack Obama, a Democrat, announced steps to begin to normalize relations. The administration argued that easier interactions eventually would give Cubans a path toward economic and political freedoms.

Since then, more Americans have used their dollars to explore Cuba. The result is burgeoning capitalism that’s creating a new generation of entrepreneurs. American hotel chains, airlines, cruise ships, agricultural producers and others are making money and creating jobs there.

Out loud, the Trump administration said recently that all this should stop because Cuba hasn’t improved its human-rights record. That’s a pretty hard sell less than a month after President Trump announced closer relations with Middle Eastern nations with abysmal human rights records. It’s a hard sell from a president who has praised the strongman dictatorships of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the possibility that prior to President Trump’s inauguration, former advisor Mike Flynn may have discussed ending U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election.

According to the business coalition Engage Cuba, trade restrictions could cost U.S. businesses and taxpayers $6.6 billion and 13,000 American jobs. They would choke rising capitalism. Drug- and human-trafficking operations would return to the waters between the two nations.

Cuba’s government has been accused of increasing pressure against political dissidents, but changing this will require a change in the Cuban culture over time.

Why punish Cuba while letting Russia and other antidemocratic nations off the hook? Why hold Cuba to standards the U.S. does not expect of Arab nations? Why take an action almost sure to force Cuba closer to China, Russia and even Iran?

Reversing normalization with Cuba, like so many of this administration’s new policies, feels like a roller coaster ride because the real reason for taking the actions proposed is unspoken.

It appears that if Obama did it, then it must be undone. America’s best interests do not lie in that equation.