Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rant on Cuba and candidates

The presidential candidates obviously always have an eye on Florida, and suddenly Cuba has become a hot topic for that reason. Barack Obama’s article on U.S. policy toward Cuba sparked an exchange that shows how the perception that you need to stay hardline will make you defy all logic. Obama’s proposals were barely out of the mainstream—he favors the embargo, but just wants to allow a little more travel (though he did vote to cut funding for TV Martí). He wants to “empower” the Cuban people but this makes little sense, as the best way to empower them is to stop punishing them.

Even that tiny deviation from the political norm, however, has the major candidates going crazy to out-hardline each other.

--if you ease the embargo, the result will be to strengthen the Castro regime

''Rudy Giuliani believes America must stand ready to help the Cuban people reclaim their freedom, but decreasing sanctions on Cuba will only serve to boost the Castro regime,'' said a campaign statement.

Readers of this blog will probably already know that this is the one that gets me the most. The purpose of the embargo was to cut off the Castro government and thereby foster his overthrow. It is simply not possible to say that the policy has worked at all. In fact, there is no doubt that the embargo has helped Castro tremendously. The idea that decreasing sanctions would help him more requires incredible mental contortions to believe.

--along the same lines, offering any change of policy without getting an undefined something in return will strengthen the Castro regime (and any other regime)

Romney's campaign said: ``Unilateral concessions to a dictatorial regime are counterproductive, helping to secure a succession of power and repression instead of a transition to freedom.''

The problem with this argument is that unilateral sanctions have secured power and repression more than unilateral concessions ever could.

--discussing any policy changes at all are politically risky, so the best option is to be really vague, a la Hillary Clinton

''She supports the embargo and our current policy toward Cuba, and until it is clear what type of political winds may come with a new government -- if there is a new government -- we cannot talk about changes to U.S. policy,'' Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said.

So she will wait for the political winds to make everything clear. Okeydoke.

To be fair, some candidates favor opening up more (Kucinich calls for an end to the embargo and Dodd favors open travel, but unfortunately they have no influence over anyone else). However, even when agreeing they sometimes make no sense. Take John Edwards:

The other major Democratic candidate, John Edwards, said in a statement Tuesday that promoting travel by family members to Cuba ''can help spread the promise of freedom and democracy within Cuba and strengthen families across the waters.'' He favors the cap on remittances to use as leverage against the regime.

So you let people travel, which spreads the “promise,” but you simultaneously use the deprivation of money as leverage against Castro. That, of course, is the logic of the embargo, and look how well that has worked.


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