The Ongoing Illogic of US Policy Towards Cuba
As expected, the Obama-Castro handshake at Mandela’s funeral has caused a bit of an uproar. For example, the following quote has been making the rounds:
“Sometimes a handshake is just a handshake, but when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant,” Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is known for her opposition to the Castro government, told Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Could you please tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that, a handshake notwithstanding, the US policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened.”
Rhetoric of this nature is striking in a variety of ways. There is, of course, the obvious observation that presidents of the United States have, over the years, shaken hands with any number of unpleasant folks (often of dictators who were fast friends of the US). As such, the outrage in these situations always rings hollow in the context of reality. Second, and more significantly, there can be no doubt that US policy towards Cuba in the post-Cold War era has helped forestall liberalization in that country. First, does anyone actually think that Cuba would be in the same condition if US business interests had been allowed to freely invest in the island for the last two-plus decades?* Second, the regime has had a ready excuse for any failures in its policies: the US. As such, hardliners like Representative Ros-Lehtinen are helping perpetuate what they vehemently despise.
Source for the quote, the BBC: White House says Obama-Castro handshake ‘not planned’ (headline reaction: a handshake at a funeral not planned? Shocking!).
*Yes, the Cold War has been over for almost a quarter century. Time to let it go.