Bush Rules Out Quick Cuba Policy Change
Fidel Casto may have stepped down but the embargo aimed at his ouster is staying put.
The Bush administration is ruling out any changes in its Cuba policy — including lifting a five-decade trade embargo — after Fidel Castro’s resignation, deriding his brother and heir apparent, Raul, as “dictator lite.”
“They’re the ones who suffered under Fidel Castro,” Bush told a news conference in Rwanda. “They’re the ones who were put in prison because of their beliefs. They’re the ones who have been denied their right to live in a free society. So I view this as a period of transition and it should be the beginning of the democratic transition in Cuba.”
“Eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections — and I mean free, and I mean fair — not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy,” Bush said. “The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty.”
Fundamentally, of course, he’s right. The only thing that’s changed here is the name on the door. And not even the last name, for that matter.
Still, our policy has been an embarrassment. Not only has it not helped lead to freedom for Cubans but it’s made their economic lives much more miserable and given the Castro regime a scapegoat. Steve Clemons observes that,
Of all the low cost opportunities to demonstrate a new and different US style of engagement with the world, Cuba is at the top of the list. Opening family travel — and frankly all travel — between Cuba and the US, and ending the economic embargo will provide new encounters, new impressions, and the kind of people-to-people diplomacy that George W. Bush, John Bolton, Richard Cheney, and Jesse Helms run scared of.
Kevin Drum adds,
The accession of Raul Castro is unlikely to appease the electorally important (but less important all the time) Cuban exile community in Florida, but why not try pandering to the nation’s cigar smokers instead? “Vote for me and Montecristo #2s will be legal again!” I’ve heard worse campaign slogans.
Partisan sniping about a bipartisan policy started by a Democrat and carried out through nine administrations notwithstanding, this is right. Fidel is gone. It’s time for this policy to go with him.