What’s Good, Bad, And Ugly About Obama’s Cuba Trip

What’s Good, Bad, And Ugly About Obama’s Cuba Trip

Dissident leader Antonio Rodiles, himself beaten and detained on Monday along with his wife, told me President Obama’s Cuba visit had occasioned ‘a festival of repression.’
Mike Gonzalez
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Any truly comprehensive analysis of President Obama’s trip to Cuba must include the good, the bad, and the ugly. Only this time, because we’re dealing with the Castros, a new category should be added to the Eastwood trope: “the pure evil.”

Cuba Visit: The Good

Even strong critics of President Obama’s visit, like me, readily admit it was good for him to say—in a speech televised to the Cuban people, with dictator Raul Castro in attendance—that all people, even the wretched souls who live under communism, have rights.

“Every person should be equal under the law,” Obama said. “Citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights. I believe that every person should have the freedom to practice their faith peacefully and publicly. And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections.”

Addressing himself directly to Castro, Obama added: “I am also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people — and their capacity to speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders.” As difficult as it may be for some to believe, these are words most Cubans, 77 percent of whom have known nothing but communism, have never heard.

Not every dissident I spoke with yesterday liked President Obama’s speech, but I think the dissident leader known simply as “Antunez” put it best when he told me on the phone, “Independent of the fact that I think the trip has been a big mistake, it was good that he urged the dictator to respect human rights. It was an important lesson for the dictator.” It is important to note that Antunez, whose name is Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, did not attend the dissidents’ meeting with Obama to protest the visit.

Sadly, that’s all the good there was.

Cuba Visit: The Bad

President Obama’s visit has legitimized Castro’s illegitimate rule, and will help him perpetuate his family’s future grip on power. This is of much more importance than Obama’s words, and something for which the neither the president nor his foreign policy Svengali, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, have an answer.

President Obama’s visit has legitimized Castro’s illegitimate rule, and will help him perpetuate his family’s future grip on power.

Even if Obama’s speech galvanizes some brave Cubans to demand their rights, the Castro Pretorian guard will crush them with impunity. We know this because that happened while Obama was in Cuba. Sources on the island said some Cubans gathered spontaneously after the speech to demand the rights enumerated in it, only to be brutally repressed by the Castro security forces. Yet the president not only did not leave in protest, but he failed to voice any objections or even mention it, at least publicly.

Indeed, during the three days of the Obama visit, dissidents were beaten, arrested, dragged through streets, stripped naked, and threatened with the rape of their daughters. Dissident leader Antonio Rodiles, himself beaten and detained on Monday along with his wife, told me the Obama visit had occasioned “a festival of repression.”

Given this, and that Obama kept obsequiously repeating that the United States had “neither the capacity nor the intention to impose change on Cuba,” Castro surely feels he has carte blanche to continue to impose his will through brutality, as he and his brother Fidel have done for 56 years.

While the vast majority of commentators speak of Fidel, 89, and Raul, 84, the Castros to keep in mind are Raul’s son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espin, 50, his daughter, Mariela Castro Espin, 53, and his son-in-law, Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, 54.

During the three days of the Obama visit, dissidents were beaten, arrested, dragged through streets, stripped naked, and threatened with the rape of their daughters.

Alejandro is an unrepentant ideologue who sports a Lenin mustache and goatee and whose 2009 book, “The Empire of Terror,” was an anti-American screed. An intelligence officer, he speaks in the hackneyed jargon of a Marxist-Leninist and is due to inherit political power after Raul is gone.

Mariela is a member of Cuba’s rubber-stamp National Assembly whose position as an LGBT activist will ensure that Western useful idiots continue to lionize the Revolution. As for Rodriguez, he heads GAESA, the holding company that controls almost all of the Cuban economy. As Bloomberg put it recently, “Want to do business with Cuba? Prepare to partner with the general.”

By throwing a line to the Castros just as the Venezuelan sugar daddy ran out of money (socialism always does that), Obama has all but ensured (barring a reversal by the next president) that we will have a brutal anti-American corporatist regime just 90 miles away.

Cuba Visit: The Ugly

This section could take thousands of words. There’s so much from which to pick, from Obama’s incessant caveats in his speech (“Let me tell you what I believe. I can’t force you to agree…”) to his egregious comparison of the American Revolution to the Cuban one. But by far the ugliest was his gratuitous appearance with Raul at a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba’s national team.

Here was the president enjoying himself next to the man who has aided and abetted anti-Americanism worldwide.

Here was the president, along with his entire family (even granny!) enjoying himself next to the man who has aided and abetted anti-Americanism worldwide, who represses his people, who continues to give sanctuary to U.S. fugitives, even cop killers, and who harbors terrorists—all on the day that our ally, Belgium, suffered a devastating terrorist attack and the whole alliance looked in vain for leadership from the leader of the free world.

We learned later through the British news agency Reuters that Rodrigo Londono, the leader of the Colombian terrorist group FARC (designated as a terrorist group by Obama’s own State Department), was also at the game, along with 40 other terrorists.

Cuba Visit: The Pure Evil

This one is easy. When Castro told an American newsman there were no political prisoners in Cuba, he was taking malevolence to a new pitch of darkness. The ever-helpful Rhodes explained what Castro meant at a press conference in Havana Monday evening: “It’s their belief that they are not political prisoners, that they are in prison for various crimes and offenses against Cuban law.”

Thanks, Ben. You must be very proud.

Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, spent close to 20 years as a journalist, 15 of them reporting from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He is the author of the new book, “A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans.”

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