Ladies in White

How Trump could bring real change to Cuba
By Editorial Board January 10 at 7:46 PM

THE LASTING foreign policy legacy of a president often doesn’t become
clear until years after he leaves office. That may be particularly true
of President Obama, because some of his most distinctive initiatives
were, in large part, bets on long-term results. The ultimate success of
the nuclear deal Mr. Obama struck with Iran — assuming it is preserved
by the Trump administration — will depend on whether the Islamic regime
sets aside its ambition to build nuclear weapons during the coming
decade. Similarly, the president’s decision to reopen relations with
Cuba without requiring any political liberalization by the Castro regime
will be judged on whether greater engagement with the United States
eventually helps to bring about that change.

For now, the Iran deal has at least temporarily restrained Tehran’s push
for nuclear weapons, but two years of detente with Cuba have delivered
almost no positive results. Repression against the political opposition
has escalated even since the death of Fidel Castro, whom some had blamed
for the regime’s continuing hard line. Last week the Cuban Commission on
Human Rights and National Reconciliation said it had documented a total
of 9,940 arbitrary detentions in 2016, the most since 2010. There were
82 long-term political prisoners in June, it said — just 18 months after
the Obama administration boasted that the jails had been emptied as part
of the renewal of relations.

The regime’s attacks have been focused on groups seeking a democratic
opening, including the Ladies in White, who are regularly assaulted and
beaten for attempting to stage peaceful assemblies, and the National
Patriotic Union of Cuba, a pro-democracy organization centered in the
city of Santiago that was the target of a major sweep shortly before
Christmas. Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, an internationally renowned
dissident artist, has been imprisoned since Nov. 26, when he responded
to Fidel Castro’s death by painting the words “he is gone” on a wall.

The White House calculated that keeping faith with the democratic
opposition was less important than opening avenues for foreign
investment and trade. But there has been little progress in those areas
either. U.S. exports to Cuba have shrunk, totaling only $370 million
between December 2014 and October 2016, according to a report in the
Miami Herald.

Obama administration officials tout the increased flow of remittances by
Cuban Americans, saying they have bolstered the private sector. But
since the middle of 2015, the number of self-employed Cuban workers has
increased by only 7?percent — to 535,000, or less than 5 percent of the
population. President Raúl Castro announced that the economy as a whole
shrank by nearly 1?percent in 2016, largely because of the loss of
subsidies from Venezuela. In the same speech, he reiterated that the
regime was “not going, and will not go, toward capitalism.”

The absence of results may tempt a President Trump to scrap Mr. Obama’s
opening. Mr. Trump should instead improve on it. A break with Havana
would dash the hopes of millions of Cubans who still expect the United
States to use its leverage to promote real change. Mr. Trump should
freeze contacts with the regime’s security agencies and link any further
U.S. economic concessions to an increase in political freedom.

Source: How Trump could bring real change to Cuba – The Washington Post

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