Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba hasn’t earned embargo’s end

    Cuba hasn’t earned embargo’s end
    10/25/2014 10:32 PM 10/25/2014 10:32 PM

    In October of 1960, the United States imposed an embargo on exports to
    Cuba covering all commodities except medical supplies and certain food
    products. That was the beginning of a trade embargo that still endures
    and still inspires heated debate.

    The anniversary of the embargo, plus this week’s upcoming vote in the
    United Nations condemning it — which the United States will lose, as
    usual — have prompted calls for a reassessment. Dropping the embargo
    altogether would require action by Congress. Meanwhile, anti-embargo
    advocates say, there’s a lot the president can do to soften or minimize
    its effects and open the door to restoring full ties with Cuba.

    We disagree. Such a move would be premature and utterly lacking in
    justification at this time.

    Granted, Raúl Castro has loosened the reins on the tightly controlled
    economy to permit more individual businesses. Some citizens can own
    property, and new rules are designed to encourage foreign investment.
    But it’s only because Cuba has been frozen in time for so long that such
    minimal change seems so dramatic. The Cuban nomenklatura still runs the
    Soviet-style planned economy that largely remains in place, and its
    members remain its major beneficiaries.

    Some see vague government statements from Havana welcoming renewed
    diplomatic ties with the United States as a sign that it’s willing to
    negotiate longstanding differences. We would attribute that not to any
    goodwill but rather to Cuba hedging its bets as it nervously watches the
    slide in oil prices and the rise of political instability in Venezuela.

    The Andean country has been the Castro brothers’ main benefactor in the
    last few years, helping prop up Cuba’s chronically weak economy with
    cheap oil. But if oil prices continue to drop, Venezuela’s Nicolás
    Maduro will need every penny he can get selling oil on the international
    market. He won’t hesitate to throw Cuba under the bus if it means
    survival for the Chávez movement in Caracas.

    That makes the timing of any move by Washington toward Havana
    particularly inappropriate. Why throw it a lifeline now?

    Yet even if these objections could be met, the greater issue remains
    unresolved: Cuba is still an unforgiving, authoritarian police state
    that will stop at nothing to stifle those it deems enemies of the state.

    Here’s what Human Rights Watch says: “The Cuban government continues to
    repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for
    basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish
    dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts
    of shaming, termination of employment and threats of long-term
    imprisonment.”

    Arrests of dissidents are going up, not down. Press freedom? Forget
    about it.

    Nor has the Cuban government bothered to investigate the death of
    Oswaldo Payá, perhaps Cuba’s most prominent advocate of democracy, nor
    to allow an independent investigation of his supposed “accident” by
    anyone else.

    Then there’s the case of American Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in
    prison for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity
    of the state.” Translation from the Kafkaesque: He was caught bringing a
    satellite phone to Cuba’s small and beleaguered Jewish community.

    Is there any doubt that the Castro brothers remain committed to
    maintaining their dictatorship over Cuba? Of course not. As long as that
    remains the case, the United States has no incentive to extend a
    welcoming hand.

    Source: Cuba hasn’t earned embargo’s end | The Miami Herald –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article3379550.html