Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Castros the beneficiaries of perilous policy shift

    Castros the beneficiaries of perilous policy shift
    BY HELEN AGUIRRE FERRÉ HAGUIRREFERRE@GMAIL.COM
    12/20/2014 2:00 PM 12/20/2014 7:00 PM

    President Obama just blew oxygen into the moribund Cuban economy — and
    its governing elite — by announcing the reestablishment of full
    diplomatic relations and economic concessions, a dramatic shift in
    diplomatic relations between the two countries. The change is huge, but
    not for the rank-and-file in Cuba who are denied basic human rights,
    free elections, the rule of law and free speech.

    Raúl Castro did have to return American aid worker Alan Gross, who was
    imprisoned for helping Cuban Jews. This cost him five years of freedom
    and as many teeth, which says something about life in a Cuban prison.

    Gross’ release is celebrated, especially by Cuban exiles, who know all
    too well what it means to be a political prisoner. Four other families,
    however, whose loved ones were murdered when their planes were shot down
    over international waters by Cuban MiGs in 1996 feel betrayed; Raúl
    Castro supervised that military operation, and a Cuban spy involved in
    the operation was set free. Three of the dead were American citizens;
    one was a legal resident.

    Obama released three Cuban prisoners who received a hero’s welcome in
    Havana, including Gerardo Hernandez, who was found guilty of some of the
    most egregious crimes, including penetrating U.S. military
    installations, espionage and involvement in the shootdown of three
    American airplanes. For these crimes, he received two life sentences;
    today, he is free. The story gets worse.

    In dual speeches to the world, in what President Cristina Fernández de
    Kirchner of Argentina cooed was a “romantic day,” Castro and Obama spoke
    about this new relationship, which includes the reestablishment of
    diplomatic relations; the opening of embassies in both Havana and
    Washington D.C.; the loosening of regulations by the Treasury Department
    to get licenses to do business in Cuba and to travel to the island; the
    ability of U.S. banks to facilitate debit- and credit-card purchases in
    Cuba; and increased remittances to Cuba up to $8,000 a year, a huge
    source of income for the government.

    These are extraordinary giveaways to a country that is a state sponsor
    of terrorism, according to the State Department. Apparently, even that
    status is negotiable for Obama.

    The president has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review
    Cuba’s status as a terrorist state, even though it was caught red-handed
    sending military armaments to North Korea, violating international law.
    The regime is desperate to be removed from the list in order to be able
    to access certain international credits, which terrorist states are
    rightly denied. What does Cuba pledge in return? Very little.

    Cuba says that it will release 53 political prisoners (whom Castro will
    likely re-incarcerate), increase Internet access (which dissident
    blogger Yoani Sánchez will tell you will not amount to much — if
    anything) and allow U.N. officials and the International American Red
    Cross to return to the island.

    Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio rightly calls Obama the worst negotiator
    in his lifetime, and what Rubio says about this issue matters. Come
    January, Rubio will the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
    Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.

    It is no secret that President Obama is struggling worldwide where
    adversaries such as Russia, Iran and Syria regularly cross his red
    lines. He badly wants a victory in foreign policy, but Obama won’t find
    it with the Castro regime. If the embargo is a failed policy, as the
    president says, what can be said of a band of brothers that has led the
    island to ruin for more than five decades and are directly responsible
    for countless human-rights abuses — and outright murder?

    The Obama administration’s concessions fly in the face of history and
    political reality, and the Castro regime is the beneficiary. It is also
    an assault on American values as communist dictators are rewarded.
    Castro is given an economic lifeline just when Venezuela’s significant
    economic support is challenged by falling oil prices and bad policies.

    This all comes at a time when the Obama administration has strengthened
    sanctions against Venezuelan officials.

    President Obama can’t seem to get his story straight.

    A number of opposition leaders in Cuba feel betrayed by Obama. “I feel
    like I am a soldier that has been abandoned on the battle field,” said
    human-rights advocate Oscar Elias Biscet, who spoke from Cuba on
    Univision’s popular Radio Mambi.

    Too many feel the same way.

    Source: Castros the beneficiaries of perilous policy shift | The Miami
    Herald – http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article4700424.html