Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout

    Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout
    By Editorial Board December 17 at 5:37 PM

    IN RECENT months, the outlook for the Castro regime in Cuba was growing
    steadily darker. The modest reforms it adopted in recent years to
    improve abysmal economic conditions had stalled, due to the regime’s
    refusal to allow Cubans greater freedoms. Worse, the accelerating
    economic collapse of Venezuela meant that the huge subsidies that have
    kept the Castros afloat for the past decade were in peril. A growing
    number of Cubans were demanding basic human rights, such as freedom of
    speech and assembly.

    On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout —
    from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime
    everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full
    lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full
    diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of
    terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment
    and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a
    fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S.
    leverage for political reforms.

    As part of the bargain, Havana released Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for
    International Development contractor who was unjustly imprisoned five
    years ago for trying to help Cuban Jews. Also freed was an unidentified
    U.S. intelligence agent in Cuba — as were three Cuban spies who had been
    convicted of operations in Florida that led to Cuba’s 1996 shootdown of
    a plane carrying anti-Castro activists. While Mr. Obama sought to
    portray Mr. Gross’s release as unrelated to the spy swap, there can be
    no question that Cuba’s hard-line intelligence apparatus obtained
    exactly what it sought when it made Mr. Gross a de facto hostage.

    No wonder Yoani Sánchez, Cuba’s leading dissident blogger, concluded
    Wednesday that “Castroism has won” and predicted that for weeks Cubans
    will have to endure proclamations by the government that it is the
    “winner of its ultimate battle.”

    Mr. Obama argued that his sweeping change of policy was overdue because
    the strategy of isolating the Communist regime “has had little effect.”
    In fact, Cuba has been marginalized in the Americas for decades, and the
    regime has been deprived of financial resources it could have used to
    spread its malignant influence in the region, as Venezuela has done.
    That the embargo has not succeeded in destroying communism does not
    explain why all sanctions should be lifted without any meaningful
    political concessions by Cuba.

    U.S. officials said the regime agreed to release 53 political prisoners
    and allow more access to the Internet. But Raúl Castro promised four
    years ago to release all political prisoners, so the White House has
    purchased the same horse already sold to the Vatican and Spain.

    The administration says its move will transform relations with Latin
    America, but that is naive. Countries that previously demanded an end to
    U.S. sanctions on Cuba will not now look to Havana for reforms; instead,
    they will press the Obama administration not to sanction Venezuela. Mr.
    Obama says normalizing relations will allow the United States to be more
    effective in promoting political change in Cuba. That is contrary to
    U.S. experience with Communist regimes such as Vietnam, where
    normalization has led to no improvements on human rights in two decades.
    Moreover, nothing in Mr. Obama’s record of lukewarm and inconstant
    support for democratic change across the globe can give Ms. Sánchez and
    her fellow freedom fighters confidence in this promise.

    The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S.
    tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain
    its totalitarian system indefinitely. Mr. Obama may claim that he has
    dismantled a 50-year-old failed policy; what he has really done is give
    a 50-year-old failed regime a new lease on life.

    Source: Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout –
    The Washington Post –