Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    The Cuba Deal – How Raúl Castro Duped Obama

    The Cuba Deal: How Raúl Castro Duped Obama
    2/27/2015 @ 2:14PM
    GUEST POST WRITTEN BY Néstor T. Carbonell

    Mr. Carbonell is an international affairs consultant and author of “And
    The Russians Stayed: The Sovietization of Cuba.”

    On December 17, following a year and a half of secret negotiations with
    the Castro regime, President Obama trumpeted what many have called a
    historic breakthrough—a new course to normalize relations with Cuba.

    The course, however, is not really new. It was pursued by 10 previous
    American presidents who tried to engage Fidel Castro directly or through
    intermediaries both during and after the Cold War. The desired
    rapprochement failed mainly because the Cuban dictator would not agree
    to stop his subversive activities and open up the island, or offer a
    modicum of respect for human rights.

    What’s new about President’s Obama’s détente is that he is engaging Raúl
    Castro—not his ailing brother Fidel—and has not established any
    preconditions for normalization.

    How different is Raúl from Fidel? He is certainly less charismatic and
    verbose than his older brother, but more focused and disciplined. While
    Fidel roused and manipulated the masses, Raúl, with Soviet assistance,
    quietly bolstered the armed forces and built the totalitarian
    infrastructure of the regime. Despite their contrasting physique and
    personality, they both share a visceral hatred of the United States,
    cold-blooded ruthlessness and mastery of deceit.

    Fidel’s duplicity, combined with a fair amount of histrionics, is well
    known. He bragged about tricking the Cuban people, who fell for his
    promise to restore democracy, and unabashedly proclaimed in December
    1961: “I am a Marxist-Leninist and will be one until the last day of my

    Fidel also was able to dupe U.S. presidents and senior government
    officials into believing that he would be amenable to a fair settlement
    of all outstanding disputes. Even David Rockefeller, a strong advocate
    of engagement who had a good rapport with Fidel, felt that he could help
    strike a deal with him.

    Heading an impressive delegation of foreign policy heavyweights,
    Rockefeller presented to Fidel Castro in February 2001 a proposal
    developed by the Council on Foreign Relations to normalize U.S.
    relations with Cuba. After five hours of marathon discussions which
    ended at 4AM, Fidel rejected the “half-measures” proposed by the Council
    and demanded the unconditional lifting of the U.S. embargo without
    acquiescing to any significant economic and political reforms. A
    disillusioned Rockefeller wrote in his memoirs: “Castro harangued us
    continuously throughout the night…I think there is little possibility
    for change while Castro remains in power…”

    But that was Fidel Castro. What about with Raúl now calling the shots
    and posing as a pragmatist? Even though Raúl had only introduced
    non-systemic, revocable reforms to alleviate the appalling living
    conditions on the island, Obama thought that he could be lured or tamed
    with goodwill gestures and concessions. So shortly after taking office
    in 2009, the President relaxed restrictions on travel and remittances to
    Cuba and voted in favor of inviting the Cuban regime to rejoin the
    Organization of American States, only to be rebuffed by both Castro

    Raúl then played the hostage trick on Obama, and it worked. He arrested
    Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who was distributing computer equipment
    to the Jewish community in Havana to gain access to the internet, and
    sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Fearing that Gross, in poor health,
    might die behind bars in Cuba, the President accepted the swap proposed
    by Castro—Gross for three convicted Cuban spies, including one serving a
    life sentence in the U.S. for conspiring to commit murder. Trying to
    balance out the uneven swap, Castro released several dozen political
    prisoners, a bargaining chip he uses when it suits his purpose.

    To conduct the secret negotiations, which were broadened beyond the
    exchange of prisoners, Castro assigned two of his sharpest KGB-trained
    intelligence officers, fluent in English and well versed in diplomacy as
    a cover for espionage in the U.S., Josefina Vidal and Gustavo Machin.
    The deal they were able to extract from the American delegation is so
    one-sided in favor of the Castro regime that it could well be called the
    Cuban Munich.

    Indeed, from a weak position, with Cuba in dire straits and facing the
    possible loss of its Venezuelan financial lifeline, Castro got pretty
    much what he wanted. And Obama, who surrendered the U.S. leverage of
    continued economic pressure on the Cuban regime and support for the
    dissident movement, got virtually nothing in return.

    The U.S. will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba while repression
    continues on the island, and will ship telecommunications technology
    with no assurance that censorship will end. In addition, the Castro
    regime will receive more dollars from U.S. “purposeful visits,” which
    will flow to the owners of the tourist industry in Cuba: the military.

    But for Castro, more important than those concessions is the removal of
    Cuba from the U.S. list of terrorist states which would open doors to
    the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions. His
    regime gets this provision despite smuggling 240 tons of heavy weapons
    to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, maintaining close links
    to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and harboring dozens of fugitive
    terrorists and criminals, including one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted
    Terrorists, Assata Shakur.

    To meet Castro’s ultimate requirement for normalization of relations,
    President Obama promised to seek congressional approval for the
    unconditional lifting of the U.S. trade embargo. This would open the
    floodgates for U.S. investments in bankrupt Cuba, but in a subordinate
    position to the only authorized partner—the Cuban government—which
    controls the economy, hires and fires the labor force, and pockets 92
    cents on every dollar of each worker’s salary. Not quite Deng Xiaoping’s
    model of capitalism.

    Not content with that, the cagey Raúl Castro surprised the White House
    last month with two additional demands that did not surface during the
    negotiations: payment by the U.S. to Cuba of reparations for the alleged
    damages caused by the embargo (his claim is for $100 billion), and the
    return to Cuba of the U.S. Naval Base of Guantanamo. Moreover, he
    declared that he will not change his Socialist system—not one iota, he
    emphasized. So democracy, human rights and free enterprise are out.

    The Cold War may be over but Raúl Castro seems intent on reigniting it.
    Last year, he offered Putin an espionage listening post on the island,
    and is currently training and equipping Venezuela’s repressive forces in
    support of President Maduro’s plan to Cubanize his country.

    The only way out of the President’s one-sided deal with Cuba is not to
    give the deceitful Cuban ruler a blank check, but to insist on a
    step-by-step quid pro quo that would safeguard the interests and
    security of the U.S., as well as the long-fought aspirations of
    freedom-loving Cubans.

    Source: The Cuba Deal: How Raúl Castro Duped Obama –