from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

What Did President Obama Trade for Alan Gross?

December 17, 2014

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Cuba

Human Rights

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There is wonderful news this morning: that Alan Gross is finally free, out of a Cuban prison and back on American soil. For his family, this is the answer to prayers and the right outcome to a long struggle.

Gross was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime. The Obama administration finally gave in and traded three Cuban spies for Gross. Whether that was a smart move can be debated. Some would argue that as Gross’s health deteriorated, the Castro regime would release him rather than see him die in their prisons. But that’s playing with Gross’s life, and it’s pretty clear that his health has already deteriorated badly.

The larger question is whether the Obama administration has actually promised the Cubans far more--opening an embassy, ending the embargo, and in essence making zero demands of Havana.

Reports differ; the latest suggest that talks will now commence that will cover a wide range of goals.

Here’s CNN:

President Barack Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed....For a President who took office promising to engage Cuba, the move could help shape Obama’s foreign policy legacy. "We are charting a new course toward Cuba," a senior administration official said. "The President understood the time was right to attempt a new approach, both because of the beginnings of changes in Cuba and because of the impediment this was causing for our regional policy."

What’s missing here? The Cuban people. Human rights. Freedom of speech or press. Free elections. An end to imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators. The impression that the CNN account and other accounts give is that the United States will seek nothing in return for giving the Castro regime just about everything it wants.

Note the words quoted by CNN--a senior official talks of the "beginnings of changes in Cuba." On human rights, liberty, individual freedom there have been no changes: Cuba remains a communist dictatorship run by the Castros.

The new Republican-led Congress has a job to do here: to ask whether the President simply forgot about the Cuban people’s rights in his urge to show he isn’t just a lame duck and can still do important things. To make sure that the United States isn’t giving this vile regime a lifeline just when the old age of the Castro brothers is bringing it closer and closer to an end. To limit the benefits to Castro unless and until there are human rights improvements in Cuba.

Fr0m Iran to Egypt to China, the Obama administration has shown itself largely indifferent to human rights in its efforts to "reach out" to and "engage" with regimes--rather than with the peoples they oppress. This looks like another example. So, joy for Alan Gross and his family. But not for the people on the island from which he has been freed.

More on:

Cuba

Human Rights

Politics and Government

United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

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