I was conflicted about President Obama’s announcement that he was taking action to open diplomatic relations with Cuba. I’ve been interested in Cuba since my days as a teenager watching Walter Cronkite when he announced (as I recall), with what appeared to be satisfaction, that Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries had overthrown the “evil dictator Batista.” I began to notice as time went by that things weren’t improving for the Cuban people. Those who were suspected of being Batista supporters, or were accused by someone who didn’t like them of being Batista supporters, were being tried in a stadium by Che Guevara and either being executed or imprisoned. I became even more conflicted as the years passed as I noticed young people were eager to wear shirts with a picture of Che “celebrating the revolution.” I’ve always found it sad to see young Liberals (or Progressives, if you prefer) celebrating a man who oversaw the murder or imprisonment of people who “might” have disagreed with him. I wasn’t included in those who mourned his death.
My conversion to being a “Cuba policy skeptic” was intensified as Cuba began to be a proxy providing soldiers for the Soviet Union when they wanted a revolution in some African country. The willingness of Cuba to allow installation of Soviet missiles that could carry nuclear warheads to many American cities in the early 1960s (the Cuban Missile Crisis) ended any tiny remaining doubts.
There are undoubtedly large numbers of Cubans who would enjoy nothing more than being able to change the Communist system installed by Castro and his supporters to a free enterprise system. That thought gave me hope that President Obama’s announcement was the first step to a better life for Cubans. However, Raul Castro appeared wearing his high-level military uniform to announce, “Don’t expect détente to change the Cuban system.” He also said in an Associated Press article by Andrea Rodriguez, “We must not expect that in order for relations with the United States to improve, Cuba will not abandon the ideas that it has struggled for.”
I’m skeptical that President Obama is taking actions to find some positive aspects to close out what I will call “his troubled Presidency.” I fear that he was much too eager to “cut a deal with Cuba” to achieve a decent result for Cuban citizens or the thousands of Cuban political prisoners. I’ll wish for the best for the Cuban people, but fear President Obama gave up hopes for their future for his “legacy.” And I honestly hope I’m wrong! If the Cuban people begin to experience more freedom, I will proclaim, “Viva Obama.” I am sad to say I doubt that is what will happen.