In a desperate move to salvage his legacy, President Obama is opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. On Saturday, President Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro in Panama City, an “historic” encounter which represents the first diplomatic conversation between the US and Cuba in more than five decades. Obama cites the dialogue as an opportunity to “turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries.” Castro requested that Cuba be removed from the list of state sponsors of terror. He also called upon President Obama to lift trade embargos against Cuba. Next steps would include establishing embassies in the two countries. The meeting ended with President Obama committing to making a decision about the state designation within a few days and two leaders shaking hands. The US and Cuba have been at odds since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 when communist rebels, under the direction of long term Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Raul’s brother, overturned the existing Cuban government and partnered with the Soviet Union. The US-Cuban divide continued throughout the Cold War. In 2008, Raul Castro replaced his brother as Cuban President.
The GOP has been highly critical of President Obama’s policy towards Cuba since he first announced intentions to open diplomatic relations with Cuba in December. Republican members of Congress are already threatening to block the plan to establish embassies in the two countries by cutting off funding and by stonewalling the process for selecting a US ambassador to Cuba. Presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-Florida) who is of Cuban descent lambasted Obama’s intentions to open relations with Cuba in an interview with Breitbart. “I don’t see how they can rationalize taking them off the [terrorism] list, other than the president’s desire to achieve a legacy issue that he’s the one that opened up Cuba and changed fifty years of policy.”, Rubio commented. All eyes are on Rubio, who will be making his official announcement that he is running for President on April 13. Likely GOP Presidential candidate former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also took to Twitter to criticize the Obama-Castro meeting. “Obama meets with Castro but refused to meet w/ @Netanyahu,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted, referencing Obama’s refusal to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.
Critics of President Obama view his efforts to open diplomatic relations with Cuba as a last ditch effort to save his legacy. All of his other major foreign and domestic policy initiatives, including ObamaCare, comprehensive immigration reform, and nuclear diplomacy with Iran, have been colossal failures. Opening trade relations with Cuba is the only card he has left to play. He is positioning the opening of the dialogue with Cuba as way to move past 50 years of bitter rivalry and forge new economic opportunities for both Cuba and the United States. While there may be economic and cultural benefits to opening relations, the President is going about it the wrong way. He is approaching Cuban diplomacy in the same isolationist way that he approaches every other major initiative. He is making his own decisions without fully engaging Congress. First of all, we have no evidence that Cuba will stop its crimes against humanity. Secondly, the President is not fully thinking through the ramifications of lifting trade embargos with Cuba. Similar to the Iran deal, once you lift trade sanctions, you can’t easily roll them back. US businesses will be too entrenched in Cuba to easily untangle business relationships. Like Iran, the whole situation comes back to trust. Just as we don’t have any evidence to trust that Iran won’t use nuclear capability against us, we don’t have any evidence that Cuba will discontinue their crimes against humanity and adhere to the other diplomatic guidelines we impose. Following the historic meeting, Raul Castro called President Obama “a very honest man”. Let’s put this into context, our President has been described as honest by a Cuban dictator. That isn’t very reassuring. Once again, Obama is endeavoring to build his legacy by taking us down a dangerous path which threatens to undermine our national security, our economy and our rights as citizens.
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