Opinion: Senator Flake on US-Cuba Policy After Castro

26 November 2016
  Senator Jeff Flake
Senator Flake speaks about Fidel Castro.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today published the Medium.com op-ed below on the importance of continued U.S. engagement with the Cuban people following the death of Fidel Castro:

After more than a half century of brutal suppression, Fidel Castro is gone. Now the question is, what type of U.S. Cuba policy going forward is most likely to maximize freedom for the Cuban people? While no policy will change Cuba overnight, I believe that allowing more frequent and consequential ties between Cubans and Americans is more likely accelerate the desired change in Cuba.

Che Guevara (left) and Fidel Castro, photo by Alberto Korda

I’ve been traveling to Cuba for more than 15 years now. For roughly half of that time, the U.S. had what was described as a “get tough” policy on Cuba — restricting contact between Cubans and Americans and prohibiting commercial activities. If there was an increase in freedom for Cubans, with isolation as our lodestar, it would be tough to measure. The Cuban Government didn’t suffer. Our policy was a merely a convenient scapegoat for failed socialist policies.

In 2009, President Obama began loosening restrictions on contact between Americans and Cubans, starting with allowing Cuban Americans to visit relatives on the island and lifting caps on remittances. This was far more than a humanitarian gesture reuniting families across the Florida straits, it also allowed seed capital for entrepreneurial Cubans who were taking advantage of the Cuban Government’s loosening of restrictions on private business.

Photo by: Marcelo Montecino

The result? In just a five-year period, private sector employment in Cuba has climbed from an insignificant slice of the workforce to nearly 25 percent. As a result, scores of Cubans now enjoy increased freedom that results from significantly higher incomes and a measure of political freedom that results from decreased dependence on the communist government.

By Vandrad at the German language Wikipedia

Today there is talk that we should return to a “get tough” policy by once again by further restricting travel and commercial activity. The question that should be asked is this: Who are we getting tough with? Fidel Castro played U.S. policy like a fiddle for decades. Raul Castro, while he may lack the charisma or personality of his brother, is a pretty good fiddle player himself.

The Cuban government knows all too well how to respond to a U.S. policy of isolation, to the detriment of the Cuban people. Engagement — now that’s a get tough policy that gets tough with the right people. Let’s continue with the opening.

By Basilio - Own work

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