by Dish Staff
Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the [senior administration officials] said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.
President Obama is also set to announce a major loosening of travel and economic restrictions in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.
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.
But Phillip Peters notes that the US political climate has been changing:
As recently as 2000, Cuban Americans broke three-to-one for Republicans in Presidential elections, but no more. In 2012, exit polls showed them splitting 50-50 between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. Considering that the president had mildly liberalized Cuba policies in his first term and Governor Romney was calling for a return to President Bush’s hardline policies, this was a shocking result.
But it was not a fluke: it reflects changing policy preferences in a Cuban-American community increasingly populated by younger generations and more recent immigrants. A 2014 Florida International University (FIU) poll showed that for the first time since its surveys began in 1991, a majority of Cuban Americans, 52 percent, wants to end the embargo. (During the 1990s, five FIU polls showed average 85 percent support for the embargo.) Among those under age 30, 62 percent want to end the embargo and 88 percent want to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Havana.
Larison believes a shift is long overdue:
Normalizing relations with Cuba shouldn’t be seen as a “reward” for the regime. It is the removal of a barrier that has been senselessly maintained for more than five decades. If anyone is being punished by the embargo, it is the people in America and Cuba that would otherwise have productive commercial and cultural exchanges. The U.S. gains nothing by persisting in the embargo. On the contrary, it needlessly alienates Latin American governments and puts the U.S. in the absurd position of defending a Cold War relic. Normalization is twenty years overdue, and nothing will be gained by delaying it any longer.
David Graham notes Republican opposition to normalizing relations:
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whose parents were born in Cuba and moved to the United States, has opposed looser travel restrictions. Senator Ted Cruz, another Republican whose father was born in Cuba, also opposes lifting the embargo.
Earlier this month, Jeb Bush, the Republican former Florida governor who on Tuesday announced that he’s “actively exploring” a presidential bid, said, “I would argue that, instead of lifting the embargo, we should consider strengthening it.” As proof that the embargo’s backers aren’t ready to surrender, the Miami Herald reported that “the crowd of donors, the backbone of Cuba’s exiled elite, applauded loudly” when Bush made that proposal. But their view looks more beleaguered than ever today.
And Morrissey wonders how this will play out politically:
This abrupt change will make Florida a very interesting place for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The Cuban exile community has been firm about playing tough against the Castros, but the younger generation may be moving away from that policy. We’ll see.