Friday, March 25, 2016
Billy Long: I will oppose any action to tie American dollars to Cuban oppression
President Obama traveled to Havana, Cuba, this month to meet with President Raúl Castro and other Cuban leaders, marking the first time in almost nine decades that our two nations’ leaders have stood side-by-side in a diplomatic effort. To the Cuban people, President Obama remarked that he’d “come to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.” However, frictions of the past cannot – and should not – be buried at all if doing so emboldens Cuban leaders’ continued disregard for human rights and rejection of democratic freedom.
The only thing similar about Cuba’s brand of communism and American capitalism is their ‘ism’ suffixes. Otherwise, Cuba’s oppression of workers, systematic imprisonment of free-speaking “counterrevolutionaries,” and heavy restriction of media reporting embody the same neglect for liberty that America has justly stood against since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
Just before Air Force One touched down in Havana, more than 50 “dissident” activists were assaulted and arrested in the streets by Cuban authorities. On top of that, reports of known arbitrary detentions in Cuba jumped more than twofold last year; more than seven thousand politically motivated arrests were documented – a number estimated to be well below the true number of detainees due to Cuba’s barring human rights watchdog groups from accessing prison data.
Furthermore, Cuba’s economy clings to state ownership of industries that cater to the wants of Cuba’s military leaders and political elite, resulting in the vast industrial underdevelopment and repression of citizens found commonplace in communistic nations.
Representing Southwest Missouri, for instance, I know the importance of agriculture to America’s economy, and that the industry’s success relies heavily on the direction and expertise of entrepreneurs who run ranches and farms. But despite President Obama announcing a list of cosmetic-based agreements to ‘normalize’ our two nations’ agricultural sectors during his visit, it’s unfathomable that this administration would propose that America’s agriculturalists work toward mutual gain with Cuba’s – ultimately making every dollar of profit complicit with the repression of Cuba’s farmers.
The gap between U.S. and Cuban ideologies couldn’t have been more evident than during President Obama and Castro’s joint speeches – where Castro opened remarks with a litany of accusations and issues where the two countries would never agree. While this administration’s efforts may be in good faith, our human rights and civic freedom divides cannot be cast-aside with diplomatic press ‘avails.’
With the same lack of foresight exercised by this administration’s dealings with Iran and other world dictatorships, they’ve lifted sanctions on Cuba, have prematurely dropped them from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, and have made their capital home to a new U.S. Embassy. All of these actions only further legitimize decades of Cuba’s ruthless oppression and disregard for its citizens’ God-given rights rather than give them hope for a better future.
President Obama’s visit should have underscored President Castro’s unjust neglects through meetings with democratic activists and called for free speech. Regardless, though, until the Cuban government can prove to their people and the world that they’re committed to 21stCentury standards of dignity, I will oppose any actions that would tie the American dollar to the oppression of Cuba’s working-class citizens.