Rubio, banned from Nicaragua, doubles down on Obama’s Cuba move

Small houses in Cuba

Small houses near the entrance of the Ernest Hemingway house in Havana, Cuba. (Carol M. Highsmith Collection; LOC; 2010)

As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) criticized President Barack Obama’s new policy towards Cuba, few media mentioned Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega had already banned the senator for the bill imposing sanctions on Venezuela. 

Most who value human rights would consider being banned by Ortega an honor. Rubio wasn’t exactly planning to vacation in Nicaragua anyway. Ortega was just seizing a photo-op to show support for his fellow oppressors.

Considering the economic turmoil in countries like Venezuela and Cuba, it’s hard to understand why the US president would concede anything to the Castro regime. “Progressive” media defended Obama’s latest unilateral move, but that makes little sense either.

Cuba long relied on Russia for economic help, especially for defense purposes. Once the Soviet Union disintegrated, Russia could no longer provide generous assistance and the relationship between the two countries cooled. Russia has now sealed a new national security arrangement with Cuba, but Russia has problems of her own.

Declining oil prices and the customary pains of any economy controlled by a government’s political class have destabilized the Russian ruble. The volatility created panic-buying by Russia consumers.

Meanwhile in Venezuela, the legacy of now-dead Hugo Chavez’s 21st century socialism has levied hardship on the populace as current president and Chavez clone Nicolas Maduro struggles to deal with inflation there. Venezuela had been gifting Cuba with 100,000 barrels of oil a day, according to a policy director at the Council of the Americas. That isn’t likely to continue.

Thus, we have Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela in a bind. That would suggest a position of strength for the United States, yet our president asked for nothing in return for easing relations between Cuba and the US.

Pundits seem to think Obama’s decision was sudden. It wasn’t. After Democrats took control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to Cuba in April, 2009. Caucus members supported a change in policy, with one complaining about people “who come to the table with Cold War ideas.”

CBC members brought back fantasy tales likely spawned by photo ops. Media reported the children eat ice cream and wear shoes in Cuba. Former Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.)—she was run out of Congress by her own party over corruption—even declared she was going to introduce legislation to have “REAL history in our history books.”

As CBC members touted the wellbeing of people in a country where you can go to prison for dissing the dictator, none other than Fidel Castro wrote about the caucus’ trip in GRANMA, a publication not known for freedom of expression in Cuba. Castro said one member of the caucus told him the US is “still racist.” Another said Obama couldn’t normalize relations with Cuba because the president would lose a bid for reelection. Castro also said a caucus member “confirmed that the anti-Cuban right wing” held enough power to prevent Obama’s reelection.

Talk to anyone who has actually lived in Cuba or who has relatives in Cuba, and you will see why it is totally ridiculous for Fidel Castro to bring up racism. Cuba still has serious racial issues—communism didn’t work out well for the downtrodden. It never does, and nor does its kissing cousin socialism.

Rubio, talking to Sean Hannity, doubled down on his criticism of Obama’s decision on Cuba:

“[I]t sets back democratic progress. Put yourself, for a moment, in the place of an activist, or a dissident on the island of Cuba who has made it their life purpose to condemn what the Castro regime is doing. And now here comes the U.S., under Barack Obama, and basically embraces that government and has said […] in return for this embrace, we’re not asking them to treat you any better.”

As US “progressive” media praise Obama for changing policy on Cuba, realistic reportage is missing because journalists have no freedom in that country. One reporter, however, took risks the rest of his colleagues were afraid to take. Michael J. Totten traveled there, but not in an official capacity, to get a look at the “Havana that tourists never see.” The Congressional Black Caucus didn’t see it either.

Totten wrote:

“Leftists often talk about ‘food deserts’ in Western cities, where the poor supposedly lack options to buy affordable and nutritious food. If they want to see a real food desert, they should come to Havana.”

Rubio’s criticism of President Obama’s policy change should have drawn questions from media regarding the why of the matter. Instead, media focused only on Rubio’s criticism.

Meanwhile, Cuba now is far different from pre-Castro Cuba. Totten said, “’Contrary to the myth spread by the revolution,’ wrote Alfred Cuzan, a professor of political science at the University of West Florida, ‘Cuba’s wealth before 1959 was not the purview of a privileged few. . . . Cuban society was as much of a middle-class society as Argentina and Chile.’ In 1958, Cuba had a higher per-capita income than much of Europe.’“

Some influential Democrats have also criticized Obama for the policy change.

Featured Photo: Small houses near the entrance of the Ernest Hemingway house in Havana, Cuba. (Carol M. Highsmith Collection; LOC; 2010)

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Dec. 18, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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