South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
The Bush administration says its new policy measures will put pressure on Cuba’s recalcitrant Communist dictatorship to change its ways, but history suggests they might instead result in more people fleeing Cuba to the United States.
The policy changes are the result of a report handed to the White House last week by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba appointed by President Bush to review U.S. policy. Rather than increase U.S. influence on the island, some of the proposals would distance Cubans from American ideas and influence.
They ban Cuban-Americans from visiting relatives in Cuba more than once every three years, and reduce by two-thirds the number of dollars they can spend there. A separate rule restricts remittances, the money Cuban-Americans and others send to family and friends in Cuba. Now, only members of the immediate family can receive remittances.
The measures would impede Cubans’ ability to get aid from abroad even as the Cuban government is reportedly cracking down on self-employment. All this helps increase dependency on Fidel Castro’s repressive state, not lessen it.
The economic failures and repressive nature of Cuba’s Communist system leave Cubans few alternatives other than to flee, mostly to South Florida.
The Bush administration has wisely warned the Castro regime not to stage another immigration crisis, like the one that resulted in the Mariel boatlift. But as both Washington and Havana put a squeeze on them, desperate Cubans may take matters into their own hands with tragic consequences.
The administration also plans to send more money to bankroll dissidents, and prohibit remittances to Cubans who are members of the Communist Party. It also plans to equip an airplane to transmit Radio and TV MartÝ broadcasts to Cuba, which could increase their reach.These proposals may have merit, but curtailing travel and remittances even to non-Communists confines American influence.
Washington should pursue policies that extend its immediate influence in Cuba. It shouldn’t wait until chaos forces changes. Castro may be living in the past, but Washington and the Cuban-American community must be forward-looking.
A sizable number of Democrats and Republicans disagree with hard-line measures, and they should speak out against the new policies. So should the more moderate factions of the Cuban-American community.
Fidel Castro’s chief goal is the same as it has been the past four decades: To stay in power until a Higher Power ends his rule. Washington should think carefully before it pursues policies that help him achieve his goal.