Acquiescing to Raul Castro: Obama slams the door on Cubans fleeing Castro

By Frank Calzon

The announcement that President Barack Obama has rescinded the so-called “Dry-foot Wet-foot” policy for Cubans fleeing Castro is another example of a heartless foreign policy developed in secrecy without public discussion, and apparently without consultation with the U.S. Congress. Not even the three Cuban-American Senators seemed to have been consulted; while the White House has been negotiating for months with the Cuban dictatorship on this issue.

Raul Castro knew/knows more about Mr. Obama’s Cuba policy than the American Congress or the Cuban-American community. The announcement and the way this change has been developed is just as shameful as Mr. Obama’s earlier promises that the word “liberty” was to be central to his Cuba policy. The President’s announcement is consistent with other unfortunate decisions by this Administration. The President turned his back on desperate and suffering Cubans, just as he reneged on American support for Israel at the UN and went back on his promises to the Syrian people to take action against the Syrian dictator which has resulted in thousands of dead Syrian men, women, and children.

Now the President who has ordered cooperation between the American intelligence agencies and the Cuban spy agency and political police is counting on Raul Castro’s repressive forces to work together with Obama’s government to prevent Cubans from seeking freedom outside Cuba.

The “wet-foot dry-foot” Cuba policy is reminiscent of the “wet back” policy against Mexicans many years ago. Obama’s “new” Cuba policy  is a return to the old and discredited U.S. policy of the 1940s and 50s when Washington embraced Trujillo, Somoza, Batista and others of the same ilk, while allowing corporate interests to play an extraordinary role in determining U.S. policy.

While the White House claims that the announcement means Cubans will be handled like any other people trying to arrive in the United States, the President is ignoring the Cuban Adjustment Act. Mr. Obama’s administration is going rogue in its disregard for the law, the Constitution, the separation of powers, as well as the American people’s commitment to freedom.

By taking this action when he did, at the request of General Raul Castro, the President makes more difficult the work of the incoming Trump administration. Cubans will continue to flee tyranny, seeking to live under the rule of law and in a country where their human rights will be respected and where their hard work would end the food shortages and abusive labor practices that they have endured for more than 50 years. Their desire for better living conditions for their families is not different than the aspirations of Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and others. The absence of a Mexican/Salvadorian/Guatemalan “adjustment act” has not prevented millions from coming to the United States.

Mr. Obama has forgotten his pronouncements in the early days of his Administration that “liberty and human rights” were to be central to any of his initiatives towards Cuba. The words “liberty,” and “human rights” are notably absent from Washington’s public announcements this week.    

In the very near future, as it has happened in the past, the Cuban regime will test the Trump administration. Mr. Obama’s actions acquiescing to Havana’s requests will make Mr. Trump’s responsibilities more difficult than they need to be.

Frank Calzon
Executive Director
Center for a Free Cuba