Washington Post: Our 54-year-old Cuba policy was about to work, we swear!

The paper's editorial board says the collective punishment must continue

Published December 18, 2014 7:12PM (EST)

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Cuba's President Raul Castro       (Desmond Boylan / Reuters)
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Cuba's President Raul Castro (Desmond Boylan / Reuters)

The Washington Post editorial board came out swinging against the Obama administration's rapprochement with Cuba on Thursday, assailing the administration for granting a "comprehensive bailout" to the regime of President Raul Castro.

Under a deal negotiated over the past 18 months and announced on Wednesday, the U.S. and Cuba will establish full diplomatic relations, the U.S. will loosen travel and investment restrictions on Cuba, and Cuba's status as a state sponsor of terrorism will be reviewed. Additionally, Cuba freed a U.S. intelligence agent in exchange for three Cuban spies held in the U.S. Cuba also released U.S. Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross, who had been held for five years, on humanitarian grounds.

The deal does not fully repeal the 54-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba; repeal would require congressional approval. But the Post denounced the changes unveiled yesterday in withering terms, asserting that the U.S. policy of collective punishment was really on the cusp of working -- any day now! Here's the Post editorial board:

IN RECENT months, the outlook for the Castro regime in Cuba was growing steadily darker. The modest reforms it adopted in recent years to improve abysmal economic conditions had stalled, due to the regime’s refusal to allow Cubans greater freedoms. Worse, the accelerating economic collapse of Venezuela meant that the huge subsidies that have kept the Castros afloat for the past decade were in peril. A growing number of Cubans were demanding basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly.

The Post went on to argue that contrary to President Obama's hopes, the diplomatic and economic opening with Cuba will not lead to greater freedom for the island's citizens. Fair enough; unless you adhere to the Whiggish view that inexorable progress toward ever-increasing liberty and enlightenment is foreordained, then there's no reason to see a flourishing liberal democracy as inevitable in Cuba or anywhere else where democracy hasn't taken root. Of course, the Post doesn't explain how a continued U.S. stranglehold on Cuba would have fostered more freedom, given that the embargo has failed to achieve that objective for more than a half-century now. All the Post tells us is that a "growing number of Cubans" are starting to demand "basic human rights" -- a statement that could also have been made at the time of the Bay of Pigs.

Moreover, a lack of human rights hasn't hindered the U.S. from maintaining ties with such regimes as those in China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Would the Post have the U.S. review its relations with those countries, too? Nor did egregious human rights violations stop the U.S. from propping up right-wing authoritarian regimes during the Cold War. Ah, but those murderous regimes were anti-Communist, which, for the Post's purposes, merited U.S. support.

Take the Post editorial board's reaction to the 2006 death of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose regime murdered or disappeared an estimated 3,216 people and subjected more than 38,000 political prisoners to confinement and torture. Sure, the Post acknowledged, Pinochet committed some "evil" deeds, but the paper lauded him for his pro-corporate policies. (Memo to the Post editorial board: iron rule combined with corporatism typically goes by the name "fascism.")

"To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle," the Post gushed.

The Post credited Pinochet's free market policies for Chile's eventual transformation into a democracy -- which makes all the more puzzling the Post's opposition to a policy that would more fully integrate Cuba into the global economy.

The Post's latest editorial will likely provide further ammunition for congressional hawks railing against the Cuba détente. Ultimately, however, it only exposes the logical and moral bankruptcy of their position.

By Luke Brinker

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