Robert Agostinelli – response to WSJ: “Obama’s Cuban Detente”
Two articles in one day! Found another of Roberts articles on the Wall Street Journal. As the previous one, first is the actual article posted from the WSJ – followed by the response. CA
The Wall Street Journal
Obama’s Cuban Detente
New recognition for the Castros in return for two U.S. prisoners.
Dec. 17, 2014 7:29 p.m. ET
The Cuban government finally released American Alan Gross from prison on Wednesday after five harsh years, and what a haul Raul and Fidel Castro received in return: The release and repatriation of three of their spies serving life sentences in the U.S., plus the start of an American diplomatic and economic embrace that they have long sought.
Mr. Obama hailed these steps as “historic,” adding that his goal is nothing less than “to begin to normalize relations between our two countries.” In his familiar claim to superior wisdom, he assailed the “outdated” U.S. diplomatic and trade embargo and claimed that “through a policy of engagement we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century.”
We should stipulate that 20 years ago these columns called for lifting the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. We did so to assist the impoverished Cuban people and perhaps undermine the regime.
But we also stressed that “no U.S officials have to dignify Castro’s regime by sitting down at a negotiating table” with Cuban officials: “The whole point is to continue to oppose Castro’s government while allowing succor for Cuba’s people.” Mr. Obama’s approach will provide immediate succor to the Castro government in the hope of eventually helping the Cuban people.
Taken on its own the prisoner swap is defensible. Mr. Gross is 65 years old and ailing after being arrested in 2009 for providing satellite equipment to Cuba’s small Jewish community as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He should not have had to die in a Cuban dungeon.
Americas Columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady on Obama Administration’s prisoner swap and decision to normalize relations with the Castro regime. Photo credit: Getty Images.
The Castros also released a Cuban who had spied for the U.S. and had been in prison for nearly 20 years. This is a welcome case of rescuing one of our own. The Cuban government also agreed to release 53 of its political prisoners, many at U.S. request. The three Cubans the U.S. released in turn were convicted in U.S. criminal court of spying on America, but they at least served 16 years.
The problem is that wrapping the prisoner swap into a larger policy shift makes it look like Cuba’s hostage-taking of Mr. Gross paid off. All the more so because Mr. Obama is going out of his way to give formal U.S. recognition to the Castro government that remains one of the world’s most tyrannical.
The benefits for the regime from this new era are obvious. Cuba is starved for cash, and its main patron in Venezuela is teetering as oil prices fall. The country desperately needs hard currency, which is the main reason it exports its doctors to work abroad.
So the dictatorship will cheer Mr. Obama’s decision to allow greater dollar remittances to the island, as well as more opportunities for Americans to travel and invest in “humanitarian projects” and information technology, among other things.
Only Congress can fully lift the trade embargo, but with Mr. Obama’s many new loopholes, creative investors will find ways to gradually break it down. Keep in mind that the regime confiscates every dollar spent in Cuba now, while paying its workers in near-worthless pesos. The White House press release did not say that will change.
Mr. Obama is also giving U.S. companies more freedom to export telecom equipment to the island, in the name of giving ordinary Cubans the tools to communicate with the outside world. But other countries can already supply Cuba’s telecom needs. The problem is that Cuba’s police state bars private ownership and limits and monitors private communication.
The President is betting that U.S. investment will create more free space for average Cubans and eventually overwhelm the dictatorship. We hope it does, but also consider the fate of Stephen Purvis, a British real-estate developer in Cuba who was abruptly imprisoned in 2012 on dubious charges of revealing state secrets. He spent 16 months in a Cuban jail, where he says he met numerous other foreign business prisoners.
The least defensible part of Mr. Obama’s new policy is its attempt to rehabilitate Cuba as an ordinary state. The President has tasked Secretary of State John Kerry to begin talks on renewing formal diplomatic ties, and he wants “high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.”
Mr. Obama also called for a review of Cuba’s designation on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba wants off that list, though there is solid evidence that it has helped Venezuela relocate Iranian agents in the Americas.
What’s striking is how little Cuba had to do for such a major shift in U.S. policy. At least Burma’s military government released the leader of the opposition and opened up its political process before the U.S. lifted sanctions.
By offering so much for relatively little, Mr. Obama may calculate that an American gesture now will lead to a larger opening once the aging Castro brothers finally go to their eternal punishment. He may also hope that by acting now he can prepare the way for a triumphant visit to Havana before the end of his Presidency.
Mr. Obama came to office in 2009 promising a new era of engagement with U.S. adversaries, and engage he has. Perhaps his Cuban “reset” will turn out better than have his efforts with Russia, Syria, North Korea and Iran.
And now for Robert Agostinelli’s response. CA
Response to “Obama’s Cuban Detente”, WSJ December 19-21, 2014
America and Old Glory have long stood as the beacon of hope and freedom for all mankind. The torch of Liberty has remained strong and bright and was backed by our nation’s insistence that tyrants would at best be denied our fruits and at worst face our sword if they tempted fate to confront our interest.
The Castro brothers and their thugs have long battered their nation with as severe a Marxist regime as the world has known. A supporter of terrorism and global agitator from Angola to Peru they have only been slowed by the evaporation of their main patron the Soviet Union through the good graces of our own policy.
They have stridently sought league with other evil doers from North Korea, Tehran and Venezuela all enemies of nation.
Yet here is the elite sympathizer in the oval office rewriting history to suit his even more disgraceful redefinition of American values to justify embracing the same.
In the very same week where his “reset” buddy Putin spits in his eye, North Korea cyber-attacks Sony And Tehran lauds it manipulation of the nuclear negotiation, there is Obama teleprompting his world view while ignoring all reality.
What to expect from a community organizer raised in the bosom of Marx. For him Castro is a misunderstood liberator and freedom fighter whose socialist nirvana has been hampered by our repression rather than his own..
It is the hegemony of America which has created these difficulties and misunderstandings.
Once again the humbler- in-chief is making a “mea culpa ” for “our 50 years of failed policy”.
To absorb this insanity takes one’s mind around a very long bend. We should all wear Che t-shirts and insist that murderous tyranny is actually self-defense against we the aggressor imperialist state. Such is the reading according to our Lord Obama.
Robert Agostinelli – Palm Beach, Florida
About me: My name is Conrad Austin and I am a 21 year old student from Houston, Texas, studying for a Master of Science in Finance at the University of Houston. As part of a thesis I am writing - I have focused on one individual to highlight a number of aspects in a career I hope to engage in.
About Robert: Robert Agostinelli is the Managing Director at Rhône Group, Prior to co-founding Rhône, Robert Agostinelli was a Senior Managing Director at Lazard Frères & Co