President Obama Is Wrong on Cuba

Yesterday President Obama said that the U.S. was prepared to change U.S. policies toward Cuba, including the U.S. embargo, if Cuba takes steps to open up to democracy and human rights and releases political prisoners.[1]

This U.S. position is wrong.[2]

First, the U.S. does not have any right to impose such pre-conditions on the mere willingness to begin discussions on addressing the many differences that have arisen between the two countries over the last half century. Moreover, in my opinion, it is contrary to the U.S. national interest to do so.

Second, the minor premise of this U.S. position is erroneous. Cuba in fact already is taking steps to  make these changes.

Cuba, pursuant to an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church, has released many political prisoners over the last couple of years. Cuba also is taking steps to open up its economy to more private enterprise. These changes are not happening as fast as many people hope for, but as President Obama has discovered, change is not easy, it takes a lot of work.

Third, Cuba recently reiterated its desire and interest in having normal relations with the U.S. and mentioned specific problems on which the two countries should be able to work together fairly quickly. All the U.S. needs to do is to reciprocate with a stated willingness to start the necessary negotiations.[3]

I have been, and continue to be, a strong supporter of President Obama. But his recent statements about our relations with Cuba are wrong. The U.S. needs to change its policies and approach toward Cuba.

[1] Reuters, Cuba Must Reform Before U.S. Eases Stance: Obama, N. Y. Times (Sept. 29, 2011); White House Blog, What you Missed: President Obama’s Open for Questions Roundtable (Sept. 28, 2011),

[2] See Post: The Ridiculous U.S. Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor” of Terrorism” (May 20, 2011); Post: U.S. Repeats Its Ridiculous Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor” of Terrorism” (Aug. 21, 2011); Post: The U.S. Should Pursue Reconciliation with Cuba (May 21, 2011); Post: Commutation and Release of Convicted “Spies”

(Sept. 24, 2011).

[3] Associated Press, Cuba Seeks Normalization With US, N.Y. Times (Sept. 26, 2011); Archibold, Cuban Minister Leaves a Door Open to American’s Release, N.Y. Times (Sept. 26, 2011); Post: Roots of Hope for U.S.-Cuba Relations (Sept. 27, 2011).


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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

3 thoughts on “President Obama Is Wrong on Cuba”

  1. Comment: Obama and Romney Out of Touch on Cuba

    As previously noted, President Obama recently said that the U.S. would not change its policies toward Cuba until Cuba had demonstrated a genuine spirit of transformation. I have said why I think the President is wrong on this position. (Post: President Obama Is Wrong on Cuba (Sept. 29, 2011).)

    The Washington Office on Latin America concurs in my criticism. It says, “Cuba, in the last eighteen months, has released all of its prisoners of conscience and has launched a set of economic reforms–however imperfect their implementation–are moving the country toward a mixed economy with a dynamic private sector. In fact, Cuba’s government has begun a process of decentralization of governmental decision-making that will give local governments more power, and more participatory spaces. To ignore these changes is to set the bar almost impossibly high. The President’s position continues to make the United States irrelevant to the real process of change that is going on in Cuba.
    . . .[I]f anyone is failing to change, it is the U.S.” (Thale, Obama and Romney Out of Touch on Cuba, (Oct. 13, 2011).)

    WOLA was also critical of recent comments on Cuba by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Id.)

  2. Comment: U.S. Church Leaders Call for U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation

    On December 2nd leaders of the U.S. National Council of Churches concluded a five-day visit to Cuba. On behalf of the U.S. organization, they joined with Cuban Council of Churches leaders in a joint declaration that stated,“Together, we affirm the importance of living in hope, but also to demonstrate the credibility of our hope by acting to help make it so.”

    Therefore, they committed themselves “to promote, even more vigorously, the relationship between our churches and church and ecumenical councils, and to advocate, even more assertively, for the normalization of relations between our countries. Such commitment, we confess, is a response to the One who has bound us to one another (e.g., Ephesians 4:6) and sent us forth to be ambassadors of God’s reconciling love.”

    According to the declaration, the following three “humanitarian issues” were at the top of the list for advancing such reconciliation:
    1. the 53-year-old U.S. economic embargo of Cuba that dates back to the administration of President John F. Kennedy. The embargo is “the major obstacle to the resolution of differences, to economic interaction, and to fuller engagement of our peoples and churches.”
    2. the U.S. imprisonment of the ‘Cuban Five,’ “whose sentences in 1998 have been deemed unjust by numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations;” and
    3. the two-year Cuban incarceration of U.S. citizen Alan Gross.

    The U.S. National Council of Churches is a Christian ecumenical organization of a wide spectrum of 38 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical , historic African-American and Living Peace communions and denominations. Collectively they have over 45 million members in more than 100,000 local congregations.

    (Nat’l council of Churches News, Visit to Cuba’s council of churches by U.S. ecumenical leaders concludes with a joint declaration celebrating signs of unity (Dec. 7, 2011).)

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