The Washington Post

Obama’s Cuba appeasement backfires: American Alan Gross gets 14 years

Despite the hue and cry of largely conservative critics, the Obama administration, in its never-ending quest to appease evil-doers, lifted travel restrictions on Cuba. The administration did so with no quid pro quo and no demonstration that the Castro brothers were democratizing the country or lifting their boots from the throats of the Cuban people. And what comes of that approach? The Post reported on Saturday:

Alan Gross, 61, a subcontractor on a U.S. Agency for International Development program, was found guilty of working on a “subversive” U.S.-sponsored project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist system, according to a statement read on Cuban government television, the Associated Press reported.

This should remove any question as to whether Cuba will respond to unilateral gestures. (“U.S. diplomats have warned Cuba that bilateral relations will not improve as long as Gross is detained. But the case has not stopped the Obama administration from loosening travel restrictions to the island, something supporters say will promote democracy in a more aboveboard fashion, by allowing contact between Americans and Cubans.”)

Lawmakers reacted angrily to the Cuban perfidy. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been decrying the administration’s decision to roll back sanctions, released a statement that read, in part “Earlier this week, the Obama Administration approved new expanded travel to Cuba, a state sponsor of terrorism. With Mr. Gross’ sentencing, the Castro regime has effectively demonstrated the hopeless and dangerous naiveté of this Administration’s policy toward the regime.” He also urged “President Obama and Secretary Clinton to immediately halt the issuance of new Cuba travel licenses approved this week.” Likewise House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) dubbed the sentencing “a shameless act by a desperate regime.” She thinks we’ve had quite enough appeasement of the dictatorship: “The Cuban regime is incapable of turning over a new leaf. Regardless of how the regime attempts to depict itself, we all know that behind any facade it is rotten to the core.” It is not enough to demand only Gross’s release, she counsels. The Obama administration must demand the release “of all those wrongly imprisoned in Castro’s dungeons. We must increase pressure on the regime until the basic rights, freedoms, and dignities of the Cuban people are respected.”

What are the chances of that happening? Well if the initial reaction is any indication, the answer is slim to none. The Hill reported that the national security spokesman didn’t comment, only his spokesman did: “ ‘Today’s sentencing adds another injustice to Alan Gross’s ordeal,’ National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. ‘He has already spent too many days in detention and should not spend one more. We urge the immediate release of Mr. Gross so that he can return home to his wife and family.’ ” No indication of any consequences as a result of the conviction or excoriation of the regime. My questions to Vietor were not answered. We can therefore only surmise that the White House has no game plan (not surprising) other than to mildly protest.

It was the same story at the State Department. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not speak herself. Instead another bland statement was issued. “We deplore this ruling. Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries. He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of the world. As Secretary Clinton said, Alan Gross has been unjustly jailed for far too long. We are deeply concerned about his and his family’s well being.” Deeply concerned? Again, there was no hint that the U.S. would respond with any actions. “We call on the Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally release him. To allow him to return to his family, and bring to an end the long ordeal that began well over a year ago.”

Pathetic. What could they imagine would come of such timidity? Perhaps the thinking is that if the administration is really, really nice the Cubans will let Gross go. That would be nice, but not the point. The aim here should be to reestablish credibility and end the groveling that has only emboldened the thugocracy in Cuba. But this is not an administration that alters course lightly just because facts suggest its approach is counterproductive.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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