Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams writes: “Why is the President visiting, given the lack of change? Because he cannot resist the photo op with Fidel Castro. It’s as simple as that.” He points out that the president won’t be permitted to meet with dissidents:
The Cuban regime . . . [knows] that Obama is dying to make this trip and get his photo with Fidel, and that gives the police state the upper hand — just as it did throughout the Obama negotiations with Cuba.Yes, the trip could be salvaged — if Obama had a “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” moment. Yes, if he directly demanded free elections, and an end to the one-party rule, and free expression, and free trade unions, and demanded that every single political prisoner be released immediately.This visit is about the President’s vanity and search for a legacy, not about freedom and human rights for the people of Cuba. And that’s a disgrace.
It is also part of a pattern in the president’s treatment of the world’s worst human rights abusers — North Korea, Iran, Syria and Russia — that in the guise of “engaging” them or “welcoming them into the community of nations” the president again and again refuses to stand up for dissidents, democracy advocates and religious objectors. To the contrary, he rewards their oppressors, giving them international legitimacy and demoralizing their victims.
Congress cannot stop him from going, but both houses should pass resolutions of disapproval, making it crystal clear that they do not share the president’s disregard for the victims of oppression.
UPDATE: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has sent a letter to the president urging him to reconsider. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has released a statement chastising the president for the trip, which reads in part: “It is totally unacceptable for the President of the United States to reward a dictatorial regime with an historic visit when human rights abuses endure and democracy continues to be shunned. . . . To this day, we have not seen one substantial step toward transparent democratic elections, improved human rights, freedom of assembly, or the ability to form independent political parties and trade unions in Cuba.”