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12/15/13 - Pocono Record - Why diplomacy with China, but not with Cuba? 

WASHINGTON - The memorial celebration of Nelson Mandela's life drew more
than a hundred world leaders, and among them was Raul Castro, president of
Cuba and brother of Fidel. Like President Obama, Castro was invited by the
Mandela family to deliver a eulogy, and they were seated along with the
other eulogists in the same section of the massive soccer stadium. As Obama
made his way to the podium to speak, he shook everyone's hand, including

Cameras clicked and flashed, and for some the world stopped as the two
presidents briefly clasped hands and exchanged pleasantries before Obama
moved on. Florida Republican Ileana Ros Lehtinen, whose family fled from
Cuba, called the handshake "especially nauseating" because it took away
attention from the plight of Cuban dissidents. She said she hoped it would
not lead to any change in policy by the administration.

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., went farther, raising the specter of
appeasement. "Why should you shake hands with someone who's keeping
Americans in prison? I mean, what's the point? Neville Chamberlain shook
hands with Hitler." Comparisons with Hitler are never wise, and cable news
channels ran footage of McCain warmly greeting Libyan dictator Muammar
Ghadaffi, who in 1988 had given the order to shoot down an American
airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said the handshake was an
unplanned encounter, and that no policy shifts should be read into it. He
added that the administration has grave concerns about human rights abuses
in Cuba. American contractor Alan Gross has been held in Cuba since
December 2009, charged and convicted of alleged spying. Gross was working
on development assistance for AID, delivering satellite phones and
computers to the Jewish community in Cuba. His case has incensed both
Cuban-Americans and Jewish Americans.

Any issues having to do with Cuba are so politically inflammatory that most
politicians steer clear whenever they can. But when you put politics aside
and step back, there is no rational reason why the U.S. continues to treat
Cuba as a pariah nation. Is Cuba's record on human rights worse than
China's? No, yet we opened up diplomatic relations with China when Richard
Nixon was in the White House, and all but the most doctrinaire
conservatives applauded President Nixon for his geo-political vision.

The phrase, Nixon goes to China, endures today as a signifier of a bold
policy move from an unexpected quarter. When Nixon flew to China, he should
have opened the door to Cuba too and let the Cold War dominoes fall. If he
had done that, Americans and Cubans today would be interacting the way we
do with other people under totalitarian rule. We would talk, visit, and
trade while simultaneously working to democratize.

Vietnam, a country we fought a war over and where we inflicted such
devastation, is now a tourist destination for Americans. It still has a
Communist government, and that doesn't seem to bother anyone. Why does Cuba
continue to be a remnant of Cold War thinking when we've moved on in so
many other ways with China, and with Vietnam?

Florida politics is what it's all about. If Al Gore hadn't sided with the
Cuban government in wanting a young boy named Elian Gonzales returned home
after the boat carrying him and his mother capsized, and his mother
drowned, Gore might have carried Florida and become president. Obama has
run his last campaign for election, and if anyone is in a position to lift
the U.S. embargo on Cuba, it's Obama.

But he can't do it alone; he needs Congress. Obama has eased restrictions
on travel, and if relations were normalized, Cubans could freely leave the
island, which they are unable to do now. But lifting the embargo would
require a change in law, and Congress is of no mind to take that kind of

It's too bad Nixon didn't act when he had the chance. After all, why China
and not Cuba?

Original Source / Fuente Original:


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