Commentary Magazine


Topic: Havana

Cuban Democracy on Hold

It’s getting hard to remember the days when liberals like the late Rep. Tom Lantos took human rights and democracy promotion seriously. This report tells us that Sen. John Kerry — the often unofficial secretary of state — “has put a temporary hold on U.S. Cuba democracy assistance programs, aides confirm, while the State Department conducts a review of the programs and the committee investigates their effectiveness.” The ostensible trigger for all of this and the cessation of our democracy efforts was the Cubans’ snatching of Alan Gross, detained and held in Cuba for distributing “telecommunications equipment to Cuba’s Jewish community.” It remains unclear why this has prompted a soul-searching about whether democracy promotion, conducted by administrations of both parties, should come to a halt. But the Leftist antipathy to such efforts is revealed by a blind quote from a “former official” (who sounds rather like Wayne S. Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, who now has a cottage industry in hawking for full normalization without any democratizing by the Castro regime):

“These are counterproductive programs,” said one former senior State Department official who managed Cuba policy. “The best way for the U.S. government to help the Castro government is to be seen both within Cuba and internationally as trying to subvert it.”

Such programs “are completely ineffective coming from the U.S.,” the former official said. They are done in a “ham-handed” way that is ineffectual and causes a backlash against the civil society activists they intend to support.

Yes, heavens forbid we should seek to undermine a loathsome Communist dictatorship. One wonders if democracy advocates rotting in Cuban prisons share this former official’s disdain for subverting the thugocracy. We’ll see what the review turns up, but given the Obami’s general distaste for rocking the boat of any dictatorship, don’t be surprised if these programs vanish for good — or until a new administration less disdainful of our role in democracy and human-rights promotion and less enamored of engaging the world’s bullies takes office.

It’s getting hard to remember the days when liberals like the late Rep. Tom Lantos took human rights and democracy promotion seriously. This report tells us that Sen. John Kerry — the often unofficial secretary of state — “has put a temporary hold on U.S. Cuba democracy assistance programs, aides confirm, while the State Department conducts a review of the programs and the committee investigates their effectiveness.” The ostensible trigger for all of this and the cessation of our democracy efforts was the Cubans’ snatching of Alan Gross, detained and held in Cuba for distributing “telecommunications equipment to Cuba’s Jewish community.” It remains unclear why this has prompted a soul-searching about whether democracy promotion, conducted by administrations of both parties, should come to a halt. But the Leftist antipathy to such efforts is revealed by a blind quote from a “former official” (who sounds rather like Wayne S. Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, who now has a cottage industry in hawking for full normalization without any democratizing by the Castro regime):

“These are counterproductive programs,” said one former senior State Department official who managed Cuba policy. “The best way for the U.S. government to help the Castro government is to be seen both within Cuba and internationally as trying to subvert it.”

Such programs “are completely ineffective coming from the U.S.,” the former official said. They are done in a “ham-handed” way that is ineffectual and causes a backlash against the civil society activists they intend to support.

Yes, heavens forbid we should seek to undermine a loathsome Communist dictatorship. One wonders if democracy advocates rotting in Cuban prisons share this former official’s disdain for subverting the thugocracy. We’ll see what the review turns up, but given the Obami’s general distaste for rocking the boat of any dictatorship, don’t be surprised if these programs vanish for good — or until a new administration less disdainful of our role in democracy and human-rights promotion and less enamored of engaging the world’s bullies takes office.

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