Well-intentioned supporters of Obama's Cuba policy, who believed it was aimed at bringing freedom and democracy to the Cuban people, are getting a rude awakening.
Noting the economic collapse of Cuba's neo-colony in Venezuela, renowned scholar Prof. Walter Russell Mead writes in The American Interest:
"[Venezuela's economic collapse], not White House diplomatic brilliance, is why the Castro brothers opened the door a crack to the U.S. In other words, the Castros need more Yankee tourists to drink Rum and Coca Cola. There was never any intention to accelerate political or economic change. The whole point of opening up was to avoid change [...]
That the Obama White House thinks that a deal with Castro under the circumstances is a diplomatic victory and a trophy to go in the trophy case is not a mark of wisdom—though one can hope that the people who arranged it are smart enough to know that, and are only making a big deal out of it because of all the ageing hippies and Sandernistas out there who will hail this as a glorious victory for working people everywhere."
In other words, it's all about regime survival.
Of course, these supporters had always been fooling themselves, as Obama himself stated during his December 17th, 2014 remarks -- "it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse."
(Ironically, one of Obama's concerns at the time was a migration crisis, though it has been his new policy that has now sparked the worst Cuban migration crisis in decades.)
Now Prof. Russell Mead and others argue for "realpolitik" -- a return to the policies of the 20th century whereby the U.S. fêted Latin American dictators for the sake of a "soft-landing" -- short-term stability over long-term democracy.
This is the corner that Obama has backed us into.
Sadly, it comes at a great cost.
A recent study published by the CATO Institute that looks back at 25-years of reforms in ex-Communist countries concluded:
"True enough, 'big-bang' reforms were often chaotic and led to an increase in corruption. But, after 25 years, it is obvious that countries, which adopted extensive reforms early on, performed much better than countries that adopted a more gradual approach. The former grew richer and more democratic, while, at the same time, experiencing less impoverishment and a smaller increase in income inequality.
The latter performed worse in all relevant measures of economic, social and democratic performance. That is because post-communist governments were captured by special interests that were interested in rent-seeking, not economic and political reforms. These findings are crucial, because of the continued misperception that rapid transition from communism to capitalism has caused untold human suffering in ex-communist countries. They might also be of benefit to future reformers in countries from Cuba and Venezuela to Zimbabwe and North Korea."
For the sake of his legacy, Obama is making the long road to Cuban freedom much longer and more painful.