Obama's legacy in the Americas will not be his diplomatic recognition of Cuba's dictatorship.
His legacy in the Americas will be the death of the Inter-American Charter, which stands as the most dramatic geopolitical consequence of his irresponsible Cuba policy.
Ironically, Obama's favorite talking point is that his new Cuba policy has removed a "hindrance" in our regional diplomacy. Yet, in 2011, 34-out-of-35 nations in the Western Hemisphere made a transformational commitment to representative democracy.
Cuba was not a "hindrance" to that unprecedented diplomatic breakthrough. Cuba was an anomaly. Today, Obama has made Cuba -- and the dictatorships it represents -- the new "normal."
Hence the militarization (with Cuban support) of Venezuela's regime and this week's parliamentary coup in Nicaragua.
Of course, this was entirely predictable. So please pardon the repetition.
Below is an excerpt from the March, 25, 2014 testimony by CHCEditor Mauricio Claver-Carone before the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives:
Autocracy v. Democracy in Latin America
"[I]t's essential that the United States lead the region's defense, promotion and application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter ('Charter'). Otherwise, it will become irrelevant.
The authoritarian ambitions of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega are no secret.
What has inhibited them -- thus far -- is the institutionalization of representative democracy as the backbone of hemispheric relations, as was agreed upon in the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter signed by 34 of the 35 countries of the Western Hemisphere. To skirt the Charter, they try to manipulate laws and institutions and exert greater executive control while maintaining a facade of democracy.
The biggest deterrent to breaking their public commitments to representative democracy has been the omnipresent economic isolation of Cuba as the result of U.S. sanctions. These leaders are keenly aware that they need the United States to survive economically. For example, Venezuela is entirely dependent on exporting oil to -- and importing gas from -- the United States. Thus U.S. sanctions on Cuba serve as 'the stick' to 'the carrot' of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and obeisance, if not enforcement, of its principles.
It's precisely the authoritarian underbelly of these Latin American leaders that makes them such zealous lobbyists for the end of U.S. sanctions on Cuba. It's for this reason that they want to see the Castro regime embraced despite its blatant disregard for representative democracy. Such a U.S. policy change would allow them to accelerate their own authoritarian tendencies and free their zeal for absolute power.
If U.S. sanctions toward Cuba are lifted and Castro's dictatorship is embraced -- what's to keep a return to the Latin American dictatorships of the 20th Century?
The people of the Americas can’t afford a return to the dictatorships -- whether of the left or the right -- that once ruled Latin America. It would severely damage the 21st century national interests of the United States.
Sadly, plenty of Latin American 'leaders' would gladly seize the opportunity to permanently close the door on democracy.
Let’s not hand them the opportunity."
Nine months later, Obama handed them the opportunity.
(This ominous warning was also stressed in op-eds in The Huffington Post and The Miami Herald.)