Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at AEI. He is the author of several books including Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes to offer his thoughts on today’s developments:
There are many aspects of this story that have not made the media. May I offer a few?
Alan Gross was hired by an AID contractor to take computers (and I believe cell phones) to the minuscule Jewish community in Cuba. My understanding is—I get this from the vice president of the contracting company—he was to be paid $250,000. for this.
Now, carrying out what was sure to be viewed as espionage by a dictatorship like Cuba is a dangerous business, so of course it had to carry a high price tag. (Whether it was worth the taxpayer’s dollar, or rather dollars, is another matter, and not a small one.) Gross took the wager and lost.
For years now the US government and elements of the Cuban-American community (some of whom are friends of mine) decided to make the Gross case the centerpiece of our non-relationship with the Castro brothers. I thought this was wrong, but they went ahead heedlessly. The results are clear to see. Obama picked up the cord lying on the ground and yanked it.
I will not attempt to speculate on what ideological currents inspired the President to do this. In any case one does not need a Ph.D. in political science to imagine what they might be. Nor do I know what the legal aspects might turn out to be, since there is a huge amount of legislation on the books which bars Mr. Obama from doing exactly what he is planning to do.
But I cannot help commenting on another aspect. The normalization of relations with Cuba comes at precisely the moment that the Castro brothers need it the most, since their principal foreign patron, Venezuela, is running out of money because of the collapse in the world price of oil. In effect, Mr. Obama has decided to make the United States a replacement for Maduro. It couldn’t come at a better time for the Cuban regime and gives it yet another lease on life.
It seems to me entirely appropriate that John Kerry, who during his time in the Senate did all he could to help consolidate a Communist regime in Nicaragua, should be making a trip to Cuba to reopen diplomatic relations. I do not believe that Mr. Kerry believes this will lead to democracy on the island, but if he does, he is a fool, and a useful one at that.