Foreign Policy

President Obama legitimized Castro’s oppression in life and death

Anti-Castro celebration in Miami's Little Havana
Getty Images

Of all the great ironies of the Obama years, the conferring of the Nobel Peace Prize before the Oval Office drapes were hung, is one of the most puzzling. A rookie president is acclaimed by the international diplomatic community before he even has a chance to make a tough call.

Republicans do not often receive Peace Prizes. They are left with the role of addressing real threats, both cold and active, to stand up for American interests and her allies overseas, even when those allies are the common people under the boot of communism, the caliphate, or other petty tyrants. Reagan’s policies of Peace through Strength resulted in more freedom for more people than any peace awardee ever.

{mosads}And so it seems fitting that as President Barack Obama approaches his presidential expiration date, Fidel Castro simply expired. President Obama had done to the Castros what no U.S. president for the last 59 years was willing to do: he whitewashed their bloodthirsty reign of terror. And Castro ended his days legitimized by the land of the free. 

One can have a real debate over whether or not the last six decades of a hostile U.S. posture toward Cuba was wise or not, but no one should be deceived that by appeasing dictators like Castro, one also legitimizes the human rights horror story of the Castro years.

Firing squads, political repression, human deprivation have been the results, all while top government officials and the Castros lived luxurious lives in other people’s houses. When it comes to American foreign policy, the whole world is always watching and calculating, and America sent an unfortunate message to dictators and terrorists everywhere. 

During my time working for President George W. Bush I got a front row seat to dealing with the complexities of life on the island. I had no foreign policy role, but I was a conduit of information to those who did. Often what you assumed would help the situation, would actually exacerbate it. 

The Bush administration always attempted to destabilize the regime, empower dissenters and human rights activists and use the dissident community to keep pressure on for democratic reforms and free elections. 

The Bush Administration didn’t always get every nuance right and fumbled a bit, but eventually the statement from President Bush was clear: the Castro regime would receive no quarter from the American government, however the Cuban people would never be forgotten. 

Bush authorized the use of government planes to send broadcast messages to those with clandestine radios, dissidents were welcomed to the White House and every attempt was made to prevent the regime from enriching itself through tourism and propaganda.

As I woke up to the news of the long hoped for death of the 90 year-old Castro, I was fortunate to be amongst my Cuban-American wife’s family. As I explained at CPAC this year, my father-in-law spent six years in Castro’s Gulag under the direction of the younger thug brother, Raul. 

As we sat around and shared the significance of the moment, it hit me: my father-in-law, Jose Viana, had outlived the man who stole his property, his livelihood, and eventually his freedom. Castro had killed many of his friends and destroyed their dream of a good life raising kids in freedom.

Jose Viana fought back when faced with government repression and he paid a dear price. Now as an old man he can look back and take pride that when his neighbors were persecuted he took up arms to defend them and their rights.

The pain of the memories of his years in the Castro Gulag were brought back when President Obama embraced the murderous Castro brothers and failed to insist on free elections, reparations, and the return of confiscated property. President Obama did not even insist on an open apology for the decades of repression.

But that pain has now eased with the election of a new American president and the eventual realization that the era of the Castro brothers through halting breaths is drawing to a close. 

Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. He was the White House political director to President George W. Bush.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags Barack Obama Cuba dictator Fidel Castro death Havana Miami Oppression United States Washington D.C.

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