Update: I see this is now getting more coverage. Check out the Politico and the LA Times.
The Congressional Black Caucus has again sent a delegation to meet with Raul Castro and talk about the need to end the U.S. embargo on that country. And at least according to Fidel Castro, they were just as eager to apologize for America’s sins as Barack Obama has been:
Among the visitors there are opinions which are shared by all; others are personal points of view. In general, they believe that 68 per cent of the American public opinion favors a change in the policy towards Cuba.
One of them expressed that it was necessary to take advantage of this historical moment, when the presence of a black President in the White House coincides with a current of opinion that is in favor of the normalization of relations.
When Alarcón explained that the removing Cuba from the list of terrorist States -where it has been arbitrarily included – was a moral duty, he was reminded that both Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were labeled as terrorist by the US Congress…
Another representative explained Obama’s great significance for the United States and the need for him to be re-elected. He said that the President believes himself a political leader who should govern for all social sectors of the country. Nevertheless, he said he was sure that Obama will change the policy towards Cuba, but Cuba should also help him.
A fourth member of the Caucus said that despite Obama’s electoral victory, the American society continues to be racist. He added that Obama represented the only opportunity that nation had to move on and leave behind all the wrongdoings accumulated by former governments. He said that the President can not go beyond liberalizing travel and allowing remittances by Cuban-Americans, because proclaiming the lifting of the blockade or the full normalization of bilateral relations could mean the impossibility for him to be re-elected. Besides, he reaffirmed that the anti-Cuban right wing still has enough power to corner him and prevent his re-election.
Finally, another lawmaker frankly expressed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the United States should not lose the opportunity of recognizing that its policy towards Cuba has been an absolute failure. He added that his government should apologize to Cuba for all these years of hostility and for the blockade policy, because only then will we be in the position to move on together towards the solution of the bilateral differendum. He pointed out that, from his position, he would do whatever is possible to eliminate the blockade.
During their visit to the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Center, one of them, expressing the feelings of the rest, described as excellent the results achieved by Cuba in the field of Biotechnology, and said that at this moment, the political atmosphere was favorable to build bridges of understanding and communication between the scientific communities of our respective countries. He recommended that we should be careful and patent everything, according to the international intellectual property standards, to prevent our being robbed of the efforts that led to such a wonderful work.
All of them expressed how greatly impressed they were during the visit to the center, where the minister of Science, Technology and the Environment, together with several scientific institutions directors, explained to them about the work carried out by our country in that field.
As Dave in Texas points out, the White House has no problem with this visit, notwithstanding how it may interfere with the administrations’ effort to set policy. Perhaps this group is acting with Obama’s blessing then.
This visit calls to mind the debate during the presidential campaign over whether it made sense to engage in high-level talks with dictators. The United States should always remain open to communicating with dictatorships about how they can move toward freedom. But if there’s no willingness to reform, then the dictator only gains credibility from being engaged. And what’s more, he gains the opportunity to portray America’s views about him and his regime.
In this case, I have no idea whether the Congressional Democrats who visited Cuba really compared the Castro regime to the ANC. I don’t know if they really expressed admiration for Cuba’s tremendous scientific advances. I don’t know if they really said it was necessary for the United States to apologize to Cuba, or if they said that ‘the anti-Cuban right wing’ would defeat Obama in 2012 if he fully lifted the embargo. Looking at the delegation, it’s entirely possible. Or Castro may be making it all up in order to elevate himself in the eyes of an oppressed populace.
A wise U.S. policy would make clear to the people of Cuba that we want better for them than what they suffer now. That message is impossible to get across if we allow Fidel Castro to act as our spokesperson. But apparently Democrats in Congress think much more highly of him.