Prediction: Not enough votes to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba
Raúl Castro did not earn any goodwill with his speeches or arrests in Cuba since President Obama's announcement. On the contrary, Raul Castro's behavior is confirming that lifting the Cuba embargo without major concessions is very bad policy indeed.
Lifting the embargo will require 218 votes in the House and 60 in the U.S. Senate.
It will be hard, very hard, as Reuters/NY Times reported:
Signaling that it will continue to suppress dissent, the government of Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday detained more than 50 activists, dissident leaders said, to squelch a planned gathering in Havana's Revolution Square. And dissidents reported new detentions on Thursday.
The crackdown brought sharp condemnation from the U.S. State Department. All of those detained had been released by the weekend, dissidents said.
There is also concern over when 53 people Washington considers political prisoners will be released and on what terms. A senior Obama aide said at the time of the Dec. 17 announcement that Cuba had agreed to free them as part of the deal to restore diplomatic relations and that an unspecified number of them were already released. Raul Castro referred to Cuba’s freeing of a group of persons the U.S. “has shown interest in” as part of his announcement of the wider deal but didn’t mention a number.
But Cuban dissident groups say they believe that most of them remain in some kind of detention. The White House has steadfastly refused to release the names of the 53 and has not shared the list with the dissident groups.
A source with knowledge of the agreed prisoner release told Reuters the delay stems from lack of a final deal on where the prisoners will go - leaving for the United States or Europe, or staying in Cuba. In the past the Cuban government has preferred that such prisoners leave the country when released. But some are likely to insist on their right to stay in Cuba and continue fighting for their political rights.
The confusion over those releases and the latest dissident round-ups have provided ammunition for congressional critics of Obama's Cuba policy. Those lawmakers have said they will seek to slow or block improved ties with Havana.
"The Castro regime's latest acts of repression against political dissidents in Cuba make a mockery of President Obama's new U.S.-Cuba policy," said Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and a potential 2016 presidential candidate. "The fact that the regime continues to violate the human rights of Cubans like this shows that it has even less incentive to change its ways" after Obama's deal with Castro, Rubio said.
It's hard to see how Congress, specially a U.S. House with almost 250 GOP members, will agree to lifting the embargo without a bit more from Cuba than "Thank you Obama."
Once again, we ask a simple question: why didn't the Obama administration get some significant concessions before the public announcement? It's obvious to anyone that President Obama rushed to a deal without taking into account that he had to hear what Congress had to say about it.