Will Obama stand for freedom or shake Castro's hand?
Back in October 1981, President Lopez-Portillo of Mexico put together a "North-South" summit in Cancún, or a meeting between industrialized and third-world nations. It was intended to promote communications and hopefully more trade.
President Reagan made it very clear to Mexico: I stay home if Castro comes!
It was a clear signal that President Reagan understood that free markets and the rule of law were fundamental to creating prosperity in the Third World.
In the end, Reagan came, and Castro didn't.
The meeting was held, and President Reagan made two important points:
1) There is no room in a modern world for despots like Fidel Castro.
2) Meeting one-on-one with the president of the U.S. is not cheap.
President Obama will be in Panama in a couple of days, and even The Washington Post is disappointed:
PRESIDENT OBAMA’s move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba in December was supposed to improve political and economic conditions for average Cubans and remove an irritant in U.S. relations with other Latin American nations, which have been pushing to end the isolation of the Castro regime. Four months later — a short time, admittedly — there is no sign of those benefits. According to Cuban human rights groups, political detentions have increased: There were more than 600 in March alone. More than 50 long-term political prisoners are still being held. Several Cuban opposition leaders are banned from leaving the country, which means they cannot attend this week’s Summit of the Americas in Panama.
U.S. and Cuban officials have yet to agree on the terms for reopening embassies. But the Castro regime has nevertheless reaped some substantial gains. Raúl Castro will be welcomed to the Americas summit for the first time; Mr. Obama will shake his hand. In the coming days, Mr. Obama is likely to offer another big concession by removing Cuba from the State Department’s list of sponsors of terrorism, an act that would disregard Cuba’s continued support for Colombia’s terrorist groups, its illegal arms trading with North Korea and the sanctuary it provides American criminalJoAnne Chesimard.
It's hard to see how the U.S., and the freedom that it represents, is winning.
Nevertheless, President Obama still has an opportunity to put the U.S. on the right side of history, or with those Latin Americans who want democracy.
He can use the summit to promote freedom and criticize authoritarian regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and Ecuador.
He could point to Brazil's economic mess and argue on behalf of free markets and less crony capitalism.
He could call for more transparency and promote a free press, especially in light of a major Mexican reporter fired for criticizing the government.
It would be a shame if the winner of this summit is Raúl Castro and anti-U.S. elements in Latin America.
So far, it looks like they are winning because President Obama does not have the stomach to stand up to thugs!
I hope that President Obama proves me wrong over the next few days! As Fausta Rodriguez Wertz wrote, no circus, please!
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