In his first column of the new year Charles Krauthammer writes on the lopsided deal Obama got in re-establishing ties with Cuba:
If Obama insisted on giving away the store, why not at least do it item by item? We relax part of the embargo in return for, say, Internet access. And tie further normalization to serial relaxations of police-state repression.It's the same negotiating tactic Obama is trying with Iran. Lovely!
From Cuba, Obama didn’t even get a token gesture. Not even a fig leaf such as, say, withdrawal of secret police support in Venezuela. Or extradition of American criminals now fugitive in Cuba, including a notorious cop killer. Did we even ask?
Obama seems to believe that the one-way deal was win-win. A famous victory — the Cuba issue is now behind us. A breakthrough.
Indeed it is. You know how to achieve a breakthrough in tough negotiations? Give everything away. Try it. You’ll have a deal by noon. Every time.
But I have to disagree with Krauthammer. This deal is worse than nothing. It may actually set back the slow course of human rights and democracy in Cuba. Here's the latest from an editorial in the Miami Herald:
Last week, a few courageous Cubans decided to test the intentions of the regime by attempting to carry out an “open mic” performance in Havana's Revolution Square. Led by Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who splits her time between Havana and the United States, the plan was to ask citizens to speak about their visions for the country.I can't wait to see what fresh new hell Obama dreams up in negotiations with Iran!
It was plainly a basic act of self-expression, the sort of thing that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow elsewhere —but is disallowed in police states like Cuba.
The plan never got off the ground. Ms. Bruguera and some 50 like-minded Cubans were arrested before the event could take place. Some, like journalist Reinaldo Escobar, husband of prominent dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez, were stopped by state security before they could leave their homes.
Two days later, Ms. Bruguera was arrested (again) along with several other dissidents after they went to a jail demanding the release of government opponents rounded up in the earlier crackdown.