This op-ed first appeared on Time.com on Dec. 18, 2014
By U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz
In July 2013, I had the opportunity to speak with two prominent Cuban dissidents, Elizardo Sanchez and Guillermo Farinas. Both men had been supporters of the Castros—Sanchez as an academic, Farinas as a soldier—but had come to realize the real brutal, authoritarian nature of their Communist regime. Farinas, for example, spoke of the moment of clarity he had the first time he read Animal Farm during the 1980s, in Russian because he was in the Soviet Union receiving specialized military training.
Sanchez and Farinas painted a grim picture of life in Cuba, which they said had become “a big jail” since 1959. They described how the Castros have a comprehensive apparatus of oppression that exploits economic control, political repression, and propaganda to control each and every Cuban citizen. Growing up in Cuba, they said, meant choosing between becoming part of the repression, pretending to be mentally ill, abandoning your homeland, or confronting the regime, in which case you risked being killed, jailed, or beaten.
My family knows this hard truth about Cuba all too well. My father was imprisoned and tortured by Batista, and my aunt was imprisoned and tortured by Castro. Both fled for America and for freedom.
According to Sanchez and Farinas, Raul and Fidel Castro remain the implacable enemies of the United States. They are constantly thinking of ways to harm America—they are evil, and we cannot make a deal with an evil regime. The goal of the Castros, they explained, was to copy “Putinismo,” or the tricks and deceptions the Russian strongman had used to fool the west with the appearance of change while in reality, his authoritarian government consolidated power. Farinas cautioned that the Castros would try to get the United States to finance their “Putinist project” through the relaxation of the embargo, and that we should reject any deal that did not include real political reform.
As we now know, around the time I was interviewing Sanchez and Farinas, the Obama administration was already planning a major revision of U.S. policy toward Cuba. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recounts in her recent book, Hard Choices, that she recommended this course of action around the time she left office.
But just like the recent failed outreach attempts with Russia and Iran, the administration assumed they could persuade dictatorial tyrants to put the interests of their people and the international community before their own. And so this week, President Obama announced he is unilaterally undoing more than half a century of bi-partisan U.S. policy towards Cuba and reducing economic sanctions before the Castros make a single meaningful concession.
How prophetic Sanchez and Farinas were. America is, in effect, writing the check that will allow the Castros to follow Vladimir Putin’s playbook of repression.
Ted Cruz (R) represents Texas in the U.S. Senate