U.S.-Cuba Policy Staggers from the Inept to the Pedestrian: President Obama’s Woeful Performance

Matters could not be more misspent when it comes to U.S.-Latin American relations than they have been when U.S.-Mexico policy has been in focus.  This seems to be particularly the case as of now when it was revealed that Texas hunting lands owned by the Perry family included a marker using the “n” word, which should be enough to abruptly settle the presidential campaign of Governor Perry, if good conscience is any guide. After all, a similar act of vulgarity was enough to end the promising campaign of Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour.

Further hurting matters, Governor Perry’s insignificant knowledge of Mexican taboos as part of his gringo kit of the Tex-Mex lore fell under the weight of his flimsy insights into his neighbor and completely gave way when he advocated that U.S. troops may very well be needed to be dispatched in order to aid Mexico’s war against drugs. Anyone even remotely familiar with that conflict will instantly realize how adamant Mexicans are that nothing be done on the U.S. side of the border to compromise the inviolability of Mexican sovereignty, as judged by the inhabitants of the country.

If Mexico took several disastrous hits on its ties with its U.S. neighbor, Washington’s links with Cuba also revealed their fundamental bankruptcy when President Obama continued to fumble time and again when it came to U.S.-Cuban relations. These pitfalls seemed avoidable back in the 2008 presidential elections when Obama seemed to be promising much more substance for U.S.-Latin American policy when he called for “change” and “hope,” but failed to deliver even marginally when it came to respectable US-Cuban links under his presidency.

To suggest that the President has welched on his pledges since then is an understatement of the betrayal of his promises. While the President’s critics had good grounds all along to claim that, aside from relatively minor tweaks here and there to the status quo, like allowing Cuban-Americans but not U.S. citizens at large to freely travel between the two countries and permitting unrestricted remittances by the same sector of the U.S.–Cuban population, those who had hoped that the new U.S. president would greatly affect change were sorely disappointed by his inability to discard his Mickey Mouse slogans or repudiate his sterile formulas, hack rhetoric, or hypocritical lingo, which made up the bulk of U.S.-Cuban policy for the past five decades, including during Obama’s tenure. Rather than accept the Castro brothers’ offer to negotiate every subject anywhere and at anytime, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have debased their U.S.-Caribbean policy by non-stop Cold War rhetorical remnants and a policy bereft of professionalism and stature; it could not even be described as bespeaking a foreign policy.  In fact, it can be argued that U.S. policy toward North Korea has always been more open and positive than it has ever been toward Cuba, even though the U.S. fought a war with Pyongyang in which tens of thousands of Americans were killed, which certainly was never the case with Havana.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns and COHA Research Associate Faizaan Sami.