Don't Retreat On Cuba Normalization

It's not surprising that the new President-elect is beginning to face pressure urging him to roll back the progress of normalization in our relations with Cuba.

He should refuse that choice!

He should make it clear that he is interested in policies that lead to a better future, not the re-creation of a failed past with a six decade old embargo that didn't work. If the president-elect studies the nearly sixty year U.S. embargo against the Communist government of Cuba, he'll see it has been a failure by every measure.

I understand why our country wanted to pressure the Castro government. There is a long history of abuse to the Cuban people at the hands of that government. And, we should continue to press for more progress in the area of human rights for the Cuban people. However, decade after decade the real victims of the U.S. imposed embargo , which included food and medicine, have been the poor people of Cuba. Our sanctions, however well-intended, did nothing except make their lives harder and their ability to earn a living more precarious. Cuban families were struggling under the embargo, but it's certain that the Castro brothers never missed a meal because of it.

While we were imposing the embargo against Cuba, our country took a very different approach to other communist countries like China and Viet Nam. Our policy has been one of engagement through trade and travel which we described as the best way to achieve progress toward open government and improved human rights. I think history has demonstrated the value of that approach. The same strategy will show progress in Cuba as well.

In our zeal to punish the Castro government, our policies toward Cuba have also restricted the rights and freedoms of American citizens. The travel restrictions imposed on U.S. citizens resulted in some bizarre behavior toward our own citizens. For example, our government investigated and fined a young humble Christian woman from Ohio named Joni Scott for visiting Cuba to hand out free bibles.

Our government denied U.S. soldier Carlos Lazio the opportunity to visit his sons in Cuba on his R&R from the war zone. Carlos was a Bronze Star winner for heroism in Fallujah who came to America on a raft from Cuba, yet he was denied the opportunity to travel to Cuba to visit his sons.These and many other stories like them share the theme of trying to bring the Castro regime to its knees by punishing American citizens. It was a strategy that failed, but while doing so we foolishly were willing to sacrifice America's interests and values.

The point is, a negotiator like our new president-elect should not shut down our embassy or stop talking to Cuba's government.

A man with bigger-than-life confidence in America's future should not restrict travel to Cuba, or the direct opportunities for exchange and dialogue that our finest ambassadors -- our fellow Americans -- can bring to Cuba's cities, farms, and town squares.

Our policy should make travel to Cuba legal for all Americans.

An advocate for our country's heartland shouldn't crush the hopes of rural Americans to send grain, beef, and products for use on the kitchen tables of Cubans across the island.

A candidate who based much of his campaign on leveling the playing field for U.S. trade should encourage, not undermine, the American companies that after 57 years of being locked out of the Cuban market, can finally have access to that market. Donald Trump ran as an agent of change. After fifty years of a failed embargo, normalization of relations with Cuba is the right kind of change.

By continuing the progress toward normalization of relations with Cuba President-elect Trump has a chance to make Cuba part of his foreign policy legacy as well.