Rubio is right and Rand Paul is wrong on the recent Obama deal with Cuba. As someone who spent more than 14 weeks over the last decade in Cuba, I can personally refute the following falsities that are being circulated by supporters of Obama’s rapproachment with Castro.
1) The Cuban people like Castro: This is a joke. Everyone knows if Castro speaks, they must listen on the radio. So they turn up the radio loudly in their own homes – it is common knowledge that there are informers on every block working for the Cuban government — and then they go into another room to avoid actually having to listen to his speeches.
2) Expanding American business will allow the Cubans to see what it is like in America: The Cubans already know what it is like in America — because they know how poor they really are. They just can’t do anything about it because there is such a tightly controlled police state. I recall speaking with a woman and her 12 year old daughter. The woman explained that they had virtually nothing to do. They just spent each day existing with no real life. But it brought tears to my eyes when the woman asked, “are we even more poor than the people in Afghanistan?” She had caught snatches of what was going on over there and from what she could tell, the Cubans were even poorer. Coupled with the fact that their government is brutal, they are resigned to the fact that they can do nothing to improve their own station in life.
3) The Cuban people are generally safe: This is also patently untrue. The police harass citizens for no reason and the people are afraid to travel about their country. There was one episode where I took some people traveling from one city to a nearby beach. Neither of our companions, ladies in their late 20s, had ever been more than 20 miles from their home. When we got to the beach, as long as they stayed with us, they were fine. But they took a smoke break for a few minutes away from us, and when they did not return after about 5 minutes, we went looking for them. We found the ladies being grilled by the police as to why they were not in their hometown. They finally released the girls back to our custody because we were foreigners with hard currency. From there we went on to Havana. The ladies were so afraid at the episode that had just taken place, they would not even dare emerge from the car when we arrived in Havana — even though these girls had never been to the city before. Their brief exchange with Castro’s police was that horrific.
The main reason to oppose this deal is that it will accomplish nothing other than put more money in the Government’s hands, allowing them to be even more brutal to their people. What the Cubans see is that we made a deal with their government, who has made their lives miserable for the last half-century. Rubio is right when he points out that this arrangement will likely do nothing to improve the lives of the Cubans — which should be the basis for any policy initiatives with regard to Cuba. Though I agree with many things Rand Paul has to say, on this issue, he is uninformed.