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Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Weekly Column: December 2, 2016
A New Dawn for Cuba?
By Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Washington, DC (December 2, 2016) - Ninety miles is the distance that separates Florida and Cuba. It’s not far. In fact, that’s the equivalent of the drive from Roanoke to Staunton or a roundtrip from Lexington to Lynchburg. But in that short distance, there is a world of difference in the freedoms enjoyed by the American people and the Cuban people.

The passing of Fidel Castro on November 25th marked the death of a tyrant and a dictator. For nearly 60 years, the Castro regime has ruled Cuba, first under Fidel Castro and now his brother, Raul. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of oppression, murder, and contempt for fundamental liberties. Under his regime, basic freedoms of the Cuban people were stripped from them, freedoms which are still denied today under his brother's rule.

Fidel Castro's death represents the possibility of a new dawn for Cuba and an opportunity to return freedoms to the Cuban people. I am hopeful that his brother will see this as the time to take steps in that direction. Unfortunately, we have not seen progress in this regard thus far, even despite President Obama's executive actions last year to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. These actions, which I believe were the wrong approach as they came with no guarantee of greater freedoms for the Cuban people, included opening an embassy in Havana, lifting travel restrictions, and calling on Congress to lift the U.S. trade embargo.

Until the Cuban people have real democracy, real freedom, and political prisoners are released, I remain wary of efforts by the United States to normalize diplomatic or economic relations with Cuba. We should use any lifting of restrictions in Cuba as an opportunity to secure additional freedoms and basic human rights for the Cuban people. Changes in U.S. policy should be made gradually as the Cuban government increases freedoms for its citizens, not before any improvements have been made as President Obama has done.

Sweeping the transgressions of the Castro regime under the rug ignores the millions of Cubans who experienced the cruelty of Fidel Castro's rule and those who lost their life to his violence. Even today, thousands of Cubans have experienced detentions and harassment under Raul Castro's regime. There are many potential opportunities in strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, but we cannot open our doors to Cuba if the Cuban government will not restore the liberty of its people. Cuban leaders must realize that democratic self-governance and the free enterprise system are the only courses of action if they are serious about prosperity and a brighter future for their people.

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