April 16th, 2009
02:35 PM ET

Let's end our hypocrisy on Cuba

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/14/cuba.travel.obama.castro/art.obama.today.afp.gi.jpg caption="The changes in Cuban policy was unveiled before President Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas."]
Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor

It is amazing to watch politicians and activists try as hard as they can to rip into Fidel Castro and Cuba with the fury of a hurricane, yet sound like a whimpering dog when you bring up China and America's absolute double standard when dealing with that communist country.

When President Obama lifted travel restrictions on the country for Cuban-Americans this week, and eased rules on allowing money and gifts to be sent back to the country, the ardent Castro haters were up in arms, calling it a horrible decision.

They want to see the 47-year-old embargo continue against the island, just 90 miles off the Florida coast, while a growing chorus of Democrats and Republicans say it hasn't worked, hasn't driven the Castro regime from power, and should be ended as we seek other means to get Cuba to move toward democracy.

Those who still favor the embargo - which has survived due to the clout of the Cuban-American community in the politically potent state of Florida - say that we shouldn't bend to a communist nation that imprisons voices of dissent and is a major human rights violator, doesn't allow the freedoms we are accustomed to in America, and is run by a dictator.

That's how they describe Cuba, but if you ask the Dalai Lama, he'll say that description fits China as well. But our politicians, and even media commentators on the left and the right, aren't willing to be as vicious in ripping China.

Remember when Castro was reported near death and some Americans talked openly about celebrating his death? I've never heard such talk related to China.

There is a double standard here, and it simply points to the difference between a small island country in our own hemisphere and a behemoth with a large military, possessor of nuclear weapons, a major player on the international scene, and, oh yeah, the holder of $500 billion in U.S. debt.

In other words, China has got us by the you-know-what, and we don't want to do anything to make it mad. In seeking to persuade Congress to grant China most-favored-nation status, which is all about trade between the two countries, Clinton administration officials, under the heading of "Engagement Works," told Congress in 1998, "Our strategy has been to engage China by working to identify areas on which we agree while continuing to forthrightly confront issues on which we do not."

On describing the instances where U.S. pressure regarding human rights resulted in the release of a couple of political prisoners, Congress was told, "These are not meant to be exhaustive examples of the fruits of engagement; nor are they meant to mask the persistence of serious differences between our two countries. They are intended simply to show that engagement is working and that we have made progress in encouraging China's development as a full and responsible member of the international community."

In essence, engagement works, as opposed to trying to shut someone off from the rest of the world.

So much about how we confront our relations with Cuba means admitting what we have never liked to admit: that we have been angered by the Cubans' refusal to bow to the wishes of the United States, which goes back even further than Fidel Castro rising to power 50 years ago.

In his book "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq," Stephen Kinzer writes that after the U.S. helped Cuba run Spain out of the country in 1898, President Theodore Roosevelt got the bright idea that we should be the country's new ruler, which led to a battle between the Cuban people, resulting in U.S. troops occupying the country and American business interests controlling nearly all of the economic bright spots in the nation, especially the sugar plantations.

How did that change? When, Kinzer says, Castro gave a speech, saying, "This time I promise you it will not be like 1898 again, when the Americans came in and made themselves masters of our country." And they haven't stopped resisting.

America cannot, and should not, waver in its desire to seek democracy in our own hemisphere and around the world. But our actions must be fair and consistent.

Treating China as a partner, and Cuba as a pariah, only validates our critics who say that our hypocrisy knows no bounds. And in this case, they are spot on.

Filed under: Cuba • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Roland S. Martin
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Nitish

    There are things much more important and serious that need to be attended to and the black president is kind of lost and is going into circles and doing things that can be queued up in the 'incoming' tray. Clooney did a much more humanitarian thing by being in the field and analysing it from a close point of view.The situation in Darfur is in a certain way much more important than the global economic crisis.The G20 could have emphasized more on human values than on how to protect one's own assets.The planet is based and rotating on a system which is on the edge of touchdown.It has reached termination and new resolutions should be undertaken.There is something else that needs to be created.The dead presidents are collapsing.The era has changed.The planet has become too small for us.WW III is not going to take place as we have few time left unless we find an alternative in order to survive.The situation right now is more than ever in history.We are currently going through a phase which has never shown up since the jurassic era. As Dostoevsky said," there is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it. "

    April 17, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  2. Jimmie Lewis Franklin

    Cut the words "immorally worn" in my comments of 16 April and substitute the word "immoral." Cut the sentence "He is beginning . . . ." Thanks. I would not like to "moderate" the comments any further. Jimmie L Franklin

    April 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  3. timelesstraveller

    I have lived in many countries and as I see it, the ordinary people are different then those that rule, no matter what the political system is. People under a dictatorial system can be compassionate and fair in their everyday dealings with each other and others in a democratic system the opposite. Each one of us are the custodians of, 'Do unto others as you wish they do unto you.' This is what a people want when they announce, 'We are a country of laws.' Cuba and China, Saudi Arabia and Afganistan are just people wishing to live and have meaning in life. Let us not forget that when we look and see only the figure heads of their governing bodies. I see myself as an ambassador of an ideal that I have yet to reach and I meet each person, no matter who or of what country or standing they have, with respect and wonder. This I believe, is the tree from which the fruit of true democracy must be respectfully plucked and this is what America really stands for. Timelesstraveller

    April 16, 2009 at 8:48 pm |
  4. Shahab

    I completely agree! It is stupid and shameful to not have diplomatic relations w/ a neighbor. It also is not a good symbol of American diplomacy!

    April 16, 2009 at 8:38 pm |
  5. joe reynolds

    put all the gays in one group and put them on the front line.the love all the freedom of our country let them defend it.

    GOD man man and women.If he wanted gays to be right he could of made man and man and let them have babies two.they have more rights any more then most other people.

    April 16, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  6. Lamont Austin

    First of all andy coop is the bomb and those people complaining about spending your crazy. You didnt do that when Bush was spending and put us in this situation. Now your protesting things that dont need protesting all you are doing is insighting right winged terroism, thats the only way republicans can tarnish our first black presidents term. you right wingers have a serious problem and your the ones damaging this country. The tea bag party looked like it was from a time when black people were protesting real things but with white people protesting selfish aspects of there arroagances.

    Anderson coop keep up the good work

    Lamont Ausstin

    April 16, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  7. Linda Streat

    I surely do not like to be a disgruntled "protectionist", but I guess I am. I do not "get along fine" with countries like Saudi Arabia, Communist China, etc. because I, personally, do not find any difference between them. When I check labels, it's not to look for the brand name, it's to see where it was manufactured; and, if I am uncertain about their practices, I go on the internet and find out. There is always an alternative to buying products from countries that violate ethical and contractual standards. The one problem I have had is energy. It's virtually impossible to determine the source of the fuel used to generate the final product. So, I've really cut back on the energy I use. But otherwise, I don't go without and I don't pay "outrageous" prices for alternative items. So, guess the bottom line is, if I personally don't like supporting the policies of the government of a foreign country, I refuse to willingly contribute my money to help them achieve their goals.

    April 16, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  8. patnap

    Finally, a president with common sense. To have a relationship with China and not Cuba is stupid. He is taking it slowly and I am pleased. First ,he will allow people to visit their families and send money. Next, he has said he is still interested in Cuba releasing some prisoners and fair treatment to all. If some concessions are made, we will see the boarder open to travel and why not. 50 years of isolationism has brought nothing for either country.

    April 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    I'd like to see full relations restored with Cuba. They may not be democratic but for trade purposes I fail to see why that matters. Not every country in the world is going to be democratic and Cuba may stay one of those. As long as they improve on their human rights does it really matter whether they are democratic like us? If we re-establish trade, etc, maybe the average citizen of Cuba will improve his/her standard of living and will begin to move towards another form of government. Whether they do or not, we shouldn't treat them one way and China another.

    April 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  10. jarhead1

    truth hurts doesn't it folks??? Better believe I'm not the only one in this nation that feels as I do....

    April 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  11. marcella

    Arrogance and ignorance do go hand and hand. As an example, a nation dependant on fossil fuels that refuses to pollute thier own environment with drilling for thier own oil, instead they have no problem with other nations destroying thier own environment in order to get the oil needed for thier country to function from day to day. That's ignorance and arrogance on steroids.

    April 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  12. Shirley Reiter

    I agree. Let's lighten up! We have relations with nations far worse than Cuba. By establishing relations , we are not only helping the citizens of Cuba, who are not responsible for their isolation from family in the U.S, we are also helping our economy.

    April 16, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  13. jane MI

    Your right on!!! Especially with the comparison and difference of response to China...I'm also one of many that have seen one of many human rights violations first hand when traveling thru Tibet last year, it was so blatant, and the U.S. response so different...

    Hope continued engagement will help facilitate more positive changes with Cuba...And continued pressure on China too...

    P.S. Dalai Lama will be giving a public talk in N.Y.C. 5/3 @ Townhall and hope Anderson can get an interview!!! Or at least coverage on his visit and talk

    April 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm |

    i could not agree with you more, roland. the U.S. has got to reign in our hypocritical views & start practicing what we preach.
    by not addressing the OBVIOUS short sightedness of this country, we are only propogating the very examples of why other countries despise us.
    lets get our "you know what" together & start leading by example, instead of being the prime example of how NOT to lead others.
    arrogance & ignorance go hand in hand

    April 16, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  15. R. Steward

    Thank you so much for bring up China!!!! I would rather buy a product made in Cuba than China any day. What Cuba does is no worse than China. For some reason we have gotten in bed with China and shut the door on Cuba. We need to be as open with one as we do the other. They both violate human rights and are communists. We also get along fine with other countries that violate human rights (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.). These countries are controlled by religous zelots. So what is the diffrence? They don't allow free speech or freedom of religon. Two very important things this country was founded on. Not much difference I say. It's about time we got friendly with Cuba. It's in the past and if you are going to grow you need to forgive and move on. Besides with all the violence going on in Mexico I would rather spend my vacation dollars in Havanna any day over Cozumel if allowed.

    April 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  16. Linda Streat

    I agree with your overall analysis. But, adding Cuba to the list of "partners" that do not fulfill their obligations nor meet our professed criteria (either ethical or contractual) only makes the basic problems worse. Continued straddling the razor's edge with Communist China is not a good model to adopt for dealing with Castro's Cuba. Our acceptance and participation only hones the edge sharper, it does not dull the edge or provide relief. So, while accepting Castro's Cuba as a partner may reduce the hypocrisy level, it's not a good foreign/trade policy solution.

    April 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  17. Edward Miller

    It is ridiculous how liberals like Anderson Cooper only believe in free speech when it is folks who are as fiscally irresponsible and ignorant as they. It is almost repulsive the way these liberals profess to stand for the "rights of the people" and then with total disrespect and malice discard a good percentage of the population. That's responsible reporting there Mr. Cooper. Or is it? The 'tea-bagging" references toward those exercising their constitutional rights at tea parties were extremely distasteful and irresponsible. I quess that's why I watch Fox News.

    April 16, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  18. scott s. hughes

    I can't believe that Anderson Cooper has the gutter mentality that he showed with his "tea bagging" comments. There was a day when the media was professional. He is not. It is sad...I actually could watch some until this piece of media "you know what".

    Andeson...you are not a journalist..you are a sell-out!

    Scott Hughes

    April 16, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  19. Sue, Billerica, MA

    What about some middle eastern countries like Saudia Arabia that treat their women far worse than Cuba treats its citizens, we don't embargo them and our politicians walk on egg shells stating cultural tolerance like because its been done for milenia that some how makes it okay in this modern age... we are full of hypocrisy and I am so proud that President Obama is relooking at our diplomatic relations with a lot of places and I have a feeling he is going to bring the world more sanity and reason... now will the rest of the world listen?

    April 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  20. Tom B.

    I wish this was the only instance of hypocrisy by our nation over the years. But you are right, it is past time to end this. Not talking does not work, especially when we are the only ones in the world doing it.

    April 16, 2009 at 3:05 pm |