Hypocrisy and The Right to Travel to Cuba
By Arturo Lopez Levy
Political hypocrisy and cynicism are cancers on the body politics. Most people don’t realize the damage they are doing until it is too late. When elected officials set different standards for themselves while advocating policies that limit the constitutional rights of Americans, the credibility of the political system suffers and the political capital of democratic institutions erodes. The case of staffers for Senator Rubio and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen travelling to China on a trip hosted by the Chinese communist party-state is a painful example. For decades, Cuban-American legislators have fiercely opposed travel to Cuba and reprimanded any colleague who went to Cuba or sent staffers on a fact finding mission or to talk with the government. Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen made the issue of not traveling to communist countries and not giving a dime to the coffers of non-democratic regimes a test of fidelity to human rights. Rubio has often said on the Senate that every dollar spent on a trip to a communist country goes directly to fund repression; every dollar except those spent by his staff on their state-sponsored China junket.
It is at such times of exposed hypocrisy, when leaders must take sides and make clear what our democratic principles are. Integrity differentiates those who predicate their anti-Castro policies on violating Americans’ right to travel, while they travel to China, and those who believe that American travelers are-as Hillary Clinton put it- “walking advertisements” for the benefits of an open society and American democracy, in Cuba and in China.
Yet, when hypocrites like Senator Rubio and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen aggressively questioned the morality and logic of the White House’s decisions to restore family travel and expand remittances to Cuba the Obama administration all too often reacted shyly or not at all. Obama’s officials seem to forget the president’s own discourse about the importance of engaging with Cuban civil society and updating a policy conceived before he was even born.
Many Cuban Americans who voted for President Obama twice are disappointed because the president gives too much to pro-embargo politicians and listens too little to those who defend his promises of a new policy based on dialogue and communication with Cuba. After his reelection in 2012, winning a majority of Cuban Americans who supported his travel reforms, Secretary Clinton advised President Obama to “take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America”. Has he done so?
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