There Is A Reason No U.S. President Has Visited Cuba For 88 years

Just in December, President Obama said he would travel to Cuba only if the liberty and freedom of ordinary Cubans had improved. With more than 2,500 political arrests in Cuba already this year, it seems that the president has quickly discarded his earlier requirement, writes Congressman Mike Pompeo of Wichita.

Mr. President, There Is A Reason No U.S. President Has Visited Cuba For 88 years
By Congressman Mike Pompeo

As many Americans vacation for Spring Break, President Obama is traveling to a Caribbean island for what he calls “fun.” Yesterday, he headed down to 80-degree weather to tour a historic Old Town and attend a formal dinner. He and his family will also watch a baseball game and maybe even cross paths with the Rolling Stones.

Where did he go? The Republic of Cuba, which headed by the Castro dictatorship, where communism reigns, human rights are disregarded and freedom is marginalized. Obama’s trip is misguided for the flawed Cuba policy it represents, and also due to his dangerous desire to close Guantanamo Bay and bring its dozens of terrorists to U.S. soil, or worse, give back our entire military base to the Cubans.

The Obama administration has a penchant for giving unilateral concessions to dictators, receiving little in return — and then declaring a diplomatic victory. His presidency has indeed meant victory — but for the Cuban and Iranian regimes, not for the people in these countries, nor for the American people. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton similarly supports this misguided Cuba policy, which is why it is critical she is not our next Commander in Chief. This hallmark of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has resulted in some of the most dangerous foreign policy decisions America has ever made.

This Obama-Clinton foreign policy that favors dictators will be on full display this week. By visiting Havana, President Obama is giving Fidel Castro a huge public relations coup—the state newspaper declared that his trip signifies the Castro regime’s stellar human rights record. Just in December, President Obama said he would travel to Cuba only if the liberty and freedom of ordinary Cubans had improved. With more than 2,500 political arrests in Cuba already this year, it seems that the president has quickly discarded his earlier requirement.

The Obama administration has already dropped Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, loosened sanctions, and opened a U.S. Embassy in Havana while there has been zero needed political reform, no increase in freedom, and inadequate loosening of Castro’s grip on power.

Though unlikely, I hope that President Obama meets with pro-democracy activists and members of Cuba’s persecuted religious community, not “dissidents” hand selected by the Castro regime. President Obama must also push for the return of U.S. fugitives hiding out in Cuba and seek compensation for the Cuban government’s illegal expropriation of American property and assets. Secretary Kerry made the right choice to cancel his trip to Cuba earlier this month, and I wish President Obama would have done the same.

Another concession President Obama is looking to make includes closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. military holds dozens of dangerous terrorists. Guantanamo detainees include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the architect of the USS Cole bombing that killed 17 American sailors. The president would like to close the facility at Guantanamo and bring jihadists to locations in the United States, including my home state, Kansas. The site he is considering there, Ft. Leavenworth, is a military learning center, featuring the Army University’s Command and General Staff College. He has also looked at bringing these terrorists to the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, which is within a mile of an elementary school. Also under consideration is the Florence Federal Prison in Colorado, located close to the heavily populated city of Colorado Springs. Disappointingly, President Obama is not visiting our men and women in uniform at the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. If he did, he would see a legal, safe, and secure facility that is critical in our fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

Beyond the detention of terrorists outside the U.S., I am deeply concerned that Obama may also give the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay to the Cubans in order to placate them. This would be a strategic blunder that would haunt us for decades and leave the American homeland exposed. A former Commander of U.S. Southern Command described the base as a “strategic and highly useful” asset. The base plays an important role in counter-narcotics operations, intelligence, and humanitarian emergency responses. Its important location in the Caribbean means the Russians or Chinese would be eager to get their hands on it if we gave it up.

Mr. President, there is a reason no U.S. president has visited Cuba for 88 years.