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Globe Editorial

Cuba’s isolation begets abuses

Raul Castro has continued his brother’s tradition of ruthlessness. Raul Castro has continued his brother’s tradition of ruthlessness.
November 20, 2009

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THE FUNDAMENTAL fallacy underlying US policy toward Cuba is that isolation forces transformation. The most glaring proof that the 50-year embargo has failed is that the Cuban regime remains profoundly repressive.

This week, Human Rights Watch released a damning report showing that Raul Castro’s regime, rather than breaking from brother Fidel’s tradition of ruthlessness, continues to persecute political dissidents. The younger Castro shrewdly exploits a provision of the Cuban criminal code to imprison people for crimes they have not yet committed, defining deviant behavior so broadly that it applies to people who are merely unemployed. The New York-based human rights group has documented more than 40 cases of people who have been wrongly imprisoned since Raul Castro took power in 2008.

Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, of which Quincy’s William Delahunt is a member and leading Cuba expert, held a hearing on lifting the ban that prohibits most Americans from traveling to Cuba. Congress should heed the committee’s leaders, who have argued that free movement between the two countries offers the best chance of spreading democratic values and emboldening dissidents in the island nation.

As more Americans enter Cuba, so, too, will information and ideas that foster dissent and that undermine Castro’s ability to use the United States as a scapegoat for his repressive policies. And when the United States lifts the embargo - a policy that hurts Cuba’s poor and makes the island appear a victim of a rich, bullying neighbor - it will gain the credibility in Latin America to negotiate the release of Cuba’s political prisoners.

If the repressive Cuban regime is to come to an end, it will not be through isolation, but through exposure to the ideals and virtues of free societies. Congress should act now on Delahunt’s proposal to lift the travel ban and promote progress in Cuba. It should be a first step toward eliminating the embargo, a damaging policy that has never borne its intended result.

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