Take The Deal

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 17, 2009

I am not in favor of unconditional talks with foreign leaders, as I think that there are various conditions that need to be set with a great many of them. That having been written, I would jump at the report that Cuba wants to talk to the United States if I had anything to say about foreign policy as a member of the Obama Administration, especially given the scope of the talks that Cuba suggests:

Talks toward a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations seemed to be a real possibility after the new presidents of both countries reached out to each other with surprisingly straightforward language about their desire to revive a relationship frozen by 50 years of cold war.

Barack Obama said Thursday it was up to Havana to take the next step after his “good faith” gesture of removing some of the restrictions that lock Americans and their money out of Cuba.

Raul Castro responded within hours, saying “we have sent word to the U.S. government in private and in public that we are willing to discuss everything – human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything.”

“We could be talking about many other things,” Castro replied from a summit in Venezuela. “We could be wrong, we admit it. We’re human beings.”

Perfect. At long last, there can be a discussion–in the open–concerning the oppressive political and social environment in Cuba. As I have advocated concerning Iran, the United States should use internationally-agreed upon human rights principles to pressure the Cuban regime in talks over its various human rights abuses, with the issue being raised continually and with the talks being used to take away whatever legitimacy still attaches to the Cuban regime–just as discussions over human rights pushed by the Reagan Administration exposed the Soviet Union as a prison-house and accelerated the reform process that helped bring the Cold War to an end. The ends of realpolitik will be served and human rights will be enhanced. What could be better?

Our Cuba policy has been a failure thus far. We need to change it and this offer for talks represents a golden chance to change it for the better. The Obama Administration should accept the opportunity to do so and make full use of it.

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