The Washington Post editorial board is excoriating the White House for an alarming report surfacing that Cuban military agents were given a tour of a pivotal Key West military facility upon the invitation of the U.S. military.
The Post notes that Cuban military officials, including the head of investigations for Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police,” were treated as “honored guests of the U.S. military” in April.
Shortly after the visit, the Miami Herald reported that America’s Coast Guard liaison in Havana, Lt. Cmdr. Derek Cromwell, personally led four Cuban national security officials on a tour of the “Joint Interagency Task Force South, or JIATF-South, at the Truman Annex of the U.S. Navy base.” The newspaper described the facility as “Southcom’s command center in the war on drugs,” and one specifically targeted by the spies who grew to be known as the “Cuban Five,” operating within the United States to feed the Castro dictatorship information on Cuban-Americans and anti-communist operations within America.
All five of the members of the “Cuban Five” are now free, regaled as heroes within Cuba’s borders. The last of these released by the Obama administration, Gerardo Hernández, has said he is “ready to receive my next order” to undermine American influence globally. “I already told Raúl Castro: I’m a soldier,” he told Yahoo! News in 2015.
President Obama approved an extraordinary fertilization program that allowed Hernández and his wife to conceive a daughter while he was in prison, with U.S. authorities shipping Hernández’s sperm to Cuba to be used in an IVF program.
The Herald saw the Cuban law enforcement visit as a sign of “how much relations between the two nations have changed;” this week, the Post went further, connecting the visit to a number of other bizarre Obama administration overtures to the Cuban government. “At a conference on the benefits of expanded contacts Thursday sponsored by the American Security Project think-tank, a retired Army colonel suggested that the United States could seek information from Cuban military intelligence,” the editorial board noted. There appears, they argue, to be a concerted effort to build not just a business relationship with the Cuban government, but a military one. Doing so would legitimize the greatest human rights abuser in the Western Hemisphere, rivaled only by its greatest ally, Venezuela. The Post editorial board notes:
Today, in a hemisphere where military dictatorship was once widespread, no generals rule. The exception is Cuba, where Gen. Raúl Castro’s word is law. Normalizing military-to-military ties between the United States and Cuba, for the sake of fighting drugs or other “common threats,” would imply that civilian rule doesn’t matter so much to us anymore — that Cuba’s military is morally equivalent to its hemispheric counterparts — when, in fact, it is deeply complicit in political repression and corruption.
The Post focuses on the human rights implications of legitimizing Cuba. Indeed, President Obama’s greatest overture to the Castros — his visit in March — triggered some of the most violent repressive acts against anti-communist Cubans in recent memory. Seemingly emboldened by President Obama’s presence, some of those acts occurred not only in broad daylight but on national American TV.
The human rights implications of legitimizing Raúl Castro are a separate concern from the national security threats that arise from allowing Cuban police to sniff around a U.S. military facility, particularly one designed to combat drug trafficking. The Cuban government actively participates in cocaine trafficking; in April, authorities found 900 pounds of cocaine on a Cuban ship headed to Belgium. The Cuban government also supports its allies in Venezuela, whose leaders have been repeatedly implicated in running one of Latin America’s largest drug smuggling rings.
The Cuban government has also reportedly cooperated with jihadi groups like the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Reports, including documents released as part of the famed “Panama Papers,” tie Cuba to an extensive fraud scheme in which Venezuela issued legitimate Venezuelan passports to Syrian and Iranian members of Hezbollah, using Cuban money to print the passports. Cuba is a vocal ally of the Iranian regime.
Due to the evidence continuing to surface of Cuba’s ties to terrorist and drug trafficking groups, opponents of the “normalization” process like the Cuban-American outlet Babalú Blog continue to refer to Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, though President Obama removed the nation from the State Department’s list as part of his concessions to the Castro regime last year.
In response to President Obama’s move to develop ties with the island nation, the Castro regime has continued to show public hostility towards the United States. A Cuban state newspaper referred to President Obama as a “negro” bent on “inciting rebellion and disorder” following his March visit. Foreign Ministry Bruno Rodríguez referred to his visit as an “attack… on our culture,” meaning communist ideology.
The Cuban government has only curbed its anti-American rhetoric in instances of U.S. governors seeking to invest in the anemic Cuban economy. In 2015, Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott visited Cuba to find opportunities for government cronies to make money in tandem with Cuban officials; this week, the Cuban propaganda outlet Granma is promoting a visit from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, seeking the same benefits for his government.