President Barack Obama launched his Cuban policy with some carrots for Fidel Castro’s regime. In April, he moved to lift many of the restrictions which hamper Cuban Americans from visiting and communicating with their families, and to cut through obstacles preventing private telecommunications and satellite radio and television companies from providing services to Cuba.
Only eight months after President Obama offered to lift the restrictions on private communications companies, the Cuban government arrested a 60-year-old social worker and contractor, Alan P. Gross, from the Washington-based firm Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), for assisting several Jewish community groups in gaining access to the Internet. Notably, DAI has been operating with a grant of $40 million in aid from the U.S. government intended for allocation in pro-democracy programs in Cuba. Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón charged that Gross was acting at the behest of“American intelligence services” and “agents, torturers and spies that are contracted as part of the privatization of war.”
What can President Obama learn from this harsh action? Perhaps he should recognize that the goal of the Castro regime is not improving relations with the United States, but is truly interested in staying in power. To keep its grip on power, the regime continues to restrict the Cuban people’s access to the Internet and the outside world. While speaking on the topic of Google in China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century … We cannot stand by while people are separated from the human family by walls of censorship.”
President Obama and Congress would be wise to apply Secretary Clinton’s strong statement on freedom in cyberspace to Cuba as well.
Michael Powell currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm