Representative Charles Rangel (D–NY) has a mixed record on trade freedom. And he voted “no” in October 2011 for the free trade agreement with Colombia, a trade agreement The Heritage Foundation supported. Now Rangel wants to free the way for trade with Cuba, a totalitarian dictatorship, and to back his argument he has resorted to citing research from The Heritage Foundation on economic freedom without reference to proper context.
On March 18, 2003, security agents operating on instructions from Cuba’s Marxist leader Fidel Castro arrested 75 Cuban dissidents in a massive, brutal raid. In lightning fast trials, all 75 were sentenced to long prison terms, ranging from 10 to 25 years. While Raul Castro later relented and released the 75 after unnecessary years in prison, the memory of these injustices persist.
On March 18, 2013, ten years to the day after the Black Spring crackdown, Representative Charles Rangel dispatched a dear colleague letter urging Members of Congress to indulge in an act of “forgive and forget” and open the door to unrestricted trade and travel with Cuba.
To emphasize his point about the importance of free trade, Rangel cited a former trade specialist at The Heritage Foundation, Denise H. Froning, on the benefits of free trade:
[T]he benefits of free trade extend well beyond American households. Free trade helps to spread the value of freedom, reinforce the rule of law, and foster economic development in poor countries. The national debate over trade-related issues too often ignores these important benefits.
Taking such general statements out of context does little to advance the case for free trade with Cuba and grossly distorts The Heritage Foundation’s position on trade with the country.
The Heritage Foundation has long championed free trade among nations and will continue to do so. It takes pride in its annual Index of Economic Freedom, which currently ranks Cuba 176 out of 177countries. (North Korea is the only country ranking lower.)
The Heritage Foundation, however, has never advocated a unilateral lifting of the restrictions on trade with Cuba. Heritage supports a process by which the removal of trade sanctions would be accompanied by a verifiable and irreversible opening toward democracy and respect for human and economic rights.
The Heritage Foundation has routinely reported that neither the conditions of freedom nor rule of law—vital to free trade—prevail in Cuba. Moreover, Heritage, which annually hosts a Cuba Solidarity Day event to demonstrate support for those struggling for freedom in Cuba, rigorously questions the right of the unelected dictatorship of the Castros to govern Cuba without the consent of its people in a free and fair democratic process.
It would be helpful when crafting future letters about Cuba that Representative Rangel apprises himself of the facts instead of whitewashing Cuba’s deplorable human rights record and its victims.