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Ben Boychuk

is associate editor of City Journal, where he writes on education and California politics. Previously, he served as managing editor of the Heartland Institute's School Reform News and the Claremont Review of Books. He is also a former editorial writer for Investor's Business Daily and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California. Reach him at

Boychuk writes a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee and Scripps-Howard News Service. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York PostNational Review Online, the Korea Times and newspapers across the United States.

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This delivers blow to pro-democracy movement there
By BEN BOYCHUK 

Manhattan Institute’s City Journal
R
e-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba is a great win for President Barack Obama. He’ll go down in history as the man who thawed relations with Raul and Fidel Castro after a half-century standoff.

That’s one way of looking at it, anyway. In reality, Obama just abandoned Cuba’s struggling pro-democracy movement in order to burnish his legacy. For captive people across the globe, this move is a decisive setback.

Obviously, diplomatic relations represent a huge win for the Cuban socialist regime.

At long last, the Castro brothers have the two prizes they long desired but could never obtain from the United States: recognition and legitimacy. Now they can tell their dissident population, “See, even the Americans stand with us now.”

Don’t expect closer U.S.-Cuba economic ties to lead to greater political freedom — any more than economic liberalization has freed any except a small, politically connected class in China. About 1.3 billion Chinese remain under the boot heel of political and economic repression despite their country’s emergence as the second largest economy on Earth.

If anything, expect the Castros to take a page from Beijing’s playbook and use expanded trade to shore up their authoritarian regime. Under Cuba’s 1976 constitution, all trade must be conducted through government- owned monopolies. That’s not going to change.

Yet, for nearly 25 years, American business groups with Cuban ties have made the case for lifting the U.S. trade embargo. Isolating Cuba will only lead to more boat people and maybe even war, they said.

Think of the business opportunities we’re missing, they said. We’re losing out to the Germans! The Mexicans! The Spanish! Even the Canadians, for heaven’s sake!

And the truth is that for nearly 25 years, all of that German, Mexican, Spanish and Canadian investment has done precious little to improve the lives of Cubans. Neither has the increased flow of U.S. dollars into the island nation.

Despite it all, Cuba continues to persecute its dissidents, sponsor terrorism and foment anti-American sentiment across Latin America. To expect new relations to change that is the height of folly. 

Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the City Journal. Reach him at  op-ed was distributed by Tribune News Service