Emerging signs of renewed democratic action in Cuba prompted this Wall Street Journal editorial today (subscription required), which calls for the Organization of American States to "do far more to support Cuban democrats." Bringing external political pressure to bear on Cuba only represents part of the solution to human rights violations in Cuba.
As Rev. Robert Sirico wrote previously, "Everyone, except perhaps the National Council of Churches, knows it is true that Cuba has a terrible human-rights record." We might add to that list two Congressman from New York, who said the following:
"[American politicians] refuse to give the [Cuban] government the respect that it deserves."
–Rep. Charlie Rangel, NY.
"Castro is harmful to no one."
–Rep. Maurice Hinchey, NY.
Hinchey does go on to make a somewhat more valid point, however, in that the continuation of the US embargo of Cuba undermines the situation of oppressed Cubans. "To the extent that any harm is being done, it’s the continuation of this policy over the last five decades now," he said, referring to the American embargo. While its completely incredible to claim that Castro is innocent of human rights violations, this does not entail that an embargo is the best policy to pursue.
The answer, of course, is to neither gloss over the crimes of Casto’s government, nor to ignore the possibilities that lifting the embargo might have for improving the condition of Cuba’s poorest. As Rev. Sirico wrote nearly five years ago, "Opening trade relations–or, at the very least, permitting an inflow of food and medicine–actually holds out the prospect of breaking a long-running impasse. There are many issues to be worked out, of course. However, the fact remains that in Cuba, as in China, free trade gives hope to the people who suffer the most from governments that violate human rights."