Castro brothers Raul (left) and Fidel (right)

Castro brothers Raul (left) and Fidel (right)

Former Reagan administration Pentagon official Frank Gaffney alleges President Obama’s plan to pursue normal diplomatic relations with the communist regime in Cuba is yet another example of the president “switching sides” and embracing some of America’s most dangerous adversaries.

On Wednesday morning, news reports announced Cuba was freeing jailed American aid worker Alan Gross after five years of captivity. Obama later addressed the nation, announcing that Gross and an imprisoned U.S. intelligence figure were released in exchange for three Cubans convicted of spying in the U.S. Obama also announced he was scrapping the longstanding policy of severed diplomatic relations with the Castro regime and pushed Congress to lift longstanding trade and travel embargoes to the island nation as well.

The reaction has been bipartisan in both directions, with Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., enthusiastically endorsing the re-establishment of diplomatic ties and the opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana. However, Cuban-Americans like Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., slammed the policy shift as a reward for Fidel and Raul Castro oppressing their people for nearly 60 years.

Gaffney said this is a terrible move by Obama but not at all surprising.

“I think this fits a larger pattern that the president has engaged in since coming to office of switching sides vis a vis America’s enemies around the world and its friends. The examples of this are legion. He’d been romancing the Russians from the get-go, the Chinese, more recently Iran and now, of course, Cuba,” said Gaffney, who also cited Obama’s friendliness with non-state belligerents like Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood.

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But why now? Gaffney said it’s to throw the Castros a lifeline.

“The Cubans are in desperate straits again,” he explained. “They, of course, lost their principal life support when the Soviet Union collapsed after President Reagan essentially took them down.”

He said Cuba struggled mightily to find new benefactors and now they are in trouble, too.

“They found (late Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez to keep the Castro regime a going concern. He’s gone, of course. Now, under his successor, the Venezuelan government is bankrupt and with the plummeting price of oil, neither the Russians nor the Venezuelans nor the Iranians are in a position to pick up the slack,” said Gaffney, who alleges Obama came to the rescue of a communist regime in peril.

“I think that the president has stepped into the breach to save the Castro brothers and their oppressive, authoritarian and communist dictatorship,” Gaffney said. “[Obama] thinks that switching sides across the board is, if not in the interests of the United States, is consistent at least with his ambition fundamentally to transform this country.”

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Gaffney said Obama’s track record is clear in warming up to Russia and now easing sanctions against Iran and Cuba. He notes that Obama will probably sign pending sanctions against Venezuela, and the timing of the new Cuba policy will allow American money to flow into Cuba and on to Venezuela.

In his statement Wednesday, Obama said the U.S. policy has been in place since before he was born and, therefore, needed to change. He also argued that a more open diplomatic and economic relationship will be a good thing for the American and Cuban people because the previous policy never achieved its intended goals.

According to Gaffney, the refusal of many other nations to shun the Cuban regime did weaken the impact of America’s policy, but he said it was still effective enough to keep the Castros in check.

“It is a principled position that has materially restricted the danger that the Castros have been able to pose to our interests and our friends in this hemisphere,” Gaffney said. “[The new policy] is a betrayal of the people of Cuba, who yearn for freedom and have been denied it as long as this president has been alive.”

Obama also contends that a closer relationship with Cuba will lead to the exporting of freedom and will empower the people to demand a better government. He cited the impact American outreach to China has had on U.S. influence on that culture over the past 40 years.

Gaffney said China is a great example of what the U.S. doesn’t want to recreate.

“Engagement with China has given rise to a nation that is now eating our lunch economically, has largely decimated our industrial base and is accruing a military capacity to threaten us both in the region and even here at home,” Gaffney said.

Moreover, he said engagement with China has not led to less repression of the people.

“If that’s the model, it will not produce transparency,” he said. “It will produce a greater and more extended period of time, under which people who hate this country are able to remain in power, and people who would love to be friends of this country remain repressed.”

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