Is Obama listening to Cuban Americans who don’t agree?

More U.S. tourists like this couple in Old Havana are visiting Cuba under the Obama administration’s travel policy.
More U.S. tourists like this couple in Old Havana are visiting Cuba under the Obama administration’s travel policy. AP

As President Obama’s appeasement trip to Cuba approaches, the political discourse in Miami regarding Cuba policy has noticeably shifted — albeit not necessarily the way Democratic pollsters, pundits and hired hands would have us think.

Is there increased support for engagement among Cuban Americans? Unquestionably, there is. However, what is deliberately missed by the administration’s paid supporters is all the hues of gray in this debate.

In an effort to show support for its policy shift, the president’s team points to shifts in political attitudes in Miami. Polls have consistently shown that there is less support for the embargo and the anachronistic policies of the Cold War. Also noted in the surveys is that there is more support for engagement between the United States and Cuba (especially among younger Cuban Americans).

What is rarely, if ever, assessed is how many Cuban Americans (like myself) think that the embargo is a farce and always has been and yet we are deeply disappointed and concerned about the way the administration has carried out its new approach towards Cuba.

In my studies of American history, rarely have I seen such one-sided negotiations between two countries. As far as the objective eye can see, the score stands at Cuba’s totalitarian, criminal regime 100, and the United States — the self-proclaimed beacon for human rights and democracy around the globe — a big zero.

President Obama has had every opportunity to illustrate to the world that the United States is ready, willing and able to normalize relations with Cuba if and when the Cuban regime decides it is going to soften, if not eliminate, its Draconian treatment of its citizens.

According to several human-rights organizations, including the Madrid-based Cuban Observatory on Human Rights, political detentions have increased steadily since the December 2014 announcement of the policy to improve relations between the two countries.

The group says that in January, 1,474 people, including 512 women, were “arbitrarily” detained. Certainly a reasonable basis upon which to take issue with the administration’s policy, right?

But you wouldn’t know it from the media accounts of public opinion in Miami because much of that is based on whether you are a supporter of the trade embargo. Clearly, the embargo has been used as the defining issue to separate those who back the president’s policy and those who don’t.

It used to be, in the Miami of the 1980s and 90s, that there was great criticism for the lack of space for dissenting voices among Cuban Americans in the community who felt differently and dissented from the hard-line approach that the Cuban-American Republican leadership had adopted.

There was validity to those arguments. Now, ironically it is those who dare raise concern with U.S. policy toward Cuba and its execution who are made to feel like irrational fools that time has passed by.

We are somehow lumped into the pile of embargo supporters.

Recently, I heard Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser for the president, say in a press conference that the administration has been actively engaging the Cuban-American community throughout this process and that the community has been largely supportive.

It is apparent that Rhodes and President Obama’s advisers have been getting feedback largely from a homogenous group of Cuban Americans that favors relations with Cuba. It all equals one grand like-minded exercise in group-think futility.

I’d be interested in learning what opposing voices within the Cuban-American community the president’s advisers have heard from.

As a dissenting Cuban American, I would ask President Obama (who I voted for twice) to stand as the leader of the free world and to highlight who the real oppressors of the Cuban people have been for over half a century.

Rewarding tyranny does not leave behind an enviable legacy.