The president faces criticism from several sides: from the regime and its apologists, from opponents of the regime who nonetheless favor a thaw, and from opponents who think the president should have gone further. We’re in the last camp. There is more that the Trump administration can do, publicly and behind the scenes. The administration should think seriously about reinstating the wet-foot/dry-foot policy that protected Cuban refugees who made it to American shores. It should consider how to curtail Cuba’s continued willingness to support terror abroad, especially in North Korea. (The Obama administration removed Cuba’s deserved designation as a state sponsor of terror.) The administration should also rethink the unseemly latitude toward cruise lines, which enable Americans to gambol on Cuba’s shores while dissidents are beaten a few miles away.
Nonetheless, the Trump administration has made an important reversal. The Castro dictatorship was not, never has been, and never will be America’s friend, and it required a special species of naïveté to think that the overseers of tropical concentration camps would throw down their guns because Major League Baseball had arrived on the island. Barack Obama gave the regime an extraordinary gift, demanded nothing, and in doing so managed only to facilitate more brutal repression of Cuba’s embattled democrats. Donald Trump is charting a different course. It’s a better route to a true Cuba libre – not the Castro brothers’ mockery of one.