Raul Castro's demands for Gitmo plus reparations show Cuba still a prime enemy
Late last month, Cuban President Raul Castro stood before the U.N. General Assembly to berate the U.S. and demand a host of concessions from Washington.
Topping his list of demands was America returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuban control and paying reparations for its decades-long trade embargo against the regime.
Neither demand is reasonable, much less in America's national interests.
Guantanamo rightfully belongs to the U.S. Legally, the terms of America's lease are indisputable.
At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Congress passed the Platt Amendment. The legislation required the U.S. to ensure Cuba's freedom and stipulated that, in exchange, Cuba must "sell or lease to the United States the lands necessary for coaling or naval stations."
The benefits of this arrangement were not lost on the Cuban government. A 1902 amendment to their constitution reflected as much, and one year later, the U.S. leased the current location of the naval base.
In 1934, the U.S. and Cuba further solidified the agreement with an updated treaty. It explicitly states, "So long as the United States of America shall not abandon the said naval station of Guantanamo or the two governments shall not agree to a modification of its present limits, the station shall continue to have the territorial area that it has now."
Arguments for returning the naval base are grounded more in feel-good optics than considerations of national security. Opponents of the naval base claim it's a vestige of U.S. "imperialism" and that normalized relations between the U.S. and Cuba are impossible until this "blot" is erased. Both points are factually inaccurate.
A few short years after the Spanish-American War, Cuba emerged not as a colony of Spain but an independent and sovereign republic -- a change in status made possible only thanks to U.S. military assistance.
Granted, Washington didn't fight the Spanish for purely altruistic purposes. At the time, America's grand strategy, the Monroe Doctrine, was predicated on keeping foreign powers from overtaking the U.S. in the Western Hemisphere.
The strategic value of having a neighbor free from Spanish rule and agreeable to facilitating the regional operations of the U.S. Navy was undeniable. And it remains undeniable today.
Arguments supporting reparations for the Cuban government are ill-founded as well. The trade embargo was imposed in response to Fidel Castro's illegal nationalization of American assets then worth $1.8 billion. Decades later, the almost 6,000 claims certified by the U.S. Department of Justice are valued at over $7 billion.
This figure does not include the property confiscated from hundreds of thousands of Cubans before and after they were forced to leave Cuba by the Castro regime.
The embargo cannot legally be lifted until the claims issue is resolved. Havana's counterclaim for damages suffered as a result of their initial malfeasance is asinine.
Unfortunately the Obama administration has chosen to unilaterally "normalize" relations with this regime, the last vestige of Cold War communism.
In the last nine months, the White House has drastically eased sanctions, lobbied Congress to lift the embargo and prematurely removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism -- all without placing so much as one precondition on Havana.
The regime remains free to practice its systematic abuse of human rights to punish critics and discourage dissent.
Yet even with that, Castro insists that "normal" relations are impossible without Guantanamo and reparations. But these issues are red herrings.
The real reason that normal relations between the U.S. and Cuba are impossible -- beyond Havana's ongoing human rights violations -- is the Cuban government's unshakable commitment to undermining the U.S.
The Castro regime continues to forge relationships with our adversaries and support anti-U.S. authoritarians in Latin America at every opportunity. It has no intention of being our friend.
-Ana Quintana is a policy analyst specializing in Latin America and the Western Hemisphere at The Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy. She holds a master's degree in global security studies from Florida International University. Readers may write her at Heritage, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.
This piece originally appeared in ArcaMax