Now Playing at Rep. Jeff Flake on the U.S.'s Failed Cuba Policy


No member of Congress is a stronger critic of the failed U.S. policy toward Cuba than Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). In the wake of Fidel Castro's resignation as president for life, Flake quickly and unequivocally called for the U.S. to lift its bans on travel to and trade with Cuba. Nearly 50 years of embargo, argues Flake, has produced nothing other than continued misery for the Cuban people and unnecessary restrictions on the freedom of Americans.

On Wednesday, March 12, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) stopped by the Reason DC HQ to talk with about Cuba, freedom-and Flake's own failure to live by his self-imposed term limit pledge.

Click below to see a three-minute interview with Flake.

Click below to see Flake's comments to a live audience at Reason. Moderated by's Nick Gillespie (approximately 15 minutes).

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  1. I wonder if Nick sleeps in that jacket. I’ve never seen him without it.

  2. This sounds like good news:

    Is Raul following the China model? In adddition to property rights, the Chinese are actually holding real elections at the local level.

  3. I wonder why Cuba functioning as a “museum of Socialism” doesn’t have some beneficial pro-market effect on its European tourists.

  4. Speaking of Cuba… seven players from their Olympic qualifying soccer team have already defected. The coach of the USL Miami team told EPSN “We were kind of scouting [US v Cuba] because anytime a Cuban team comes to the United States, there’s a chance someone might defect.”

  5. Actually, Nick was sans pleater jacket in yesterday’s clip, and he was thus momentarily uncool.

    As for today’s clip, what’s with the background noise? Does Reason work out of a supercool collectivist loft somewhere? Why aren’t they listening in rapt attention to Smiley’s “thoughts”? Adding in a laugh track would have been a good touch.

    P.S. Here’s Smiley’s partner laughing about how an imm. bill they were pushing had a completely bogus provision. Yeah, I really trust Smiley.

  6. FYI both pictures link to the same 3-minute video

  7. Yo lonewacko people tend to be social creatures, perhaps the interview was done at one of those social occasions? You know, where people talk to each other?

  8. Excellent clips.

  9. Another thing about the Fonz/Nick:

    He is ALWAYS the moderator.

  10. Bingo. Both pictures link to the same PAGE. If you scroll down on that page you’ll find the longer of the two videos.

  11. Oh, and Mr. Flake looks considerably more Mormon (LDS) than any of the pictures I’ve seen of him. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t really care. 🙂

  12. Haha, thanks Dan I missed that 🙂

  13. On Flake’s reneging on his three-term limit: in 2000, did he expect Sen. Kyl to retire and a weak Democrat to run for governor in 2006?

    As far as Mormon politicians go, Flake seems better than Romney: both more principled and less a Stepford candidate.

  14. Heh, heh. Flake is totally checking out Nick’s package in the second picture.

  15. Rimfax, that was disturbing. Almost as disturbing as Nick’s hair in that second picture.

    I wonder why Cuba functioning as a “museum of Socialism” doesn’t have some beneficial pro-market effect on its European tourists.

    On a previous Cuba thread, someone had a good point about people who rail against “commercial” vacation areas. Cuba sure as hell ain’t that, and those people aren’t forced to live there, so they can bask in the non-commerciality without actually having to deal with food shortages, etc.

  16. without actually having to deal with food shortages

    Dude, without food shortages where will send food aid so we can think good thoughts about ourselves? Very selfish of you to contemplate eliminating food shortages.

  17. Flake is totally checking out Nick’s package in the second picture.

    What? His Marlboros?

  18. Hey, props to Flake for taking a principled position. The Cuban lobby is second only to the Likudian lobby in influence on a national scale (ethnic wise)

  19. “No member of Congress is a stronger critic of the failed U.S. policy toward Cuba than Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).”

    Ron Paul? I’m sure Dennis too. Oh well. Who cares about them. 🙂

  20. Why does Flake always look like he’s trying to suppress outrageous laughter?

  21. Yo lonewacko people tend to be social creatures, perhaps the interview was done at one of those social occasions? You know, where people talk to each other?

    I have two answers for this:

    1) Lonewacko can’t even seem to muster the effort to be sociable on t3h webtertron. Do you honestly think he has the ability to comprehend the concept of being sociable in a setting where other people are around?

    2) Lonewacko is the last person in the world who should be criticizing anyone else’s video skills. If you’ve ever seen any of the videos he’s tried to put together on YouTube, you realize that his entire video editing skills amount to a largish pile of Grade-A FAIL.

  22. This Owen Wilson-looking dude could actually be presidential primary material.

  23. Why does Flake always look like he’s trying to suppress outrageous laughter?

    I dunno, the fat boy he smoked in the limo?

  24. Why’s he smoking a fat one, Alice? If you’d stop bogarting all the brownies maybe he could have one…

  25. perhaps the interview was done at one of those social occasions? You know, where people talk to each other?

    Interesting. What are these “social occasions” of which you speak?

  26. I for one was disappointed that Flake didn’t talk about Cuba’s awesome schools and healthcare.

  27. Damn, I just wrote a massive serious comment on this and it disappeared into the ether.

  28. First of Flake talks about logic. Let’s start by talking about why the embargo exists. It was started as a punitive measure in response to largest expropriation of American assets in U.S. history. That means fidel and company STOLE american assets. They have never admitted that the theft was wrong nor have they attempted to compensate those it stole from. I’m talking about AMERICAN assets here not Cuban citizens. So if you have a neighbor who kept your lawnmower when you lent it to him, why would you lend him your new one? It doesn’t make sense.

    Flake conveniently skips over the fact that both China and Vietnam made settlements for expropriated assets as a precondition to full trade. Also the fact that both of those countries (and especially China) have made structural reforms to their economy that Cuba REFUSES to undertake, precisely because such a liberalization will eventually lead to demands for political reforms from the citizenry.

    Flak admits that the Cuban state is in full control of the economy and the factors of production. That means American business interests would by necessity be trading and doing business with the very repressors that make the lives of everyday Cubans miserable. When you do business with China (because of the economic reforms) you can actually help Chines businessmen and their employees. In Cuba the people would continue to get only what the state allows them to have. There’s a big difference.

    Flake also claims that Americans should travel to Cuba to see for themselves that communism doesn’t work. Does he mean like those millions of Canadian and European tourists that go to Cuba stay in an all inclusive resort, take a tour of the Potemkin village and return home singing the praises of Cuba’s worker’s paradise? He’s got to be kidding.

    Look at that little smirk on his face. My theory is that the Cuban government is blackmailing him. Who knows what kind of trouble he got himself into on one of his “fact finding missions” to Cuba. Someday we will know.

    Flake’s approach is wishful thinking and based on a false dichotomy. If policy A doesn’t work then removing policy must work. The regime has been very smart about manipulating any situation to its advantage. All the regime cares about is maintaining power and right now the road to maintaining power is to sucker the U.S. into investing in Cuba and then reneging on deals, not paying back debts and being generally belligerent once the money is on their side of the straits of Florida. The best indicator of future performance is past performance and NONE of the dialogue and engagement of other countries has changed the regime.

    Now is the exact WRONG time to remove the embargo. It would give legitimacy to the monarchical succession that took place. It would be much better to have the carrot of removing the embargo available when a true reformer steps up in Cuba like Gorbachev did in the USSR. Legitimizing Raul will only serve to push that potential reformer back into the shadows and delay the liberation of Cuba,

  29. But isn’t lifting the embargo more a political gesture than anything? I don’t think anyone is convinced it will lead to immediate success, but it would help bury stereotypical hostilities about America’s commie phobia.

    And I think most investors would agree that even in the wake of open trade and investment, Cuba would still be an extremely risky market to spread out in. If continued expropriation scared off investment and living standards continued as they are, Cuba’s faults would become much harder to ignore.

    “Another factory seized in the name of revolution!”, over and over again and nothing changes, so investment dries up (as it free-market would) and then who’s gloating? The US can shrug and say it’s allowing business to proceed, but clearly nobody’s interested after seeing others lose their assets to a voracious state.

  30. It’s more than a political gesture. It would give Cuba access to credit from the World Bank and such (guess who the largest investor is).

    As far as the belief about stereotypical hostilities about America’s commie phobia goes, I would ask who holds those beliefs? Who’s mind are we trying to change and why? Commie phobia? Are you saying you think we have nothing to fear from communism? Certainly you can’t be watching the same developments in Latin America that I’m watching.

    From the American perspective sure you could open up trade with Cuba and say Caveat Emptor but that doesn’t help the Cuban people one bit. In fact it prolongs the suffering. What you’d have is a bunch of capital going to Cuba to prop up the regime and when the regime predictably reveals itself as crooks, several years would have passed. Why give the regime that is on life support a free breath of oxygen at our expense?

  31. Also Cuba’s tourism is declining. A crapload of American tourists is just what the “well trained Cuban doctor” ordered for the decrepit regime. No thanks.

  32. I find concern in the Latin American situation but not so much personal fear? I don’t expect a military attack on North America, nor domestic revolutions that replace the Constitution with Marxism. I do think the arm’s length attitude is ineffective and essentially just a shouting contest. Embargos are ugly and seem like poor diplomacy.

    You’re saying that increased trade and investment wouldn’t help the Cuban people, but choking off their regime is a better idea? Wouldn’t the fallout be even worse?

    The only minds I’m trying to change are those of tireless regime defenders who mock American “fear” as if it’s a form of misplaced envy. I think it would serve the cause well to show that America isn’t spiteful or stubborn, but open and proud. Right now it’s acting like the comic book villain all regime activists want it to be. I’ll go back and tend to my flower beds now.

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