Cuba

5 Great Quotes By GOP Sen. Jeff Flake on America's Failed Cuba Policy

"These aren't sanctions on *Cubans*," he says, "they are sanctions on *Americans.*"

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On Sunday, Barack Obama is poised to become the first U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge to visit Cuba. He'll be accompanied by Sen. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who has lobbied for ending the travel ban and trade embargo with Cuba since showing up in Washington, D.C. in 2001 as a congressman.

Flake traveled to Cuba in late January with a group put together by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website (along with Reason TV and the print edition of Reason magazine).

Ever since doing missionary work in Namibia in the 1980s, Flake has been devoted to opening up trade, commerce, and travel among countries as a means for increasing human flourishing and contact. A hard-core free-marketer and libertarianish legislator—he used to head up the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix—Flake is that rare politician who is absolutely ready to cross party lines when a matter of principle requires it.

About a week ago, we published an extensive interview with Flake that I conducted while we in Havana. Here are five of the best quotes.

1. It always bothered me that as a Republican we preach the gospel of contact and commerce and trade and travel, yet with Cuba we turn around and say, "No, it's not going to work there." It just seemed to be a glaring inconsistency in our foreign policy. And in my first race, the Elian Gonzalez saga was unfolding during my campaign, and so there was a lot of talk and rhetoric at that time. [Editor's note: Gonzalez was the young son of a woman who fled Cuba and become embroiled in an international custody struggle in 2000; the Clinton administration eventually sent him back to Cuba. For more, go here.]

2. Cuba is poor because they have a bankrupt socialist system here. Full stop. I think we Americans should come here now to help the people through trade and travel and that those things will nudge Cuba in a more-free direction. But I've also always felt that Americans need to see what happens when government controls not just the commanding heights of the economy, but the entire economy. It's a sobering experience.

3. These aren't sanctions on Cubans, these are sanctions on Americans. When others who I normally agree with—Marco Rubio and others—say these latest moves by the president are a concession to the Castros or to the regime, they're wrong. It's not a concession to allow your own population to travel. That's an expression of freedom. That's how I've always viewed it. I always thought if you want to punish the Castros, then make them deal with spring break. That's the fitting punishment.

4. It is a very, very disturbing trend that we're seeing in the Republican Party against free trade. It's always been there but usually confined to a few isolated members, the Jeff Sessions of the world and others, but now it seems to be spreading. Obviously, it's being given voice by people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who has come out saying that he would not favor TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

5. I was in Poland several years ago, and Lech Walesa was there. All of the sudden, just out of the blue, he brought up Cuba. And he said, "I have no idea why you guys have a museum of socialism 90 miles from your shore and you won't let anybody visit it." He found it unbelievable that we would deny Americans that wake-up call.

Read columnist Ron Hart, who traveled with the Reason group, on "Cuba: the untaught lesson on the perils of socialism."

For more Cuba coverage at Reason, go here.

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  1. We should allow Bernie Sanders to be the first American tourist to visit Cuba since Castro came to power. 😀

    1. He’s to old to learn from any mistakes, his or other peoples’.

    2. …and then leave him there.

  2. All of these points are spot on. North Korea understands that the worst thing a dictator can do is allow his subjects to have unsupervised contact with people from the outside world. This destroys the dictatorship.

  3. Sounds like an apologist for Castro to me.

    And thanks for giving us a summary of the Elian Gonzalez affair, Nick. You know your Millennial audience.

    1. That’s because you guys have never heard of Illegal Elians.

      1. *Slow clap*

    2. Turns out I’m not a millennial. So let’s bash some millennials!

  4. Obama can explain the benefits of drone strikes over firing squads.

  5. I have never understood the appeal of economic sanctions and travel bans. If you want to undermine a tyrant show his subjects the benefits of freedom. Instead we give the tyrant exactly what he most needs, an external enemy he can blame for all the poverty, scarcity and misery.

    1. I have never understood the appeal of economic sanctions and travel bans.

      Agreed. It makes no economic sense. But I don’t think that’s the reason for the ban. The ban is first and foremost a punishment of Castro and his government wrought on behalf of Cuban expatriates.

    2. Because if you can offshore your slaves what’s the problem?

  6. .4. It is a very, very disturbing trend that we’re seeing in the Republican Party against free trade. It’s always been there but usually confined to a few isolated members,

    It’s a trend in the Republican party because it’s a trend in the country. The Republicans, old, white and racist as they are, occasionally sport tattoos and listen to the latest stuff on top 40.

  7. Slightly OT: The U.S. is going to need a right-of-center alternative to Trump. Maybe the libertarian-ish Jeff Flake?

    1. Obviously, I’m talking about as an independent/3rd party run for POTUS. Not as a mere gadfly/talking head/silent opposition.

      Amash and Massie are too low on the totem pole. GovernorGary has that LP designation as an albatross around his neck.

      Maybe the LP could get a weee bit practical and take someone right-ish (like Flake) for this unique year? Would be ideal if Flake could do this while holding on to Senate seat…

    2. Yeah, ’cause Rand Paul wasn’t right of center or libertarianish.

      1. Yeah, ’cause Rand Paul wasn’t right of center or libertarianish.

        Fair point. But maybe libertarianish would be play better in the general? Also, Rand was made of cardboard.

  8. Don’t you mean 4 great quotes from Flake and one from Lech Walesa that Flake told us about.

    /pendant

  9. But I’ve also always felt that Americans need to see what happens when government controls not just the commanding heights of the economy, but the entire economy. It’s a sobering experience.

    Yes, because no one is as critical of Castro, Marxism or socialism as Canadians and Western Europeans who travel to Cuba.

  10. Yay! Obama bails out the Castros in their Darkest Hour! Yay!

    Yay! Slave state hooker tourism open for business! Yay!

    1. I’ll bite….YAY!!!

  11. “I was in Poland several years ago, and Lech Walesa was there. All of the sudden, just out of the blue, he brought up Cuba. And he said, “I have no idea why you guys have a museum of socialism 90 miles from your shore and you won’t let anybody visit it.” He found it unbelievable that we would deny Americans that wake-up call.”

    I am acquainted with several folks who got out of Eastern Europe when you couldn’t get out of Eastern Europe, and they are amazed at US lefties.

    1. Socialism is utopian in more ways than one. Another way that it’s utopian is that it’s attractive only to those wishing to but not currently living under it.

  12. I liked the “Breakfast, lunch and dinner” quote too.

  13. Obama’s only real accomplishment in 8 years.

  14. Those were really a great quotes. You can get all latest quotes of any kind for free on quotesbus. To access all those quotes visit http://quotesbus.net

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