It's now official: A free, democratic Cuba is no longer the goal of United States policy toward the island.
After this weekend's bro-fest in Panama, it's not exactly clear what has replaced it after 50 plus years, except for maybe the new check marks on President Barack Obama's legacy checklist and his Apologize for America World Tour T-shirt.
“So often, when we insert ourselves in ways that go beyond persuasion, it’s counterproductive, it backfires,” Obama said, adding that was “why countries keep on trying to use us as an excuse for their own governance failures.”
“Let’s take away the excuse,” Obama said.
In return for releasing American hostage/political prisoner Alan Gross in December, Cuban dictator Raul Castro this weekend collected his ransom from Obama: De facto recognition and normalization of relations and the promise of much more.
All Obama could offer the people of Cuba were platitudes.
“(W)e are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient — very patient,” Obama said.
After 50 plus years of tyranny, repression and yes, sponsorship of international terror, all Obama can say about efforts on the island, and elsewhere, to bring freedom and democracy to Cuba, is "be patient."
That must have given Castro, an 83-year-old general never elected to anything, a hearty laugh at Obama's expense.
Because that promise of change -- "hope in change," if you will -- is not part of Castro's agenda.
His goal since taking over for his decaying, decrepit big brother in 2006, has been to do whatever it takes to preserve his regime's deadly grip on all levels of power. That is why he has instituted so-called "economic reforms," and that is why he held onto Alan Gross until the American president gave in to his No. 1 ransom demand: A lifting of the embargo and other sanctions, and full diplomatic recognition.
Obama is well on his way to giving Castro all that he wants.
What about the Cuban people? They continue to suffer under Castro's jackboots. For example, since Dec. 17, when the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement was announced, the Cuban secret police have made some 1,000 politically-motivated arrests.
The re-set of U.S.-Cuban relations has been of no use to those brave Cubans risking what little freedom they do enjoy to demand democracy or at the very least, a seat at the table.
Castro has no interest in allowing that and after this weekend in Panama, he has a willing accomplice in the White House.