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The sight of soldiers pushing the jeep carrying Fidel Castro’s ashes reminds the world that Socialism and Communism is a failed ideology.

It was a fitting tribute to a savage dictator whose legacy was a brutal and violent “revolution” that turned Cuba into a totalitarian economic backwater.

Yet at a time when the Cuban government is at its weakest point, some like Arizona Senator Jeff Flake suggest opening the doors to American markets for Cuban goods without any concessions from the Cubans.  None.  Zero.

With repression against Cuban nationals on the rise and Iran and Russia preparing spy bases on the island, the threat from Cuba remains as strong as ever.

And Venezuela’s economic collapse takes away a critical economic lifeline to the Castro Dictatorship sorely needed after the Russians pulled out.

Outgoing President Barack Obama’s unilateral concessions to Cuba by the United States, including reopening our embassy, in the hopes that something will change has failed.  Americans gave Donald Trump a mandate to put some backbone in our foreign policy.

What better place to start than with Cuba?  Because our negotiating position has never been better.

Cuba wants to export sugar, rum and cigars to a lucrative American market.  But before that can happen there needs to be a discussion of the billions of dollars in property confiscated by Castro’s thugs with machine guns.  There needs to be discussions about elections and freedom of the press and religion.

And there needs to be a discussion about extraditing the violent thugs, cop-killers and terrorists taking refuge in Cuba free from punishment.

The Castro regime needs to understand that our nation has a new leader who puts America and American interests first.  The days of unilateral concessions to the Cuban Dictatorship are over.

This is one of many areas where I strongly disagree with the incumbent Senator, Jeff Flake.

Since arriving in Washington nearly twenty years ago, Jeff Flake has made supporting the Castro Brothers one of his top priorities.  But unfortunately, like so much of what the Senator has done in his time in DC, it’s more about helping everyone but the people he represents.

Senator Flake, and others who support opening our markets to Cuban products, argues that this unilateral concession will also benefit Americans through increased trade.

Unfortunately, these unilateral concessions aren’t working out very well for our country.  Whether it’s bad trade deals with countries around the world or a weak foreign policy that breeds disrespect for our nation, Americans had enough and elected Donald Trump, along with strong majorities in the Senate and House, to do something about it.

Our new president has a mandate to put America first in his dealings with other countries, and Cuba should be no exception.

The President must make clear that before American markets are open to Cuban goods, and before his nation can benefit from the billions of dollars American tourism will bring, there must be concessions.  Freedom of the press, speech and religion must be expanded.  Cuba can no longer serve as a military base for nations that wish to destroy us.  And the question of claims against the Castro government for property seized more than a half century ago must be brought to a resolution in favor of those who have suffered for decades.

Cuba can and will be a free nation again someday and hopefully that day will come soon.  But it requires our leaders to back up our president and give him the support he needs to make the best deal for our country when dealing with these tyrants.

Not some other country.

The Obama Administration’s agenda giving the Cuban government free access to American markets without any concessions is as silly as the Obama policy that allows high-crime liberal cities to enact “sanctuary city” policies to protect illegal aliens from arrest.

There’s a new sheriff in town.

And I predict that he’s going to move fast to find a solution to a problem that has knotted up presidents for the last fifty plus years.

Arizona has two Republican U.S. Senators who refused to support President-Elect Trump in this year’s election.  I hope our two Senators will listen to Arizona voters and trust the President to make the best deal for the American people.

This is about national security, not whether McDonald’s can open in Havana.  We must never forget that.  Countless numbers of Americans of Cuban descent certainly cannot forget that their loved ones were tortured and savagely murdered by a brutal dictatorship with no regard for the freedoms we as Americans take for granted every day.

Viva Cuba Libre.

This article appeared in The Narrative Times on February 8, 2017