Whom exactly are "them?" We will suppose that Secretary Gutiérrez is not so great a political naif as to suggest publicly for a second time in less than a week that the U.S. should suffocate the Cuban people. He no doubt meant the Castro regime. The Bush administration, however, has done nothing in eight years to restrict its "breathing room." On the contrary, it has been far more accommodating than its predecessor in all respects except kidnapping Cuban children and delivering them to Castro. During Bush's tenure the trade embargo has been effectively scrapped; the only remaining provision stipulates that the bankrupt Castro regime cannot buy on credit but must pay upfront for everything it buys (which, incidentally, is the only time that the administration tried to curb U.S. corporations from making bad loans that would eventually have to be underwritten by American taxpayers). Bush has also rigorously enforced the legal travesty known as the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy -- remember, a policy not a law -- longer than did Clinton, though he could have ended it on his first day in office by presidential order. Finally, Bush ceased all efforts to have Communist Cuba condemned for human rights abuses at international forums, and even acquiesced to the dissolution of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, at Geneva, which was replaced by a Committee for the Validation of Tyrants, controlled by Cuba and Iran.
Compared to the turbulent Clinton years, when U.S.-Cuban relations consisted of one crisis after the other, Bush has done everything in his two terms not to destabilize the Castro regime because it prized order above freedom, at least as far as Cuba was concerned. Specifically, our "great amigo" feared that the eruption of freedom in Cuba might lead to another mass exodus of refugees and Bush preferred to have Cubans as Castro's problem rather than his. Besides, why make a genuine effort to topple Castro when all you have to do is hold a Cuban Independence Day celebration at the White House every year to win the unconditional support of the likes of Val Prieto?
In the waning days of the Bush era, Secretary Gutiérrez has been delegated to take up again the torch of Cuban freedom (if he can find it). I suppose that the commerce secretary and former CEO of Kellogg Corporation is taking refuge in his Cuban roots to escape the present crisis on Wall Street. Even "¡Viva Cuba Libre!" sounds more credible these days than "Viva Deregulation!" or "Viva Golden Parachutes!"
We would have welcomed Gutiérrez to the cause, even at this late date, if his efforts were on behalf of the Cuban people rather than in support of those like Val Prieto who share Castro's goal of starving them. There is one difference between Prieto and Gutiérrez, however. Val wants to starve Cubans in order to goad them into rebellion. Gutiérrez did not get where he is by being "idealistic." He may have adopted Val's rhetoric ("Cubans don't need money because there's nothing to buy in Cuba"), but his motives are his own. He has refused to relax restrictions on remittances and family visits because he knows that it is necessary to increase the suffering of the Cuban people (limit their "breathing room") in order to avoid "chaos in Cuba" as he put it. A people that must struggle for every sip of water or morsal of food is engaged in a Darwinian struggle that precludes revolution. On the eve of the presidential election, the last thing that Gutiérrez (or Bush) wants is any kind of convulsion in Cuba. (Personally, I think that it would help John McCain, not hurt him. At such a moment, the difference between McCain and Obama would never seem more stark).
"Change has to happen in Cuba and I’ll tell you that the future of Cuba is not in Miami, it’s not in New Jersey but probably in a jail cell in Cuba. Somewhere in Cuba. That’s where the future leadership is." -- Secretary Gutiérrez, Ibid
Nor in Battle Creek, Michigan. Heaven help us!