The interception of a North Korean ship believed to be carrying missiles, jets, and other weapons from Cuba through the Panama Canal should be a wakeup call for the Obama Administration as it resumes migration talks with Cuban officials for the first time since 2011.

The incident illustrates the wrongheadedness of the Obama Administration’s warming relations with the Castro regime. The Obama Administration seems to have forgotten that the source of lack of progress in Cuban–American relations is the regime in Havana, which is hopelessly wedded to the Communist political-economic model.

The talks aim to address changes in the flow of people between the two countries, but it is important to note that anyone traveling to Cuba today will pay a significant percentage of his travel costs to support the Castro regime.  Cuban Americans or others traveling under license will inevitably visit official stores and patronize government tourist facilities, most of which are run by military-owned holding companies or concessions and support the socialist economy.  Americans traveling to Cuba may believe that their visits engender good will and foster people-to-people contact—and perhaps they do—but they also help to enrich the Castro regime.

If we actually want to help the long-suffering people of Cuba, the answer should be obvious: shine a light on the repression and tyranny that make daily life in Cuba such a grinding ordeal.

Dissidents such as Rosa Maria Paya and Berta Soler already speak out against the regime, hoping to raise awareness and demanding answers about horrors of communist Cuba. Paya hopes to pressure Cuba for answers about her father’s murder, dissident Oswaldo Paya, while Ladies in White leader Berta Soler works to defend political prisoners.

If the plight of Cuban political prisoners were not enough, American Alan Gross has been held in a Cuban prison for more than three years.  A subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Gross was arrested in December 2009 for making the Internet available to members of Cuba’s small Jewish community. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in March 2011.

Rather than accommodate and appease the Cuban regime, the Obama Administration should uphold the right of the Cuban people to democracy, and the Administration should refrain from measures that would enrich the Castro regime and its loyalists without empowering the citizens of Cuba to take charge of their country. The U.S. should offer real changes in U.S. policy only in exchange for freedom of information, expression, and travel for all Cubans and others repressed by the regime.