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Cuba appears to be changing, but U.S. Senate will need proof

Published: Tue, September 21, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

Cuba appears to be changing, but U.S. Senate will need proof

The first real winds of change in 50 years are moving over Cuba, bringing the possibility of an end to the 48-year-old trade embargo imposed by the United States against the Communist island nation.

It has always been in Cuba’s power to set the wheels in motion to end the embargo. But Fidel Castro, and in recent years his successor brother, Raul, could not bring themselves to put the welfare of their people above their need to rule with an iron fist.

Cuba remains a closed society, where prison is the reward for political dissent. And a commitment by the Castro brothers to tolerate political opposition has been a prerequisite to relaxing the embargo.

Fidel Castro much preferred to jail his political enemies and to rail against the United States, blaming it for his nation’s problems, rather than take responsibility himself.

Now, the Castros have essentially admitted that their half-century experiment with Communism is failing, leaving North Korea as the most visible example of recalcitrance.

Raul Castro announced last week that a half million government workers will be laid off and forced to find work in an emerging private sector. That’s about a sixth of Cuba’s 3 million government workers and a tenth of the nation’s total workforce of 5 million.

Unsolicited advice

Meanwhile, in run-up to its annual condemnation of the 1962 U.S. embargo, Cuba released a list of steps it suggested President Barack Obama take unilaterally to circumvent the embargo, including easing travel restrictions.

Frankly, the last thing Obama needs from Cuba is advise about how to thwart the will of Congress in maintaining the embargo.

If Cuba is genuinely interested in normalizing diplomatic and trade relations with the United States, one or both of the Castro brothers should say so publicly.

Until that happens, and until more is done to empty Cuban jails of its political prisoners, the embargo will remain a political fact of life.

The United States is the only remaining country enforcing an embargo that was a creation of the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis. It would serve the interests of both nations to confine this remnant of another age to the dust bin of history. Cuba would receive obvious economic benefits; the United States would stop looking like a vindictive bully to both its enemies and its allies.

But the historically required prerequisite was a good-faith demonstration by Cuba that it was changing. That’s still necessary, for two reasons. First, because it is the right thing for Cuba to do. Second because any attempt to circumvent the Helms-Burton Act, which codified the embargo, could never get through the Senate without significant affirmative action by Cuba.


1huitzi(1 comment)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh, that evil Cuban government!
But wait -- two quick points about ourselves.
1. We have unsuccessfully spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to get the government of this small island overthrown, and continue to happily spend, spend, spend (Know Alan Gross? He's "our" subcontractor, and he had been spending our regime-change dollars, while on a tourist visa there, before they threw him in the hole). By far most of the Cubans rotting in prison (and in the process of being freed now) are there not because they spoke out, but because they took U.S. taxpayer dollars, from programs designed to overthrow their government.
Even here, in the Land of the Free, we have a law against citizens termed "unregistered agents of a foreign government." And believe me, our government cracks down on them; there are dozens of "unregistered agents" serving long-term sentences in U.S. prisons. Would we happily agree to send them to freedom in Spain if China asked for some "affirmative action", or else?
2. Our 50-year old embargo: From all I hear and understand after traveling to Cuba for more than a decade, most Cubans genuinely hate the embargo we impose on them. That includes (I would argue) most Cubans that tend to be mostly critical of the Cuban government. Heck, according to surveys, 65 percent of Cuban AMERICANS would prefer Washington allow all Americans to travel freely to Cuba.
After all, we're the Land of the Free, are we?
The Cubans are a proud people, and we don't even realize how we're bullying them -- unsuccessfully at that.
When it comes to Cuba, we're merrily shooting our own foot, cry in pain, and don't even try to understand why.
It's time for some affirmative action in Washington. Let's tell that to our Senators and Representatives.

Johannes Werner
Cuba Standard
Sarasota, FL

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2gfpalmer(16 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

The embargo is renewed every so often in Congress. To ensure an affirmative vote, the US-Cuban Democracy Pact contributes to Republicans and Democrats alike so long, and only if, they vote to retain the embargo. My representative, Mr Charles Wilson, is one of them. He takes the allowable limit in contributions from the embargo lobbyist yet he hardly knows that his vote deprives his constituents, Ohio farmers and manufacturers a trading partner in Cuba. In the past I have called Rep. Wilson's office, left messages, and sent letters - no response. He rather take the money than reflect on the effects of his vote on his constituents and state. Sadly, The Vindicator is as willing as Mr. Wilson to stay ignorant of the facts.

Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, Ph.D.
Boardman, OH

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3jmwave(2 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

The article points out the controlling aspect of the US over Cuba. "Its always been in Cuba's power to set the wheels in motion..." Actually it is the US who imposed the embargo on Cuba and it is the US that must repeal it. Cuba does not need to do anything to please the US since it is Cuba who has been injured. First by the continuing economic embargo of 1960, then by an invasion in 1961, then followed by the terrorist actions of Operation Mongoose(see US documents) which continues to this day(with over 3,000 Cubans dead so far) by private groups of terrorist free in Miami. Alpha 66, a well known para-military organization,("enemy combatants" by Bush's definition) currently meets in Miami and openly plans actions against Cuba. Even the Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros lobbied effectively for the pardon and release of at least two known terrorist one as recent as 2008 who was incarcerated for killing a Cuban diplomat in New York City. Just looking at the history of some past and present staff and assessors of the Cuban-American politicians in both the House and Senate one appreciates the extent and depth of US aggression against Cuba. One may then question who must change. Cuba has been very explicit as to the wanting normalization of relations with the US but the US stated policy is to pressure the Cuban people economically and politically so they revolt against their government. That policy has not changed since 1959. Currently US taxpayers funds some of these regime-change efforts to the tune of 45 million dollars a year. Add the cost of maintaining an embargo and, the trade US businesses lose and we have some real money. We are not even counting the human cost. Perhaps the US may want to finally liberate itself form a bad policy, liberate its own citizens and allow them the freedom to travel and trade with Cuba. Its hard though, Congressman Charlie Wilson and his friend Albio Sires(Cuban-American Congressman from New Jersey and friend to some very violent Cuban-Americans) seem to prefer the money and power of the Cuban Political PAC than the liberation of Americans so they may trade with and travel to Cuba.
Milton Sanchez-Parodi, MD
Poland, OH

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