What did you do when they came looking for the nonconformist?

no_mas_violencia-copy

My predisposition to respect differences has been put to the test with the “Letter in opposition to the current obstructions and prohibitions on social and cultural initiatives. [English translation available here.] Coming to me by way of email, the letter brings together the disenchanted and urgent voices of a group of intellectuals and academics. Among them I discover some of the names which, with a certain naïveté in distant 2007, helped to build the myth of the “Raulista reforms.” At that time they spoke about measures—more aesthetic than systematic—that should be applied to implementation, adjustments and transformations. Two years later they seem tremendously alarmed by the direction the country has taken. With their articles they propped up the hypothesis that the Cuban process could reinvent itself, as if this absurdity in which we live were a script written by the majority and not a rigid guideline issued from a single office.

I, who remained silent for almost thirty years, have no right to judge those who have worn the mask of conformity, the passive face of those who don’t want any problems. I welcome any initiative that brings to light this river of criticism that has been diverted into the caves of our fear over several decades. So, I will offer my hand, without reproach, to those who assume the risk of expressing themselves, and in this way diminish their fear of moving from mechanical applause to open criticism.

The letter is notable for several gaps, notably in the list of facts that prove the “increase in bureaucratic-authoritarian control.” Missing from this account are the bitter events of last December 10th, the increase in the so-called repudiation rallies, the harassment of several opponents, and the use of physical violence against many of them. Their use of the term “counterrevolution” merits special attention, as the signatories adopt the degrading and exclusionary language that springs from the dais. It is surprising to see professors, economists and university graduates classifying—so complexly—their fellow-citizens. The society I sense in this document frightens me, a society where one can speak openly of Trotskyism, anarchy and socialism, but at the same time one that continues to gag social democrats, Christian democrats and liberals. If that is what is proposed, I am very sorry, but this is not the country where I want my grandchildren to grow up.

I do not think we will relive a “Pavonizaton” because in the end the hard-liner Luis Pavón* had no power to call to the streets a screaming, beating mob; nor the power to sentence anyone to thirty years imprisonment. The dark censors of those Five Grey Years lacked the authority to maintain a vigilance cordon around a house, to wiretap a telephone line, or to arrest—without taking to a police station—an independent journalist or a blogger. We are not living through a return of the cultural inquisitors, but rather the tightening of the screws of a dying system that has run out of arguments, the falling away of the final veil that has exposed the ugly face of authoritarianism.

The title is a reference to Niemöller’s words: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out.” To contextualize this idea I would like to ask the signers of the document if you will remain silent when they come looking for a “counterrevolutionary” or a “worm” or an “opponent”, if you will be among those who beat others in the repudiation rallies, or among those who defend the victim.

Translator’s note:

Luis Pavón Tamayo headed Cuba’s National Culture Council from 1971-1976, during which time he led a McCarthy-like effort targeting writers and artists, many of whom lost their jobs, their rights to publish or display their work, or were even sent into exile or to labor camps. In January of 2007 he appeared on Cuban television in a program where no mention was made of his past activities, infuriating many with his reemergence. The “Intellectual Debate” subsequently carried out through letters and emails, has been preserved on desdecuba.com’s website, and is now being translated as part of the Cooperative Translation Experiment, Translating Cuba, and will be made available in English, for the first time, in its entirety.

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60 thoughts on “What did you do when they came looking for the nonconformist?

  1. I strongly recommend to Julio de la Yncera, hank, Yubano, Statue of Liberty, and other interested in the embargo, to read the fallowing article. The article makes solid points against lifting the embargo without meaningful changes in Cuba. The author lays out good reasons why lifting the embargo will benefit the Cuban dictatorship, no the Cuban people.

    Lift the Cuba Embargo?
    http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y09/abril09/09_O_3.html

  2. I strongly recommend to Julio de la Yncera, hank, Yubano, Statue of Liberty, and other interested in the embargo, to read the fallowing article. The article makes solid points against lifting the embargo without meaningful changes in Cuba. The author lays out good reasons why lifting the embargo will benefit the Cuban dictatorship, no the Cuban people.

    Lift the Cuba Embargo?
    http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y09/abril09/09_O_3.html

    By Humberto (Bert) Corzo*
    Miércoles, 8 de Abril de 2009

    “It is necessary to impose financial, economic and material restrictions to dictatorships, so that they will not take roots for long years….Diplomatic and morals measures do not work against dictatorships, because these make fun of the Governments and the population”. Fidel Castro (Excerpt from the book “Fidel Castro and Human Rights”, Editora Política, Havana, Cuba, 1988)

    In this article I analyze the arguments of lifting the Cuba embargo, which are more rhetorical than real, answering each one of the specific considerations of those that support the end of it.

    “Fidel Castro and Human Rights”, book published by the “Editora Política” of the Cuban regime in 1988, states in the introduction that this reflected the philosophical thought of Fidel Castro. The book is without doubt an “I plead guilty”, where Castro affirms: “It is necessary to impose financial, economic and material restrictions to dictatorships, so that they will not take roots for long years….Diplomatic and morals measures do not work against dictatorships, because these make fun of the Governments and the population”. The international community must apply effective diplomatic and trade sanctions without more delays and subterfuges. What better justification of the embargo than his own words.

    Economic Embargo Highlights

    The Eisenhower administration imposed a partial trade embargo against Cuba on October 19, 1960, prohibiting U.S. exports, with the exclusion of food, medicines, medical supplies and allowing Cuban imports, including sugar. The full embargo (described by Castro’s regime as a “blockade”) was enacted by President Kennedy Executive Order on February 7, 1962, except for non-subsidized sale of food and medicine, in response to Castro’s regime expropation of the properties of United States citizens and corporations without compensation. Travel restricctions were imposed in February 8, 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Jimmy Carter dropped the travel ban to Cuba on March 19, 1977, and in January 1, 1979, Cuban-Americans were permitted to travel to Cuba. The President Reagan Administration reestablishes the travel ban on April 19, 1982.

    The Cuban Democracy Act, enacted October 23, 1992, during President George Bush administration, prohibits foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, nevertheless permits American companies and their subsidiaries the sale of medicines and medical equipment, and donations of food to Cuba. The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton) was passed on March 12, 1966 in response to the crisis brought about by Cuban fighter jets which shot down two private planes, operated byBrothers to the Rescue, outside the Cuban aereal space. A section of the law allow to sue in U.S. those foreign companies who make use of property formerly owned by U.S. citizens confiscated by the Cuban government, and denies entry into the U.S. to representatives of such foreign companies. Since its enactment this section of the law hasn’t been enforced.

    President Bill Clinton signed the “Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act” in October 2000, that allowed the sale of agricultural goods and medical products to Cuba. In 2004 President W. Bush administration policy tightened restrictions on sending cash remittances, gift parcels and Cuban-Americans travel to Cuba The congressional spending bill passed on March 10, 2009, under President Obama administration, reverse the restrictions on travel policy to Cuba imposed in 2004.

    Effect of the Embargo

    The United States Government has always exempted from the embargo medicine and humanitarian supplies to the Cuban people, as long as such aid is distributed by independent non-governmental organizations (NGO) such as the Catholic Church and international organizations such as Pastors for Peace.

    Since 1992, the U.S. has approved 36 of 38 license requests for commercial sales of medicines and medical equipment to Cuba. During the period from 1993 to 1996, the U.S. has licensed over $150 million in humanitarian assistance, more than the total worldwide foreign aid received by Cuba in those years. This total does not include the millions of dollars in medicine and food sent to Cuba in the form of “care packages” from relatives living in the U.S. [1]

    In the year 2000 the Department of Commerce approved the export to Cuba of approximately $550 million in medicines, medical equipment, cash remittances, gift parcels and food (cash remittances and gift parcels account for about 75% of the total amount).

    The United States government’s embargo has had little effect on the Cuban economy, since it only represents 5 % of Cuba’s commerce with the rest of the world. The embargo only affects the American companies and their subsidiaries. The rest of the countries, 180 since the last count in 2007, are free to conduct business with Cuba and are doing so, as confirmed by imports surpassing $13.78 billions during 2007 [2]. In reality there is not such embargo since in the year 2000 the United States Congress lifted the prohibition of the sale of agricultural products and medicines to Cuba, thereby allowing Castro’s regime to buy everything it needs by paying in cash.

    <b.“Cuba will not buy even an aspirin, nor a single grain of rice. A lot of restrictions have been placed (to the lifting of the prohibition of the sale of agricultural products and medicines included in the modification of the bill) which make it humiliating for the Country and also impossible to put into practice”, said Castro during the demonstration that took place on October 18, 2000 across from the U.S. Interests Section to protest the legislation approved by the U.S. Senate lifting the prohibition of the sale of agricultural products and medicines.

    From December 2001 up to December 2008, the Castro’s regime had signed contracts for more than $3.2 billions with American companies for the purchases of their products.
    The Foreign Trade Statistics of the U.S. Census Bureau [3], based on the shipment of goods data, has estimated the export of U.S. products to Cuba at $447.5 millions during 2007 and $717.9 millions in 2008. These figures include only the price of the goods. Cuba’s National Statistics Office placed the United States as Cuba’s fifth business partner at $581.8 million in 2007 (this figure include shipping and financial costs).[4]

    How it is possible that the fifth business partner and biggest food supplier can keeps an embargo on Cuba? The lies of Castro’s agents mimic Joseph Goebbels propaganda technique, “A lie repeated a thousand times eventually becomes truth”, or this other one “The bigger the lie, the more people will be believe it”.

    The remittance of the exile community in 2007 has been estimated in $1.00 billion and in $240 million the humanitarian assistance sends through NGO. The $1.00 billion send by the exiles to Cuba, added to the $240 million in humanitarian assistance, the $3.7 billions of the island exports, the $2.24 billions in tourism, and the $5.66 billions in professional services in health care, education and sports, joint ventures abroad, pharmaceutical and training of foreign students account for $12.84 billions revenues during 2007. The remittance and humanitarian assistance correspond to 9.7 % of Cuba annual gross revenues.

    What the Castro’s tyranny really wants are loans and lines of credit guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury Department, since it doesn’t have hard currency to pay the interests on the lines of credit for the importation of merchandise. The European Union has suspended credits to Castro’s regime due to lack of payment of the $500 millions in loans. The US “bail-out” of Cuba through loans and lines of credit will not be pay back and the American taxpayers will be ones to pick up the debt, as it happens at the present time with the taxpayers of Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, Canada and other countries.

    From 1961 to 1990, Cuba received an average of $4.0 billion dollars per year in subsidies from the Soviet Union. During those years the resources dedicated to the construction of houses and the infrastructure were minimal. Public transportation had not improved nor the rationing card suppressed. The standard of living of the population declined. The social and racial inequality kept growing day after day. The United Nations Development Program ranked Cuba in 2001 in the penultimate place of poverty among the countries of Latin America. All those thousands of million of dollars that arrived at the hands of Castro did not benefit the Cuban people at all. Simply they were used to reinforce the power of Fidel Castro, to pay the cost of the wars in Africa, the subversion against the democratic governments of Latin America, and the creation of the repressive apparatus of the Department of the Interior.

    The infusion of loans by the United States would only replace the Soviet subsidy that Castro no longer receives, thereby delaying the transition of the Cuban people towards democracy and guaranteeing additional decades of oppression and misery. Castro’s tyranny looks forward to the day when the military apparatus and the massive repressive security service will be maintained at the expense of the United States government.

    The effect of the embargo on Cuba has partially fulfilled its objectives. It prevented Castro from obtaining loans and lines of credit that would allow him to finance his permanence in power and avoiding the growth of the indebtedness of Cuba without benefit for the population. Presently the Cuban regime’s debt has risen to $22 billion with the countries of the old socialist campus, $29.7 billion with the European Union [5], plus other $8 billions to Japan, Venezuela, Argentina and other countries. This accounts for a staggering debt of $60 billions.

    Since 1992 Castro hasn’t paid the external debt and therefore cannot obtain more credit from those countries. There is only one country that Castro’s brothers don’t have a debt with (except for the confiscation of American properties that is one of the main reasons for the establishment of the embargo), from which they could obtain credits, the United States.

    If in the last eighteen years the infusion of thousands of millions of dollars from European Union, Latin America, Japan, Canada, etc. have not reached the hands of the Cuban people, nor the millions of tourists that have visited the Island have been able to influence a political and economic opening of Castro’s regime, who could maintain the illusion that tourism and trade with the United States can do it?

    According to Castro’s own words, “There will not be change in Cuba with or without a blockade”, and in June 16, 2002, in a “no-alternative referendum”, petitioned a constitutional amendment declaring Cuba’s socialist system “untouchable” and “eternal”. The rubber-stamp National Assembly passed the constitutional amendment making the one-party socialist state “irrevocable”. As we can see the lifting of the embargo will not be the so1ution to the drama that the Cuban people go through.

    Support for the Embargo

    Among the dissidents of associations within Cuba that work for the advance of Human Rights and peaceful changes towards democracy and social justice, and support the embargo the following ones stand out:

    Doctor Oscar Elías Biscet, president of the Lawton Foundation of Human Rights (FLDH), who served a prison sentence of three years for acts of protests in defense of human rights, was sentenced on April 10, 2003 to 25 years in prison for supposedly having violated law No. 88 with regard to Cuba’s protection of national independence and economy. In May 1999, after the reading of the document answering the declarations of senator Dodd [6], responding to one of the questions of the journalists said, “The embargo is one of the weapons in a nonviolent civic fight”. The reply of the FLDH to the statement of senator Dodd “The moment for lifting the sanctions against Cuba has arrived” was as follow “The lifting of the embargo must be conditioned on respect for human rights, the freeing of political prisoners, the acceptance of the multi-party system and free and democratic elections. This is a question of principles, not business.” The document finish with this statement: “We know that we can be jailed for up to 20 years under Law 88, but it is preferable to suffer and maintain our decorum than to embrace injustice because of cowardice.”

    The economist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello member of the “Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna” (GTDI), has a long history of working for human rights and Cuba’s freedom. She was one of the authors of the document “The Homeland Belongs to All”, which caused her to spent 19 months in prison. Martha Beatriz, condemned to 20 years in prison for exercising her right to free speech and promotes the well being of the Cuban people, is the only woman sanctioned among the 75 opponents, intellectuals and independent journalists sentenced in summary proceedings carried out on April 2003. On 2002, she received the “Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights Award for Scientists”, given by the Academy of Science of New York.

    In her excellent analysis of the Cuban economy published in Revista Hispano Cubana, No. 14 [7] she wrote “Before the demise of the URRS, in Cuba the embargo was not even talked about but now it has become a mater of live or death for the regime, since only the financial flux from the United States, opening the possibility of obtaining lines of credit, the American tourism and the increment of the remittances of relatives, will allow the regime to confront the desperate situation in which it has submerge the country. In an article on the Wall Street Journal [8] she says, “The State has failed to redistribute the resources in an equitable way and has created a very serious situation of inequality. Economic growth requires foreign investments, but the possibilities of important foreign investments are minimal due to the conditions created by the control of the state. When one understands the great impact with which the policy of the system has towards investments and commerce, it is very easy to see that the influence of the embargo in Cuba’s poverty is minimal”.

    Speaking in Havana on November 2002 during the first session of Cuba’s National Assembly Castro dismissed any possibility of success to the opponents of the regime. He said: “There is no opposition to speak of because the dissidents are like fish in an empty fish tank; there is no oxygen left for the counterrevolution and there will be even less in the future”

    Lifting the embargo

    Cuban economy’s bankruptcy is the sole responsibility of Castro’s regime. Under this system the economy will continuous to deteriorate without any hope of improvement. The economy is closely linked to the social development and standard of living of the Cuban people, which make very difficult the improvement of those under the existing regime.

    Cuba’s problems are not the result of the embargo; they are due to the corruption and ineffectiveness of a system that is against private property and free enterprise. These and no others are the real reasons of the problems.

    Lifting the embargo and travel ban without meaningful changes in Cuba will:
    1. Guarantee the continuation of the current totalitarian structures.
    2. Strengthen state enterprises, since money will flow into businesses owned by the Cuban government.

    3. Lead to greater repression and control since Castro and the leadership will fear that U.S. influence will subvert the revolution.

    4. Delay instead of accelerate a transition to democracy on the island.

    The necessary steps required to be taken by the Cuban government to lift the ban on trade and travel between the two countries shall be:

    1. Opposition parties should have the freedom to organize, assemble, and speak, with equal access to all airwaves. Political prisoners must be released and allowed to participate.

    2. Human rights organizations should be free to visit Cuba to ensure that the conditions for free elections are being created.

    3. Eliminate the “tourist apartheid,” where large number of hotels, resorts, beaches and restaurants are off-limits to the average Cuban, and the “medical apartheid” in some hospital that are adequately equipped and do not lack anything, and which are reserved for the nomenclature, the party elite and foreigners who pay in dollars.

    After all it was the United States and the European Union embargo, not investments, which helped end apartheid in South Africa.

    References:

    [1] “The U.S. Embargo and Health Care in Cuba: Myth Versus Reality”, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesman, May 14, 1997- http://secretary.state.gov/www/briefings/statements/970514.html

    [2] “Cuba says U.S. climbs to 5th leading trade partner”, REUTERS, August 14, 2008-
    http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20080814-1131-cuba-usa-trade.html

    [3] U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Statistics, Trade in Goods with Cuba-
    http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c2390.html#2007

    [4] Cuba’s National Statistics Office, Anuario Estadístico de Cuba 2007, http://www.one.cu/

    [5] “Paris Club of creditor discloses IOU list”, Fox News, November 26, 2008-http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Nov26/0,4670,EUParisClubDebtorList,00.html

    [6] “A Stern Reply to Senator Dodd”, by Angel Pablo Polanco, Cooperative of Independent Journalists, Havana, May 14, 1999 – http://64.21.33.164/CNews/y99/may99/14e1.htm

    [7] “TRES TRISTES TRIMESTRES”, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Revista Hispano Cubana, No. 14. – http://www.revistahc.com/.

    [8] “A Cuban Economist Calls For Less Official Meddling”, by Marta Beatriz Roque, Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2000. – http://www.lanuevacuba.com

    *Humberto (Bert) Corzo was born in Cuba. In 1962 he graduated from University of Havana with a degree in Civil Engineering. Since coming to the United States in 1969, he established his residence in Los Angeles, California, where in 1972 he obtained the registration as a Professional Engineer. He has over forty five years of experience in the field of Structural Engineering. He is a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers.

  3. Statue of liberty the policy that you are trying to defend here I always just to respect but my way of think change with the time , I am not a Marxist , may be I’m one of those dreamers that you talk about . The Cuban american relation need to be base in a dynamic interaction were the U.S been able to engage the Cuban government. The Cuban government has always used the relation with the U.S. as a way to repress the Cuban opposition .I remember the end of the 70 went the U.S allow tourist and family member to visit Cuba. That was a total change of the Cuban young a opening of the consent , and awakenings of the way the younger people think about the Castro’s regiment . More tourist will meant the Castro’s wont be able to control the Americans tourist some thing that he could do with the Canadian and European . More influence over the new generation change of way of think.

  4. Statue of Liberty,

    Once again we cross swords.

    But wait one minute my friend, we are on the same side. I hate Fidel, Raul and communism as much as you do. Do you hear me? Is there any way that I can be any more clear? It’s just that our perspectives are slightly different.

    As far as I can tell, we only disagree on methods. Calling me names or labeling me a Marxist or a “dreamer” doesn’t help the cause – in fact, Marxism and that philosophy is as foreign to me as you could possible imagine. I am the epitome of a capitalist and proud of it.

    Look, I am just as much a Cuban as you are, even though I happen to be second generation.

    Here’s where I find fault with what you say, and this is by no means an attack on you, far from it. Citing an article from the Heritage Foundation is, to put it bluntly, not the best approach. The Heritage Foundation is one of the most right-wing conservative groups you could find. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But it plays right into the Fidelista’s hands. Don’t you see that?

    What is required now is clever tactics, diplomacy matched with selective pressure that hurts where it matters. That means flexibility and the ability to alter our position. Why don’t we control the situation? Let’s control the situation and not let Castro control it. Let’s be smarter than them. Keeping the embargo in place is a stale, outmoded, failed policy. As soon as Fidel dies, do you expect one thing to be different? I don’t. Nothing will change when he dies. WE should control the change, NOT THEM. Let’s tip the balance in OUR favor. What does maintining the embargo achieve for us. More of the same. More of the same. Aren’t you tired of it?

  5. Yubano#43
    I have no need to name names, the “Dreamers” have identified themselves.

    There is syndrome imbedded in Cubans who “unfortunately” throughout the years received the Marxist indoctrination from grade school to College that it is the US to be blamed for the Embargo, but they don’t care to analyze the reason why it was imposed in the first place.

    There are other non-Cubans contributors to this blog who with good intentions for our cause, are totally foreign to the whole scenario.
    I don’t hide my way of thinking when expressing myself about the Embargo, therefore I could care less if after this post I get attacked one more time, to me is irrelevant.

    I am going to cite The Heritage Foundation (as I don’t want to be called a plagiary) in some of my arguments as to why the Embargo had succeeded and why it should stay in place.

    CUBA AND U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY
    While it is true that Castro no longer has the ability to export violent communist revolution on a large scale throughout the Western Hemisphere, he has not renounced the use of violence to overthrow democratically elected governments. America’s leaders would do well to remember that one of the constant and enduring characteristics of Fidel Castro’s career has been his lifelong hatred of the United States and everything it stands for in the world.
    If Castro is allowed to recapitalize his communist regime with billions of dollars in Western aid, he could easily threaten economic and democratic reforms throughout Latin America.
    Even with the embargo lifted, Castro’s regime would likely remain very unfriendly to the U.S. and its interests. The benefits of taming Castro with aid and investments, which would be few in any event, it would be far outweighed by the long-range trouble caused by the willful perpetuation of an anti-American authoritarian regime in Cuba more or less indefinitely. The longer Castro’s regime survives, the more opportunities there will be for him to host and support any guerrilla or subversive movement that may arise in Latin America in the future.

    “NO” TO LIFTING THE TRADE EMBARGO.
    Opponents of the trade embargo insist that it has never worked. They argue that Castro has not being forced from power and that the United States is the only country in the world that still refuses to trade with Castro. Critics of the trade embargo also contend that it punishes the Cuban people unjustly and deprives U.S. companies of the opportunity to invest billions of dollars in Cuba at a time when the entire world is beating a path to Castro’s door. However, these arguments are not convincing. Consider the following points: In fact, the trade embargo has been effective. Arguing otherwise ignores history. Castro was able to resist the trade embargo only because he was receiving over $5 billion a year in subsidies from the Soviet Union. This money allowed Castro to finance the buildup of one of the world’s most repressive and murderous communist regimes while disguising the utter collapse of the Cuban economy caused by his failed Marxist revolution.

    The embargo is having an effect. It is unrealistic to have expected the embargo to bring down the Castro regime so long as the Soviet Union existed. It is realistic now to expect a possible collapse of Castro’s regime now that the Soviet Union has disappeared. The reason for this is that Cuba’s expatriate community in the United States and in other countries.understand that Fidel Castro cannot be trusted and that any foreign investment in Cuba as long as Castro controls the island will merely be used to strengthen his communist regime and prolong his tyrannical repression of the Cuban people.
    Castro is doing business with stolen property, and eventually foreign investors who forget the rule of law in their quest for profit will have to answer for their actions before a court of law in a free Cuban nation. Second, Cuba has only I I million inhabitants with a current per capita income of less than $10 a month in real prices. They have little hard cash with which to buy U.S. goods and services, and the island’s technologically obsolescent manufacturing facilities.
    Castro’s reluctant experimentation with free food markets in recent months has been intended to ease popular frustrations by making more food available to Cuban consumers-food that Castro’s collectivized, command- economy policies have been incapable of producing for decades without billions of dollars in subsidies.

    CONCLUSION
    The trade embargo against Cuba is the most effective weapon in America’s foreign policy arsenal for dealing with Fidel Castro. It matters not if other countries think the embargo should be lifted and Castro re-admitted to the community of civilized nations. The U.S. has long conditioned the embargo’s removal on Castro’s compliance with the following basic demands:
    Free and democratic elections must take place in Cuba. A free-market economy should be allowed to develop and the property and assets stolen from their rightful owners must be returned to these owners, or else compensation must be paid at fair market value. All political repression of dissidents must cease immediately, and all political prisoners must be freed from jail; and Castro must renounce his stated goal of promoting global violent revolution and step down from power, allowing the Cuban people to exercise their legitimate human rights to become a free people in a democratic society.

    These are noble and principled demands. They are the philosophical platform on which the trade embargo against Cuba has stood for over four decades. The world has changed in those four decades, but today these principles have greater moral authority than ever before. America’s leaders should not allow to be fooled by Castro’s propaganda. The Cuban dictator may indeed be a toothless tiger without his Soviet patrons, but he has not changed his stripes at all. America’s leaders would do well to remember that old and tiring tigers can be unpredictably dangerous. Now is not the time to ease up on Castro and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead, Congress and the present Administration would be wise to increase the pressure against Castro and hasten the day when Cuba will be a free nation.

  6. My question, Yubano, is very simple. Give me one example of how the embargo has achieved any of its goals — just one over the course of 51 years. How much time do we give it? Of course I understand that the embargo is about sanctions, punitive measures and regime change, but I’ll ask the question again — What has it achieved and is it working?

    Whether or not the policy has had bipartisan support for 51 years is utterly and completely irrelevant. That doesn’t make it right. I couldn’t care less if Democrats and Republicans agree on maintaining it. The point, Yubano, is that it is a failed policy. By which I mean, it has not worked, zilch — nada. When something doesn’t work, you change it so that it does work – you fix it.

    I hate the bastards who rule Cuba just as much as you do. And I also have relatives on that godforsaken Island, none of whom I have had the pleasure of actually meeting. There are other ways of achieving what we all want.

    For the sake of conversation, I’ll answer your questions as best I can, even though you won’t answer mine.

    I can’t predict with certainty what the immediate effects of lifting the embargo would be or how it might play out. What I do know is that it would dramatically change the dynamic in a very real way. Have you read the Human Rights Watch Report on Cuba, all 120 some pages? Their approach is decidedly apolitical, but it makes sense. Lift the embargo, build a coalition and demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in six months — that’s how you force change. If they don’t, then use the coalition to impose real, meaningful sanctions that hurt the idiots at the top. Make them feel the heat with travel restrictions, frozen bank accounts and sanctions directed at them personally.

    The US is isolated and alone in the world on this issue. No one agrees with maintaining the embargo. We have absolutely no leverage and it only serves to bolster the supporters of the criminals in Cuba.

  7. The purpose of the embargo Hank is to sanction the Cuban government. The US government took the position a long time ago to not do business with a communist regime that had expropriated the property of many US companies and citizens and that systematically violates the human rights of its citizens. The embargo was meant to isolate Cuba and yes to hopefully accelerate regime change. The policy has had bipartisan support for 51 years. It was not meant to convince the castros of anything. It is punitive. You don’t convince dictators of anything. They are not open for convincing. I support the embargo on moral grounds. The premise is simple I do not want to do business with a criminal government that represses and exploits its own citizens, that flouts international agreements and that is clearly in its death-throes. I don’t care if the regime uses the embargo to justify itself, it is crumbling nevertheless and I do not support anything that will give it one more breath of oxygen with which to sustain itself. I do not want to bail-out the Cuban government.
    Let’s put the shoe on the other foot Hank. You tell me what lifting the embargo would accomplish? What is it that you think will happen? Do you think the influx of American tourists will precipitate change? What changes have the millions of Canadian, Europeans and other peoples from pluralistic societies visiting Cuba caused to happen? Do you want to extend credit to the Cuban government? Ask all the other credit extenders around the world if they want to keep “lending” money to Cuba. I understand the plight of the people in Cuba, I still have relatives there. Do you really think that taking actions that will sustain the Cuban government is the best thing we can do for our brothers in Cuba? The only answer for Cuba is regime change. Doing “business” with the Castros will not accelerate that change. The Castros will not change a thing about their repressive system, all they want from us is money and credit to sustain them in life support.

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