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Wednesday, 16 August 2006 00:00

The time has come to lift Cuban embargo

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This is about political ignorance, ignorance highlighted by the recent news about Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s apparently serious illness.

In 1962, while embroiled in the Cold War, the United States government imposed economic sanctions upon the island nation of Cuba, cutting off all trade and imposing prohibitions against Americans who purchase Cuban products. The intent was primarily three-fold. First, to alienate Castro from the free world and expose him as a communist dictator. Second, instigate an uprising of the people, then re-establish a democratic regime 90 miles to our south; and third, to put an end to Cuba’s threat as a satellite nation to the Soviet Union, whose dictator, Nikita Khrushchev had promised to bury us.

The embargo was justified. It is not justified any more.

The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Ergo, Cuba is no longer a satellite threat. Many thought the Cuban government would collapse with it, but we must face reality: that didn’t happen. Not only has Cuba survived, they’ve opened their shores to international tourism which has given the island nation an economic shot in the arm we hadn’t counted on. Only citizens of the U.S. are prohibited from leisure travel to Cuba. Meanwhile, my relatives and friends from Canada travel there frequently to enjoy the music, food, warm surf, people and that unique Latino ambience.

The alienation factor has backfired as well. In 2005, the United Nations passed a resolution to end the Cuban embargo by a vote of 182 to 4. So much for alienating.

There’s an old saying about, “Watch out what you wish for; you might get it.” The government’s push toward democracy is succeeding as we had hoped, but it has backfired as well. Elections were held among Palestinians and Iranians in 2005. Trouble is, the people elected our enemies. Whoops!

To our dismay, Castro is enjoying better relations today with other nations of the western hemisphere than ever before, and they are likewise being elected in the democratic process, just as we wished. One of Castro’s compatriots, Evo Morales, was elected president of Bolivia in 2005. Evo is no friend the U.S. At a recent speech, he said, “The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism.” He has the support of his people.

Castro has nurtured another buddy in South America via the “democratic” process. Hugo Chavez, the duly elected president of Venezuela, has more than once threatened to bring down the despised United States government. He has also tightly aligned himself with the goals and philosophy of Fidel Castro and has been seen visiting the Cuban leader during his recent hospital stay.

The more we isolate, the more we become isolated. Whatever success we have sought in dealing with Castro, we have failed. Maybe it’s time for a new tact.

If we were to unleash the private views of our political leaders, I’m sure most would say it’s time to lift the embargo. But then, there’s that precious voting block: the vitriolic Cuban-Americans who hate Castro. Can’t lose their support.

What the Cuban-Americans of Miami and Tampa fail to realize is that after 44 years Castro is the last person to feel the pain from the embargo. It’s the Cuban people who are suffering, their brothers, sisters, cousins and friends. Cubans still live in ramshackle squalor, own no property, and drive around in pre-1960s automobiles. And they’ve had nearly a half century of indoctrinating their children against the great evil: The United States.

As we see with the inane bantering over the Mexican immigration issue, politicians never stop trying to please all the people all the time. Where is there a public servant who will stand tall and tell the truth? The embargo is doing far more harm than good for Cuba and for the U.S.

As with any disputed issue, it is always important to weigh the pros and the cons. There simply are no pros when it comes to perpetuating the embargo against the Cuban people. Rather, we could work at building better relations among all our neighbors to the south if we stopped being so stubborn. And, by establishing better communications with the Cuban people, we might foster a future ally when an ally is needed.

The excuse that we don’t deal with Cuba because it is a communist country is totally hypocritical. We are trading with China and Vietnam, and both are fully communist.

We are a generous nation that never fails in rising to the call of the needy, providing aid and comfort in natural disasters all over the world without prejudice. We provide foreign aid to nearly 150 other countries. It is inconceivable that a government who portrays itself so benevolent can also be so calloused. Well, it’s all about votes.

I have no love for Mr. Castro. But it makes no sense to punish the people while the king sits comfortable in his throne. It’s not their fault.

(Marshall Frank is a writer and a retired Metro Dade homicide detective. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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