Monday, December 29, 2014

Wishful Thinking about Cuba

Let's say that the men and women at the NY Times are persistent when it comes to writing about Cuba.  

The past  weekend's latest Cuba editorial identifies some truths about Cuba:
"Under Communist Party rule, Cubans endure the austerity of living under a stagnant, centrally planned economy.
Their access to the Internet is severely limited and censored. The island’s official press is wholly subservient to the state.
Outside the rigid mechanisms of the party, Cubans have few substantive vehicles to challenge their leaders."
The editorial also blames the U.S. for the lack of opposition of Cuba. They say that the embargo rallied Cubans against the U.S. Let me say two things about that:

1) I have never heard a Cuban dissident blame the U.S. Instead, they blame Castro and some go to jail for it; and

2) I guess that no one at the editorial board has a clue of the repressive nature of the Castro regime. In Cuba, dissidents are not worried about a U.S. invasion. Instead, they worry about Castro's thugs knocking on the door at night and taking someone to jail.

Again, I've been talking to Cubans who have lived these experiences.  Apparently, the people at The NY Times are doing "hope and change".

The editorial also calls on Latin American leaders to attack the lack of human rights in Cuba:

"For decades, Latin American governments have coddled, or appeased, the Castro regime because confronting it would be interpreted as an endorsement of Washington’s harshly punitive policy toward the island. By changing that policy, Mr. Obama has removed that concern, which should allow leaders from democratic nations to support the principles Cuban activists have put forward. The leaders of Latin America’s largest economies, in particular, can be strong champions of Cuba’s opposition leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April.
Despite a traditional reluctance to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil should speak up unequivocally for democratic values that are embraced by most nations in the Americas. As a former political prisoner, a leftist and the leader of one of Cuba’s main trading allies, Ms. Rousseff would arguably carry the most weight.
It would be nice but this is silly and "wishful thinking" of the worst kind.

First, Latin American opposition to the U.S. trade embargo had nothing to do with the U.S. or Cuba. In fact, many countries, like Mexico with tourism and Brazil with sugar production, have actually benefited from the embargo. For example, did any of your grandparents spend their honeymoon in Cancun in the 1950s? The answer is no because Cancun as a tourism destination did not exist prior to the embargo. All of that Mexican Caribbean tourist industry came about because Americans could not go to Cuba. I recall speaking with a hotel manager in Cancun years ago who admitted that lifting the U.S. embargo would hurt their business.

Second, Latin American leaders have legitimized Castro to please their domestic leftist movements. They support Castro so that they can keep the left happy. It has nothing to do with Cuba or the U.S., it's all about their domestic politics, i.e. giving "candy to the left" as a Mexican politician told me over lunch.

Again, it would be nice if Latin American leaders would now start calling on the Castros to move on and bring change to Cuba. Unfortunately, I don't see it. 

Let me say it again. The Obama-Castro deal was bad because it demanded nothing from Cuba. In fact, the deal will turn into a "lifeline", unless the GOP Senate and House put the brakes on lifting the embargo or extending credit to the regime.

P.S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.

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