Yes, December 17, 2014 marks a nasty betrayal of dignity, of human values, of justice everywhere by the President of the United States; very much along the lines of the Kennedy Administration in April 1961 when JFK withdrew the support the US military had pledged to the Cuban fighters after they landed on the beach in the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Everyone’s happy for Alan Gross and his family, but some are floored by the price paid to obtain his release. His freedom was exacted by a trade; a trade involving the three spies instrumental in shooting down civil airplanes carrying American citizens, a violent act causing Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to use language unbecoming a lady before the United Nations in condemnation of their criminal action. What of the innocent lives lost when their airplanes were blown out of the sky? Were the lives of these Americans less valuable than the life of Mr. Gross? Are their deaths meaningless? Are the deaths of so many thousands through the years heroically standing against the Castro tyranny to be ignored?
My outlook shouldn’t surprise anyone: As a Cuban-American–emphasizing the Cuban portion of the stigmatizing label–I am sickened over the move. I’ve spent 54 years away from Cuba because of the regime’s firing squads, the absence of free elections, its totalitarian controls, its smothering any semblance of individuality, the lack of independence of its non-existing judicial, the absconding of all private property to enrich the ruling family and the military that keeps it in power, everything despotic governments force upon the people of the country they ruthlessly subdue.
Since 1961, the dictatorship has relied on the largess of other governments to finance its repression; first, the USSR, lately Venezuela. As these two deep-pocketed benefactors lost the resources allowing them to finance Castro’s thugs in power, now Raul looks to the US for easy money, since from the get-go every tourist must deal with a 15% loss of capital when they exchange their currency for Cuban Units of Currency–the infamous CuC and then purchase everything from government stores selling at exorbitant mark-ups to extract more than their pound of flesh with every commercial transaction. How do these schemes benefit the average citizen?
Raul’s initiative is not a new move; what’s new is the US President’s acquiescence. The government of Cuba has been pressing to get US dollars by the bucketful for decades, yet it has been unwilling to release political prisoners, to stop persecuting dissidents, to forego total ownership of each and every commercial enterprise on the island, large and small, by issuing and withholding licenses and permits whimsically, to encourage initiative by modifying Cuba’s Constitution to allow for judicial independence and to promote the rule of law, the respect for private property, and the establishment of political parties contrarian to the government.
That there’s more to this relaxation than meets the eye is certain. All I can do is speculate on possible scenarios. Let me share a couple.
As a Cuban-American–this time with an emphasis on American–the only explanation for this appeasement on the part of the US is that Mr. Obama had no alternative but to give in to Castro’s blackmail. A couple of reasons may be considered. Either Raul told the POTUS that if the US doesn’t cave-in to his demands our coastline would be filled with another Mariel-like migration, spurned by his release of restrictions on Cubans leaving and the exile community returning by the boat-load to pick up friends and relatives on the island, as in the 1980 exodus; or perhaps, the acknowledgement that the recent Sony/North Korea cyber-attacks generated in Cuba, since Cuba, as a rogue government, is aligned with North Korea–particularly in light of a ship caught not long ago as it sailed off Cuba’s port of Mariel toward the Panama Canal carrying illegal, undeclared, and camouflaged bellicose material toward North Korea, courtesy of the Castro regime in violation of UN sanctions.
The fact that a politician of dubious reputation like Charles Rangel was in Havana when the exchange was made is further indication of something else going on behind the limelight–anything unethical, fraudulent and deceitful comes to mind where men of this caliber are involved.
The acolytes spin the free internet line to swing public opinion in favor of this so-called opening. It makes me want to yell at them; call them ignorant and fellow travelers in the 1950’s context. There’s China. How does the free internet change the situation in Hong Kong, Beijing or Shanghai? Has it stopped China’s occupation of Tibet? Did it stop Putin from rolling over Crimea? How has it changed matters in Venezuela? How did it change anything in Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Iran or Iraq?
Despotic systems of government should not be any more appeased than South Africa was with Apartheid. If the world had not come together to declare South Africa a Pariah, we would still have Apartheid and Mandela would’ve died in prison. It’s the same with Cuba, yet no one cares except the Cubans. Some may get together and toast this opening, as if Chamberlain’s appeasement had prevented World War II and if by willing change the world could have fostered it in the Berlin of 1940. I feel betrayed.