Before running out of time, I’d like to contribute to the restoration of the grandeur once synonymous with the Cuba of my birth. The military junta in power since 1959 puts out volumes of distortions and purposeful misinformation to spread its propaganda across the globe, yet the truth is clear. As the New Testament teaches—and I’m not prone to paraphrase the Bible—“let those with eyes to see see and those with ears to hear hear.”
The reality is that Cuba has suffered much too long under totalitarianism, endlessly abused by what I label an anachronistic feudalist regime with the Castro family at the helm. Fifty-five years and counting should be long enough for any people to remain enslaved, marginalized and hungry. Summoning the world’s help to overthrow this castrating family of thugs in power in Cuba is my most fervent desire.
However, to clarify further my intentions on this blog, as long as I remain alive, I will fight totalitarianism, military juntas, extended tenures in public office and everything else detracting from the freedom we are all created with. This quest is as much about Cuba as it is for the land that welcomed me, nourished me, educated me, and allowed me to live free, raise my family and sheltered my aging parents to their last breath. It’s why my blogs often revolve around this theme and why Patrick Henry alongside Jose Marti are my favorite patriots in the cause for liberty.
With this in mind, I’ll attempt to restructure the unsavory feedback produced by comments released in a letter published recently and currently still circulating through the Internet. The letter was written by one of the most influential members of the exiled Cuban community, a T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University and a historian of late medieval and early modern Europe, Dr. Carlos Eire. Dr. Eire is a renowned story-teller and eminent scholar, recognized for his zealous dedication to the fight against the regime that forced us as children to flee our native Cuba.
It’s clear to me he allowed his emotions to cloud his reasoning, openly hurling unnecessarily hurtful epithets with derision at Google-billionaire Eric Schmidt, potentially with the undesired side-effect of destroying any opportunity for the bridge-building a more restrained and informative missive would have quietly delivered, especially coming from such an important scholar addressing a high-profiled individual with important political connections in this country and across the world.
Ostensibly, a few days ago, Mr. Eric Schmidt traveled to Cuba undercover to meet with Raul Castro and his minions. When he arrived back in the US, he published on his Google+ page his personal opinion on the US Embargo after dissident Yoani Sanchez made public on Twitter his visit to the Island. From Mr. Schmidt’s exposition, the well-informed on Cuba and of the actual situation on the ground in Cuba can infer that there’s a very marked absence of awareness, consciousness and knowledge about the true facts surrounding the so-called Castro opening. Additionally, his post omits any mention of the atrocities the people in Cuba suffer daily at the hands of his host, the head of an absolute feudal state since 1959 and the military junta keeping the Castro family in power with repression, torture, assassinations, kidnappings, and kangaroo courts in exchange for a better lifestyle than the rest of their compatriots.
Professor Eire in complete exercise of his inalienable right to free speech, in the process hurt, beyond the exiled community in general who oppose an end to the Embargo, the cause for Cuba’s freedom and those fighting tirelessly to bring an end to the ruthless dictatorship. From professionals in the field of psychology and other mental health advocates we learn how genuine personal feelings can’t be questioned, for they are an individual’s true expression of personal emotions about situations, and while we here should not and do not challenge the august writer’s feelings, we must acknowledge finding egregious fault with the manner of his delivery.
Some, including me, find the iconic letter embarrassingly disrespectful. It makes us uncomfortable and we find it as demeaning as the roll the Castro dictatorship has given Mr. Schmidt in recruiting his naïve endorsement. It’s humiliating because the gentleman, well-versed on media, technology, finances and politics, failed to do some research with his own Google Internet browser prior to the public revelation of his thoughts. On this point, Dr. Eire is correct.
But we can’t blame Mr. Schmidt for believing the Castro siren song. Our parents and grandparents also trusted his brother Fidel’s smooth talk before realizing too late how much he had fooled them. They died here in the US as political exiles regretting their mistake.
Had Mr. Schmidt been more proactive and alert, he would have understood why his hosts misinformed him. Being more prepared, he would have realized how his Cuban hosts are using him to obtain more than cash, the access to large credit from the US and international banking institutions under the guise of seeking an end to the only thorn through the decades of its oppression that it has been unable to extract from its side despite all previous concerted effort in the past.
Mr. Schmidt would have learned how the poignancy of their thrust has varied through the years. It becomes more vehement as capital to finance the repression appears to dwindle, but diminishes in urgency as other countries with an agenda against the US open their purses to purchase the repressive state’s belligerence in the global court of public opinion.
Mr. Schmidt could have been aware to discuss with Raul Castro how the Embargo, which is not a blockade as the regime’s sympathizers like to claim, works only to prevent the generous exchange of trade using credit with the US and other world banking entities. He would have been able to bring up how unabated since 1959 every nation in the world except the US trades with the oppressive Cuban regime, unlike the world did when South Africa was shunned globally over its repulsive Apartheid system. Nothing prevents them from continuing this blatant disregard for the human rights of the Cuban people with the Embargo in place.
From this vantage point, it’s understandable how most civil-minded individuals with a kind heart and scarce knowledge of the actual situation on the ground in the country would question why US trading with the Island today should not resume. Those who ignore the reality of the Cuban tragedy would raise their opposition to the continuation of the failed Embargo. After all, it’s easy to believe the lies the dictatorship repeats across the globe in seemingly independent media over and over, mimicking what Goebbels and Stalin so clearly taught the world over three-quarters of a century ago, that a lie repeated often enough becomes truthful to the masses.
On the other hand, the well-informed understand without a doubt–and it would have been a stronger position for Mr. Schmidt’s clandestine visit if he had been aware–that blaming the Embargo is only a despotic smoke screen. In Cuba the powerful Castro family using the military as its brutes owns every single enterprise on the island and prevents others from competing with them by passing regulations to suffocate individual initiative. Inconceivable as it is to an American unexposed to absolute totalitarianism, the Castro economic machinery turns all its revenue back to its feudal lord. The large sums of cash are used to purchase the goodwill of those relied upon by the regime to remain in power. The military carry out the orders of the feudal lord. In turn, they benefit by receiving earmarked benefits from the despot.
These benefits place the military on better footing–in a superior economic condition–well above the rest of the Cuban people. These doles buy Castro the loyalty of his sycophants. The feudal state would tumble if the military saw their benefits reduced or eliminated over lack of hard currency and with the erosion of Venezuelan economic wealth and influence, its latest monetary lifeline is precariously at risk; which is why the goons are so intent on revoking the US Embargo with deliberate speed.
The personal wealth of the Castro family is incalculable—many times larger than Mr. Schmidt’s, only shielded behind foundations, trusts, multiple corporations across many nations and countless lawyers; owning property, hiding bank accounts and all sort of investments across the globe. Castro’s despotism is a prime example of how political corruption and unchecked power buy privilege. It’s this corruption what the US Embargo tries to arrest. Rafael Trujillo ruthlessly ruled the Dominican Republic so many years ago with less efficiency than the Castros have managed to amass and retain since 1959. The labor of twelve million plantation indentured servants grows this wealth exponentially and despite all claims to the contrary, the despots will not let go of it without losing a heightened confrontation. Fear of losing control is precisely why they squelch any dissidence. It’s why their brigades of goons disguised as civilians beat up, maim, incarcerate and eliminate anyone with the extreme courage to clamor publicly for the world’s attention to their oppression.
In the Castro plantation, every dollar crossing the border immediately loses 15% of its face value when it’s traded for a CUC, a Cuban unit of currency worth 85% of a dollar at a government-owned money-exchange window. The 15% goes to enrich the coffers of the military, where the head of the military is of course, Raul Castro. A similar haircut is applied to all monies wired by relatives abroad to their loved ones on the island. Further, every CUC spent on the Island goes to purchase goods and services from a military-owned facility or a venue of the military in partnership with foreign investors where goods imported from every corner of the world, including the US, are sold at two or three times their retail value everywhere outside their commercial monopoly.
In the past–and there’s no reason to believe things will change until the feudal state is removed from office–the fate of foreign investors hasn’t been certain. There are multiple entries of instances that show up in a Google search attesting to the arbitrary detention of foreign investors when their use is no longer important to the thugs in power. A recent example of headlines is that of a Canadian, Sarkis Yacoubian.
It’s widely known that the Castro dictatorship rounds up individuals at its whim and denies them their freedom by presenting conjured cases before corrupted courts that always find in favor of the government’s orders. Their present Constitution allows for this, which is the reason the Judicial is not independent. The road to freedom is clear and any semblance of totalitarianism must be revoked.
Everyone knows what must be done to foster a civil society in Cuba. If Raul Castro wants to be trusted, he must move forward with irrevocable changes to the current Cuban Constitution. These changes must be in place before undertaking any discussion to end the Embargo.
He must relinquish the military’s choke-hold on the people. He must release all political prisoners. He must stop the persecution of dissidents. He must protect the Ladies in White and all dissidents. He must steward a new republic imposing limited powers on the government and a principled respect for the human rights of everyone on the island and abroad.
However, I’m not blind or foolish. This is a tall order. Alas, our voice will remain weak until the world condemns the abuses of the Castro regime over the last fifty-five years. It’s essential to stand against Castro’s despotism in a unified front, similar to the world’s condemnation of Apartheid in South Africa decades ago. Until the whole world unmasks and rejects the abuses of the Castro regime marching toward its sixth decade, the Cuban people will remain enslaved in Castro’s outdated autocracy because the status quo benefits the Castro clans.
What will it take for this unification of the world in condemnation of Castro’s atrocities to occur? How many more lives must Cuba sacrifice to this worthy cause? How can we motivate influential individuals like Mr. Schmidt and Dr. Eire to work together to promote the cause of freedom in Cuba? Recalling Jose Marti’s “la patria es ara, no pedestal,” how can we appeal to every principled individual of conscience and compassion to relegate the opportunity for any personal gain by siding with the oppressors on a scale far below the urgency to see justice, freedom, and equality flourish once again in Cuba?