By Ian Williams, Comment Is Free. Posted September 1, 2007.
Telling the truth about Washington's policy towards Cuba can be dangerous -- but it may pay off for Barack Obama next year.
The news that Fidel Castro is betting on the Clinton-Obama dream ticket should be taken with a large Mohito. It makes you wonder which TV station denied to ordinary Cubans that he is relying on for his news.
Even so, Barack Obama is doing well by doing good with his pledge to reform the administration's counterproductive Cuba policy. It may annoy the hysterical anti-Castro faction in Miami, but lots of sane Americans, including many Cuban immigrants, will support someone who breaks with the inane and inept foreign policy that has got the US nowhere in Cuba and led it up the Tigris elsewhere.
Anyone who has compared the complexions of the diehard anti-Castro types in Miami to those of their former compatriots in Havana will get an inkling of an unspoken truth. There is no way the overwhelming white Cuban supporters of the Cuban American National Foundation would vote for a black candidate, short of him personally delivering the bearded head of Castro on a platter. And even then they would prefer to tip him and send back to the plantation.
Indeed, one of the secrets of the Castro's success is that Afro-Cubans are very well aware that the exiled would-be rulers in Miami are not exactly equal opportunities types. Their ancestors had maintained slavery until 1886 -- and many aspects of segregation right up to the revolution. They would not be welcomed as liberators.
From Kennedy onwards, one would hardly accuse Democratic administrations of being soft on Castro -- but the Southern strategy of not so subtly coded racism worked to get the former Confederacy voting for the transmuted party of Abraham Lincoln. It is highly likely that like many Anglo whites, the more conservative and anti-Castro Cubans support the Republicans for the same racial reasons more than any perceived Democratic softness towards Castro.
But for Hillary Clinton, this is not necessarily about votes. It was her husband, after all, who declared his support for Robert Torricelli's bill cutting trade with Cuba even further after a fundraiser organized by Cuban wannabee Caudillo Jorge Mas Canosa put $275,000 dollars in his campaign treasury back when he was running against George Bush senior in 1992. Mas Canosa knew what he was doing. Bush, who had hitherto pragmatically opposed it, promptly followed Clinton in supporting the amendment.
It would be unfair to accuse Clinton of strictly mercenary motives -- although one has detected more than a hint of such in the past. She is a believer. Her hard line on Cuba should be no surprise, since her foreign policy is identical in most respects to the neocons, as her comments on Iraq, Israel and much of the rest of the globe will testify.
Even so, one can only hope that she is getting some big cheques and endorsements for her support. The embargo and the travel restrictions make no sense in diplomatic or humanitarian terms. If we are concerned about democracy and human rights there is a serious double standard being observed. Castro does not have a free press, does not allow free unions, and locks up some dissidents. Neither does China. Who was the last Congressperson to call for an embargo of China over executions and enforced abortions?
The embargo punishes ordinary people in Cuba, depriving them of contact with their families in the US, and of the financial and medical support they offered. Quite apart from damage to ordinary Cubans, who are after all are non-voting foreigners till they land in Florida and so do not count, the laws rob American citizens of their freedom to travel and their rights to contact with their family members.
In short, the restrictions are morally unjustified and are tactically inane -since they tend to prove the point of what Castro is saying about Uncle Sam's vindictive hostility.
And as Bill Clinton himself pointed out when he walked into an ambush with progressive TV host Amy Goodman, they give Castro an excuse for economic policies that contrive to produce food shortages on one of the most fertile islands in the Caribbean.
Obama has been attacked for his callow youth. But the role of the little boy exposing the lack of substance to the imperial wardrobe becomes him. He should keep it up. There is a lot more exposure needed.
JG: Money is the steering wheel of U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba. We still have too many corrupt politicians in the U.S. Congress who would rather get those juicy checks coming from Miami. "By their deeds yee shall know them."