Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mary Sanchez: Cuba watchers should turn attention to U.S.

November 27, 2007

Mary Sanchez, of The Kansas City Star has published a very good commentary on U.S. Cuba relations, despite the fact that U.S. journalists have been conditioned by half a century of anti-Cuba capitalist propaganda. Typical is that she continues to see Fidel Castro as an evil dictator.

I will grant her one thing, though. One of the great things that the United States has is a truly free press, something that is missing in Cuba. She of course is entitled to express her opinion as to the nature of Cuba's regime, but then, so am I.

Mary, when a large island of eleven million people is constantly threatened by the Bully of the North, then they must do whatever is necessary to defend the independence and the national sovereignty of the greatest of the Antilles.

Because of the actions of the United States government, a truly imperialistic and hegemonic power, Cuba has to have a less-than-perfect system to insure the survival of their Socialist enterprise.

What has close to 50 years of embargo, sabotages, and other immoralities of the United States government accomplished? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! It is very sad that Americans are disliked throughout the world. People, including the Cubans, do not hate Americans. It is the U.S. government we dislike.

Here is Mary's column:

Cuba watchers should turn attention to U.S.

The vigil for a new day in Cuba has for some time been focused in the wrong direction. All eyes are on Fidel Castro, as the world waits for him to die.

The fantasy goes something like this: Once the grizzled dictator is dead and buried, a new day will dawn for the Cuban people. No longer fearful of harsh reprisals, they will take to the streets of Havana to demand democracy. The spirit of freedom will blossom and Cuban communism will be overturned in free and open elections.

Thing is, Castro has essentially been dead for 15 months. That’s how long it’s been since he was last seen publicly. The video images of him in a track suit still jabbing at George Bush only prove he is breathing. But governing? Not so much.

Castro ceded power to his brother Raul in July 2006. And virtually nothing has changed in the island nation since. So when Castro’s heart stops beating, don’t expect mass demonstrations in Cuba to match the jubilation in Miami. Raul is younger and a far less-intriguing personality. But all indicators are that he will continue to lead much as his revolutionary elder sibling did for nearly 50 years.

A better clue to how things could change in Cuba just might be in Washington. A changing of the guard at the White House is the one transition people can count on. Castro may hang on to life, but Bush will be packing his bags this time next year.

And so it is imperative that people begin querying the presidential candidates for their views on Cuba. Here is a debate question I’d like somebody to ask candidates: Are you the type of leader who will relentlessly cling to an embargo that has failed to produce the desired results for nearly 50 years?

If the next occupant of the White House chooses to unravel the mess the current administration has made of Cuba policy, it’s going to take a lot of diligence. For years Bush has been hell-bent on entrenching U.S./Cuba foreign policy in the failed policies of the embargo. And he appears ready to use his limited time left in office to intensify that effort.

Under the embargo, travel to Cuba is restricted. Journalists, close family members of Cubans, government officials and some educators are allowed, but only after the U.S. State Department gives its OK. Under Bush, it has done so with less and less frequency. And Cuban-Americans are being further separated from their family members on the island: They are allowed only one visit every three years, instead of an annual trip.

Now Bush administration officials are poised to severely curtail yet another legal route to visiting the island. According to advocates for more open relations with Cuba, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, part of the Treasury Department, may implement a policy change reducing travel between the United States and Cuba for performers.

A letter-writing campaign, drawing the support of musician Tre’ Cool of Green Day and actors Sean Penn and Danny Glover, is under way to forestall any such policy change.

Almost everywhere else in the world communism has held sway, the Bush administration promoted the idea of cultural exchange, allowing our scholars, students, artists and performers to interact with theirs. But Cuba somehow remains different.

Among the presidential frontrunners, Hillary Clinton oddly is bowing toward Bush’s position, implying she will be hard on dictators like Castro. She is opposed to lifting the embargo, as are Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain.

Barack Obama has wisely split from the pack, noting in a recent statement, “To help advance democratic change in Cuba, we need to grant Cuban-Americans the unfettered ability to visit family on the island and to send them remittances.”

The Cuba Research and Analysis Group, an organization that opposes the new restrictions on travel to Cuba, has contrasted the administration’s hard line with sentiments first lady Laura Bush expressed last year while touting the State Department’s Global Cultural Initiative campaign.

“One of the best ways we can deepen our friendships with the people of all countries,” Laura Bush said, “is for us to better understand each other’s cultures by enjoying each other’s literature, music, films and visual arts.”

Perhaps Laura can speak to her husband. Never mind. He’ll be gone soon.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send e-mail to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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