Alberto N. Jones DVM
In less than three months, Cuba has been hit by two cat 3 and one cat 4 hurricane, partially or totally destroying 500,000 homes, ravishing agriculture, health care, education, industry and important sections of its infrastructure, while causing only 8 deaths, given their formidable civil defense system.
In 1989, the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and eastern European socialist countries meant for Cuba, loosing overnight 1/3 of its financial, trade and technical exchange. Widespread hunger, catastrophic human, plant and animal disease broke out across the country, absolute lack of medicine, near total shut-down of industrial production due to a lack of fuel, spare parts, supplies or markets, lead to a substantial increase in suicides, but the country survived, and became stronger than before.
In 1896, on the verge of the Cuban Army of Independence defeating the Spanish occupying forces led by Capt. General Valeriano Weyler, in a desperate dash to reverse the course of the war, he forced thousands of peasants off their lands into the city of Havana, hoping to cut off the insurgents supplies, leading to the death of thousands through hunger, disease, overcrowding, lack of sanitation and transmissible diseases.
For the past forty six years , the United States has imposed a unilateral embargo on Cuba, which was brutally tightened and internationalized in 1992 with the enactment of the Torricelli Bill and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which forbids among other regulations, the entry into the US of any product containing 10% or more of any Cuban component, as is the case with Japan, a large consumer of Cuban nickel for its steel industry, forced to rigorously enforce no steel containing Cuban nickel be included in their cars, trucks or other structures exported to the US. No freighter touching port in Cuba, is allowed to enter the United for the next 180 days.
Conversely, the US Treasury department proudly boasts a long list of companies that have been fined and/or forbidden their subsidiaries across the globe from selling pacemakers, vaccines, water purification chemicals, cancer medicines, spare parts etc., to Cuba, all geared to inflict human pain, suffering and increase economic hardship.
Not even the widespread devastation caused by hurricane Ike and Gustav, which was widely reported on all networks, was sufficient to soften the hearts of the ultra-right-wing Cuban-American mafia in south Florida, perpetrators of most of Cuba’s ills, or of US Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez, the Cuban-American State and Congressional delegations or the final hours of President George W. Bush disastrous transit through the White House, for them to make a temporary exception and allow the Cuban government to purchase emergency building supplies in the US, 90 miles off the Cuban shores, instead of China, thousands of miles away.
For seventeen consecutive years, the United Nations (the same International Institution we demanded approval to illegally invade Iraq), have steadfastly denounced this cruel imposition on a small nation, which is expressed in yearly voting’s of 184 member-nation against an isolated United States, Israel, and geographically unknown Palau supporting this overwhelming repudiation.
Joining in this unanimous world acclaim to stop this injustice was candidate Barack Obama. This senseless, fifty year old misdiagnosed process and catastrophic therapy, is especially relevant on Veterans Day, as the nation honors millions of its uniformed men and women who served with distinction or paid the ultimate price in defense of country; can elsewhere be taken into question, tarnished or turned into an abominable Guantanamo Bay Cuba banner, for perceived abuses and torture at that facility.
A powerful windstorm for change is crisscrossing the world since the election of President Barack Obama. Millions are yearning for the return of a new, different, peaceful United States, willing to engage the world, assist the less fortunate and lead in restoring hopes of creating a better world. Closing Guantanamo Bay immediately, restoring Cuban-American rights to travel to their homeland, allow expanded family remittances and begin talks at the highest level to remove the embargo and restore diplomatic relations is an imperative.
As a twenty year Cuban-American resident of Volusia and Flagler counties, I have experienced first had the goodness of the American people. Tens of thousands of dollars in medical, educational supplies, journals, elders, women and children goods, wheelchairs and crutches have been donated to the Caribbean American Children Foundation for those in Cuba, when it was politically incorrect to do so, for which the Cuban people are eternally grateful.
Courageous members of the Saint Augustine-Baracoa Friendship Association in conjunction with hundreds of generous residents in that area and beyond, have donated invaluable amount of material goods to the community of Baracoa, have published children, adult and historical books of the this, the first village founded in the western hemisphere, organized professional and cultural exchanges, middle school pen-pals and much more, which have turned St. Augustine into one of the most respected, beloved and admired United States city in Cuba.
With extensive areas of Cuba in ruins resulting from these natural disasters, the time has come for every citizen in our region to demand help from our authorities and extend a friendly hand to restore the lives of those victims, begin the healing process of this chronic divide, as we prepare for the inevitable restoration of relations, friendship and good neighbor, as it should have always been.
It is in our own vital economical future, to begin building a friendship bridge with Cuba, not only because of the huge oil reserves found recently off its coastline, but because of the massive investment, joint ventures and multi-billion loans coming in from countries as diverse as China, Netherlands, India, Spain, Russia, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Brazil, Malaysia, Iran, Canada, Arab Emirates and tens of others standing in line, as we remain fossilized and do nothing towards integrating our fragile-hospitality dependent economy into Cuba’s expanding multi-destiny tourist system and many other complementing agricultural, science, industrial or environmental business opportunity.
What good is it to anyone, as we have hundreds of used car, appliances, home care, food supplies or any other enterprise, overflowing with goods in a very slow economy downward spiral, while Cuba is at swimming distance from our shores and it is forced to purchase similar goods in Viet Nam, China, Europe, Canada or India?
Among the many burning issues that will confront Barack Obama Presidency immediately are, the Iraq/Afghanistan war, the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, the world financial crisis, housing collapse, dysfunctional healthcare and educational system, unemployment and a myriad of other unavoidable critical issues.
All Cuba related pending matters, are not only easier to resolve, they would send a powerful worldwide message about the views, character and determination of the new administration willingness to confront and resolve festering problems.
Closing Guantanamo Bay immediately and initiating a profound discussion with the Cuban government to settle a financial agreement for the occupation and use of that facility for 105 years, begin a gigantic toxic clean-up of land, surface and underground waters because of years of massive bombing raids and turn over this facility intact to the Cuban government for it to manage and transform it into a world class research, training and biotechnological development center for tens of thousands students from every developing country and minorities from the first world, whose graduates will be charged with tackling underdevelopment, nutrition and healthcare in the third world.
Create living conditions, medical care and psychological therapy facilities at this secluded facility for thousands of traumatized military personnel, victims of wars, violence and worldwide abuse for their adequate treatment, recovery and a trade or professional training, prior to their return to the larger society.
Build the world largest Judicial rehabilitation center, through which thousands of convicts could rotate, be re-educated and enter society turned into useful, productive social individuals , ending the costly recidivist cycle.
Create the largest affordable healthcare Insurance system and treatment facilities for millions of people without health insurance in our hemisphere, which could be manned by thousands of highly qualified, cost effective, Cuban healthcare personnel, just as they have done and continue to do in over 60 countries around the world.
Much more could be done at this sprawling 45 square mile facility, that would benefit humankind enormously, earning the respect, gratitude and admiration of the world, instead of the wrath expressed by many.