Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Pre-Emptive Epitaph for a Failed Policy

I arrived in New Delhi a week ago, and my jaw remains in dropped position. I’ll get some photos and reflections up on my travel log soon. I’d like to say I’ve been 100% engaged in the experience, but admittedly, given prevailing world events, my eyes keep being drawn home.

Recent reports and speculation about Cuban President Fidel Castro’s state of health have brought a lot of attention to U.S. policy towards that country. I was fortunate enough to spend a few months studying Cuban history and a few weeks visiting the island during my time as a Berea student. During that period and since I have come to recognize the complexities involved in assessing the victories and failures of the Cuban Revolution.

What is not complex to me, however, is the abject failure of 47 years of U.S. policy towards Cuba since Fidel Castro came to power. In the words of Buddha, “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth -- not going all the way, and not starting.” Clearly, the U.S. has not even started down the path of assisting Cuba in the full attainment of an open society, and the regressive policies of the Bush Administration have only made matters worse:
  • What sort of policy restricts personal exchanges between Cuban-Americans and their Cuban families, as well as between Cuban and American students, scholars, humanitarian aid workers, and church groups? How is Cuba ever to be exposed to treasured U.S. ideals around freedom and democracy if we’re not allowed to interact with one another?
  • What sort of President assures the Cuban people that he stands ready to help them “…enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy” while meeting openly with individuals who are working towards the overthrow of their government? I think the $80 million that the Bush Administration has pledged towards subverting the Cuban government over the next two years could be better spent on other priorities.
  • What sort of Administration criticizes Cuba’s lack of civil liberties while itself refusing to release Cuban political prisoners even after their convictions have been overturned? It’s quite likely that some of the worst human rights atrocities being committed in Cuba today are taking place within the (illegally) U.S.-occupied Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
I believe that Condi’s speech on “Radio Marti” (a propaganda program that the US broadcasts into Cuba) a few nights ago was as much a message to the US citizenry as those in Cuba: “The United States respects your aspirations as sovereign citizens…” As a result of their ongoing foreign policy blunders, I think the Republicans are feeling the angst of an alarmed populace in an election year. We must let them, as well as their Democratic opposition, know that we are watching closely and that we demand a policy of “constructive engagement” with Cuba.

Please join me in contacting President Bush and your Congressional delegation to let them know that it’s time for the U.S. to rethink its Cuba policy, and that the recent report by the Administration’s so-called “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba” takes our Cuba policy in precisely the wrong direction. For ongoing news and action alerts related to US relations with Cuba, as well as other nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, I have found the Latin America Working Group helpful. Finally, for a much more thorough and articulate critique of U.S. policy towards Cuba, see the Emergency Network of Cuban American Scholars and Artists for Change in U.S.-Cuba Policy.

As always, I welcome your feedback and suggestions for further action on this issue. Thanks!