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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Dueling op-eds on U.S.-Cuba relations

A few days ago, Democratic Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama made headlines with an op-ed in the Miami Herald that was described in the media as "breaking ranks," "easing the Cuban embargo," "blasting the Bush Administration Cuba policy," and even calling for "lifting U.S.-Cuba travel sanctions."

As if! What was this "bold" stance by Obama that, sadly enough, positioned him to the left of all the other Democrats except Kucinich? Why, a rollback of reactionary U.S. policy towards Cuba all the way to...2004! Because what Obama actually calls for in the op-ed is a lifting of restrictions on travel to Cuba of Cuban-Americans, not Americans, a position supported by the vast majority of the Miami Cuban community, even some of the most extreme right-wingers, and something that was allowed until just three years ago. And his call to "ease the embargo"? Actually it had nothing to do with the real embargo, better described as the blockade, and only applied to increasing the amount of remittances that Cuban-Americans can send to their families in Cuba. Returning U.S. policy towards Cuba to where at was at the end of the first George W. Bush administration hardly consistutes bold steps.

Obama's real position is well described by the headline on his article, presumably chosen by him: "Our main goal: Freedom in Cuba," a position properly in line with American imperialist arrogance, and the idea that it is up to us to tell Cubans how to run their country. For nearly 50 years, the U.S., the most powerful economy in the world, has waged economic warfare on Cuba, dropping the equivalent of bombs on Cuba in terms of the amount of economic damage (if not also human lives) caused. And Senator Obama, magnanimous soul that he is, proposes that the U.S. will "ease up" on those economic bombs (not stop, mind you, just "ease") "if a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change." I wonder if Sen. Obama is even aware, as most Americans surely are not, that Cuba is in the midst of its election season, in which, unlike the U.S., every position must be contested by a minimum of two and a maximum of eight candidates, and in which not a single person is elected because they raised more money (much less hundreds of millions of dollars) than their opponent (a system vastly more democratic than what preceded it, and arguably than the United States system as well)?

Sen. Obama talks, as all American politicians do, about "human rights." Strangely, he seems to have forgotten one - the right of non-Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba or anywhere else. On what possible basis can he justify allowing some Americans to travel freely to Cuba, but not all? What are Obama, and the rest of the American politicians, afraid we might see or learn?

If Obama, or any other politician, really wants to talk a "bold" first step, how about calling for repeal of the Helms-Burton act, the extraterritorial extension of the blockade which has led to such incidents as kicking Cubans out of (or refusing admittance to) hotels in Mexico and Norway because the parent companies of the hotels involved were American (and lots more serious things, of course)? The U.S. blockade of Cuba has been denounced by the United Nations General Assembly for fifteen consecutive years, most recently by a vote of 183-4. Surely if Obama or any other Democrat wanted to demonstrate their commitment to "multilateral diplomacy," endorsing a position supported by virtually every other country in the world would be a start. But no, no mention of Helms-Burton by Obama.

The headline of this post talks about "dueling" op-eds. The other one? The latest column from Fidel Castro, in which he offers his opinions (and knowledge) of American Presidents past (and even future) with respect to their stance and actions on Cuba. Quite interesting, and well worth reading. I won't summarize it here, but I'll note just one thing: Fidel's description of Jimmy Carter as the "one [President] who, for ethical-religious reasons, was not an accomplice to the brutal terrorism against Cuba." But even Carter, Fidel notes, "embarked on several imperial adventures."

Clinton and/or Obama (or Clinton/Obama) will most assuredly embark on even more. Fidel Castro didn't say that. I did. But I feel certain he would agree.

Oh, and by the way, Fidel's article was written yesterday. From the grave, no doubt. ;-)

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