Don’t help the despots … thoughts from the son of Cuban em­i­grants

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

With the death of long­time dic­ta­tor Fidel Cas­tro, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and Cuba is now at the fore­front of me­dia at­ten­tion. As the United States con­tin­ues the process of restor­ing eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions with Cuba, it is im­por­tant to rec­og­nize that do­ing so would cre­ate a large stream of new rev­enue to a gov­ern­ment that re­mains es­sen­tially a to­tal­i­tar­ian state with an atro­cious hu­man rights record. The United States should strongly con­sider the moral­ity of any change in pol­icy that would fur­ther en­rich the despotic Cuban gov­ern­ment.

As the son of a Cuban ex­ile, my fam­ily ex­pe­ri­enced life un­der the Cas­tro regime. Like other com­mu­nist na­tions, Cuba had no free­dom of ex­pres­sion, no po­lit­i­cal free­dom, no prop­erty rights, and was ruled by a mur­der­ous dic­ta­tor. Af­ter the fall of the Soviet Union, na­tions that were once com­mu­nist un­der­took sig­nif­i­cant re­forms that greatly in­creased in­di­vid­ual free­dom. Cuba, how­ever, did not im­ple­ment such re­forms. While the Cas­tro broth­ers have some­what re­laxed their grip over the peo­ple in re­cent years, Cuba still re­mains one of the least free states in the world, sec­ond only to North Korea.

Nearly my en­tire fam­ily man­aged to im­mi­grate to the United States, but some, in­clud­ing my great aunt, did not. Her ex­pe­ri­ences high­light the level of abuse from the gov­ern­ment and the stark lack of free­dom that the Cuban peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence to this day.

Sev­eral years ago, my great aunt needed cancer treat­ment. Given her ad­vanced age, the Cuban gov­ern­ment de­cided that it was not worth pay­ing for the cancer treat­ment of a non-pro­duc­tive mem­ber of so­ci­ety and de­clined to treat her. (Bear in mind that many left­ists right now are hailing Cuba for its “free health­care.”) So, my ex­tended fam­ily pooled our money to­gether to fly her to the United States to get treat­ment. The Cuban gov­ern­ment al­lowed her to come, but not her hus­band, as they feared they would de­fect if to­gether.

Dur­ing her time here, she told us many sto­ries of life in Cuba. One in par­tic­u­lar re­veals the to­tal lack of rights in this op­pres­sive police state. In Cuba there are of­ten food short­ages. One day, while es­pe­cially hun­gry, my great aunt and her room­mate de­cided to do the un­think­able: Eat some man­goes from the tree in her yard. All prop­erty in Cuba is state owned, in­clud­ing fruit trees. Af­ter the deed was done, they feared the smell of the mango skins in the trash would alert the neigh­bor­hood watch­man, whose job ( among other things) in­cluded in­spect­ing trash­cans for “stolen” fruit. To solve this prob­lem my great aunt was forced to bury the mango skins.

Such sto­ries are not rare oc­cur­rences in a na­tion where civil rights and lib­er­ties are vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent. How­ever, many of our na­tion’s top pol­i­cy­mak­ers are ad­vo­cat­ing for open trade with Cuba. This raises the ques­tion, should the United States al­low cap­i­tal to flow into a na­tion and ben­e­fit a gov­ern­ment that con­tin­ues to bru­tally re­strict the ba­sic rights and free­doms of its peo­ple?

Pro­po­nents of more open re­la­tions ar­gue that the in­creased trade will ben­e­fit the av­er­age Cuban. Un­der nor­mal eco­nomic cir­cum­stances this would be true. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, there is noth­ing nor­mal about Cuba’s eco­nomic struc­ture. Cuba op­er­ates un­der a dual cur­rency sys­tem, with one cur­rency (CUC) at a fixed 1:1 ra­tio with the U.S. dol­lar. The CUC was in­sti­tuted in 1993 to fill Cuba’s quickly dwin­dling for­eign cur­rency re­serves. The CUC is used by tourists and vis­i­tors to the is­land.

The death of Fidel Cas­tro gives a sliver of hope that per­haps there will soon be an end to to­tal­i­tar­ian rule in Cuba. Raul Cas­tro, how­ever, still rules the is­land with a strong grip.

Lorenzo Car­razana at­tends Grove City Col­lege, where he stud­ies po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and eco­nom­ics. He plans to work in pol­icy at the na­tional level af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

By Lor­renzo Car­razana

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