[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Why The U.S. Should Not Do Business with Cuba

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why The U.S. Should Not Do Business with Cuba

The keyboard was still warm from my previous post when I read this e-mail from NetForCuba.org. It is an editorial letter to the Mobile (AL) Register from former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Hays. It is excellent and is required reading for anyone who is even remotely interested in US-Cuba relations.

Mr. Hays was invited, then disinvited, to the National Summit on Cuba held in Mobile last weekend. The summit was basically a two-day event filled with rah-rah "let's reestablish commercial relations with Cuba" speeches.

I received a copy of the agenda for the summit, and Mr. Hays' talk was squeezed in between "The Politics of the Pro-Embargo Lobby" and "The Origins of the Miami Mafia".

OK, that was a joke, but it's amazing to me that the summit organizers would invite Mr. Hays in an apparent attempt to balance the agenda a bit, then show extreme disrespect to a distinguished individual and dump him.

Too bad, because the Mobile attendees would have learned something. Something valuable.

I present to you, in its entirety, Mr. Hays' editorial.
From Everything Alabama:

What Mobile needs to consider about cultivating business with Cuba
Sunday, June 12, 2005

By DENNIS HAYS Special to the Register

As a former U.S. ambassador, I was invited -- and then, last week, "disinvited" -- to the National Summit on Cuba, held in Mobile, where I was to speak in defense of the president's Cuba policy.

Indeed, I would have been the only speaker at the two-day summit who unequivocally supports President Bush's policy. As such, I think my remarks are worth disseminating in spite of the regrettable fact that my invitation was withdrawn by summit organizers.

Here are excerpts from what I had planned to say, beginning with the suggestion that the group start by seeking some areas of agreement before moving on to our differences:

I am confident that all of us here look forward to the day when Cuba is again a free, independent nation that protects the rights of its citizens and allows individuals to achieve their full potential under a free enterprise economic system.

And is there anyone here who doesn't agree with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross and every other human-rights organization that Cuba under Castro remains a failed state, a repressive dictatorship that fears the free expression of ideas and stifles all forms of individual initiative?

If we can agree on these two points, we can move on to the real question: What can we as Americans do to help our neighbors reassert control over their own destiny?

To set the stage, it is important to understand the current situation in Cuba and how Fidel Castro has managed to stay in power all these years. Early on, Castro figured out that if you control the economic life of the individual, you can more easily control the political life of society.

Thus, the regime as a matter of deliberate policy goes to great lengths to monopolize all aspects of daily life. There can be no private enterprise, no small businesses, no independent labor unions, no professional associations, no rule of law, and no real private property. There can only be the state.

A Cuban who runs afoul of the government can be denied employment, housing, education for his or her children, even food under the ration card. This explains why Cuba persists along its disastrous economic path: The security of the regime is more important than the well-being of its citizens.

Well-intentioned attempts to work with the regime to promote reform are always doomed to failure because it is not in the regime's interest to reform. It is in its interest to maintain power.

In recent months, Castro again has ordered any and all forms of individual activity to be choked back. This is logical from his perspective. Business executives who say they are doing business in Cuba to help the Cuban people may sincerely believe this is so, but are only fooling themselves.

Mobile once had a strong and vibrant relationship with Cuba, and I believe that this can one day be re-established. But wouldn't it be better for Mobile to develop links with a prosperous democracy rather than a bankrupt dictatorship?

Wouldn't it be better to engage Cuban partners who own their own businesses, make their own decisions, can hire and fire based on economic reasons? I strongly urge you to look at the experience of others in Cuba. Ask the Canadians, Chileans, South Africans, French or anyone else about what they have found.

This is easy to do: Just look for the very long line of supplicants trying to get repaid some small portion of what they are owed by Cuba. The facts are undeniable. Cuba owes billions of dollars to dozens of nations, and has defaulted on just about every loan it has been given over the past 40 years.

Forget politics for a moment. Cuba is one of the two or three worst places in the world to do business. You would do as well going to Zimbabwe or North Korea. Reuters news service reported last week that "Western embassies report increasing complaints from their nationals whose businesses were liquidated without any guarantee they would be compensated." The manager of a European firm that is pulling out after 10 years stated, "They always tried to get the most money, machinery and knowledge they could out of us while giving little in return. They owe us millions."

Yes, some of you do make money selling agricultural products in Cuba. If so, you should be thankful that U.S. law requires the Cubans to pay cash up front for these purchases. But even here we see disturbing trends. The Cubans are increasingly restricting future sales to companies that commit to making public statements opposing the embargo. Think about this: A foreign, hostile state is actually ordering Americans to oppose U.S. law and policy in order to be given business. Am I the only one who finds this outrageous?

What does it say when an elected official is proud to display a photo taken with Castro but has no time to meet a recently released political prisoner? So do we just wait until Castro dies? No. There is much we can and should be doing.

President Bush has spoken eloquently about the need for democracy and free enterprise to return to Cuba. This can best be done by denying the regime unearned resources -- which are used to support the secret police -- while simultaneously working to empower those Cubans who struggle against terrible odds to breathe free.

The regime knows it must keep its monopoly over all aspects of daily life, and we know we must help those Cubans in Cuba who ache for something better.

We can help them as we helped freedom lovers in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, South Africa, Serbia and elsewhere: by standing with them, not with their oppressors, by working to help Cubans create their own small businesses, by aiding free farmers to have control over what they plant and the prices they charge.

We can reach out to the churches, nascent professional groups and labor unions, human rights activists, the independent libraries, and average citizens -- everyone, in fact, who is not part of the current regime.

The citizens of Mobile can play a significant role here. I am confident that once the true picture is seen, Mobilians will choose to partner with those working toward the free and prosperous Cuba of the future, not those seeking to preserve the morally and economically bankrupt Cuba of today.

© 2005 The Mobile Register
© 2005 al.com All Rights Reserved.

Read the article online here.


Blogger Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

This was a great speech. Too bad it wasn't read at that meeting. I heard they had a lot fewer people show up than they expected and ended up doing the meeting in the hotel lobby. No lie, it was in a press release for Ileana Ros Lehtinen. Anyway this speech should be saved for future arguments with ñangaras that say the embargo is what is stopping Cuba from being free or that the US is being damaged by the embargo.

12:41 AM, June 16, 2005  
Blogger Robert said...

Yeah, they ended up with about 40 people according to the press release. Kind of reminds me of the movie Spinal Tap where the band ended up playing in hotel ballrooms towards the end of their career.

Thank you Arlene!

3:04 PM, June 16, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home