[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Change From Within Is The Only Real Change

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Change From Within Is The Only Real Change

Just got back from a week-long business trip to the beautiful front range of Colorado. The weather was actually quite mild by their standards, but after a week of very low humidity my lips are very chapped (forgot to bring the Chapstick) and I'm very happy to see greenery once again.

The Miami Herald published an interesting pro-con piece on travel sanctions against Cuba. The "pro" side is given by Mauricio Claver-Carone of the U.S. - Cuba Democracy PAC and is located here for your reading pleasure.

The "con" side is given by Cuban independent journalist and dissident Miriam Leiva. The full article is here, and I'll post some noteworthy excerpts below.

The New York Philharmonic has performed in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. That's the North Korea that has been immersed in major conflicts and the home of the totalitarian dictatorship of Kim Il Sung and his heir, Kim Jong Il. A beautiful initiative!

Let us remember that, at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied that zone, while the United States occupied the area to the south, both being separated by the 38th Parallel. In 1948, separate elections were organized. Kim Il Sung took over in Pyongyang and two states were established. But in 1950, the north invaded the south and started a war that ended in 1953 with an armistice. American soldiers fought, were imprisoned under terrible conditions, disappeared and died in a bloody confrontation -- and the belligerence between the two countries has not officially ceased.

While North Korea became one of the most repressive regimes in the history of mankind, causing the deaths of millions of people, even from starvation, South Korea initially flourished under military dictatorships and eventually achieved democracy.

Ms. Leiva goes on to explain how talks with other countries regarding North Korea's nuclear program led to the halting of said program. That's true, but it was borne out of necessity. In other words, our national security and the security of eastern Asia. Other than that, the outreach of diplomacy towards North Korea has done little to remove Kim Jong Il and his brutally oppressive regime.

Ms. Leiva continues:

All of which raises a question: Why can the United States come to an understanding with a bloody dictatorship that has lasted for 60 years, on a land where American citizens have died, yet it is not capable of assuming an intelligent position toward a small island 90 miles from its shores, to which its businessmen sell an appreciable quantity of food?

The policy of isolation and unilateral embargo maintained for 49 years against totalitarianism in Cuba has only encouraged the hardening of the regime and the repression of oppositionists, under the pretext of the danger posed by ``Yankee imperialism.''

The Cuban people share with the Americans similar tastes and affinities in many aspects, such as music, baseball, dancing, and, most recently, words in the colloquial vocabulary, influenced by the images shown on movie and television screens. They also feel the desire to travel and find better living conditions, which they believe their relatives found on the other side of the Straits of Florida, home to about a million and a half Cubans.

Friendship, democracy

It is impossible to understand why the U.S. government restricted family contacts to once every three years; why it bans cultural, academic, sports, scientific and other exchanges; and why it forbids its own citizens to visit Cuba. Washington is eliminating an injection of friendship, experiences and democracy.

The Americans arrived in China with ping pong and in North Korea with the exquisite music of one the world's most prestigious orchestras, which began its performance with the national anthem of the United States. A wise and friendly outreach to an oppressed people who greatly need to know what's happening beyond their borders. Undoubtedly, if the absurd prohibitions on Cubans and Americans were lifted, the links between the two countries would flourish, to their citizens' benefit.

Perhaps I'm looking at this at a way too basic level, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for Miriam Leiva and her courage. If we're going to use China and North Korea as examples of diplomatic outreach, we must also analyze it's end results. China and North Korea are still societies that don't respect basic freedoms. An infusion of tourists and tourist monies to Cuba has achieved virtually zero as far as advancements towards freedom are concerned. I can understand Ms. Leiva's desire for increased contacts between Cuban exiles and Cubans on the island. I for one think the travel restrictions are a bit too draconian. But being the bottom-line person that I am, what exactly can we expect from increased visits by Cuban-Americans to visit relatives? Can we rationally think that it would lead to the end of the regime? There's absolutely no precedent that suggests the likelihood of this happening.

The only way to promote true change is to support brave people like Miriam Leiva and her fellow dissidents. Cubans need to stand up and demand change, and no amount of money and stories from Cheito and Manolo from Westchester will bring that about. Contrary to popular belief, Cubans already know what they have, and don't have. What they need isn't dollars that eventually end up in the regime's hands. What they need is the courage to stand up for what they already know is right.

We can surely help there.


Blogger Henry Gomez said...

Contrary to popular belief, Cubans already know what they have, and don't have. What they need isn't dollars that eventually end up in the regime's hands. What they need is the courage to stand up for what they already know is right.

The sound you hear is the nail being hit squarely on the head.

12:36 AM, March 02, 2008  

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