[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Vicki Huddleston on Cuba Sanctions

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vicki Huddleston on Cuba Sanctions

On the heels of George Will's pro-sanctions column (which I posted at Babalu yesterday), comes an anti-embargo piece by Vicki Huddleston, ex-chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. I must say that the Herald has done a good job recently of presenting both sides and making people think about something that's worth discussing.

I will post parts of it below with interspersed comments by yours truly.

If I were a betting woman, I would bet that if The Miami Herald were to ask Cuban Americans what U.S. foreign policy has been the least successful over the last half century, the overwhelming answer would be none other than: Cuba.

No matter how much we may wish it to be otherwise, there is no denying the fact that Fidel Castro and the Cuba Revolution have survived and to some degree thrived, despite all our efforts to the contrary. If we had any doubt, it should have been removed when Fidel handed over power to his hand-picked loyal successor -- his brother Raúl.

True. But why? That's the key point which we'll get to below.

There can no longer be any doubt that our isolation of Cuba did not and cannot bring about the end of the revolution. What will bring about the revolution's demise are old age, illness and death. More important, the revolution will evolve as it loses its founding fathers and becomes increasingly less isolated from its neighbors though the Internet, television, travelers and the flow of information.

But how fast and how far the revolution evolves depends upon U.S. policy. If we remove the barriers to communication, we will speed the forces of change. Just as was the case in Eastern Europe as a result of the Helsinki agreements, the Cuban people will be empowered by human contact, the free flow of information, and the support and encouragement of Americans and Cuban Americans from Florida to California.
Isolating Cuba CAN help bring about change by putting economic pressure on the regime. Unfortunately, the United States is the only one playing that game (and not very well, at that). Ms. Huddleston is correct in stating that flow of information can be a big help. But whose fault is it that Cubans can't travel and have free access to media and internet? The United States? Of course not. It's the regime itself. This argument can be easily and more accurately turned around by asking: Why hasn't the free flow of European and Latin American tourists helped open up Cuban society? Why hasn't business deals with Spain, Mexico, Italy, etc. helped? There's most definitely human contact and flow of information between those countries and Cuba, so what's the problem? That's a question Huddleston and like-minded folks set aside because it squarely defeats their argument.

If U.S. policy can deal with Cuba -- not as a domestic political issue -- but as one sovereign state to another, then we will resume official diplomatic relations with the exchange of ambassadors and begin -- once again -- to talk about matters that affect the well being and security of both our countries, namely migration, anti-narcotics, health and the environment. Starting a dialogue will allow us to press Cuba's leaders to respect the principles that we and the region hold dear: human rights, rule of law and freedom.

Removing the barriers to communications and to normal diplomatic relations are not concessions as some would claim. Rather, they are practical initiatives that will reduce the dependence of the Cuban people on the Cuban state by providing them with alternative sources of information and resources to improve their daily lives.

More critically, a policy based on helping the Cuban people succeed would enable them to build civil society and begin a process of growing democracy from the bottom up.

But the Bush administration is standing by its policy that Cuba must change first, tying any modification in our unilateral embargo to the end of the Castro regime. This does us and the Cuban people a disservice because it ties our policy to that of Raúl Castro's. By waiting for the Cuban regime to act, we make policy initiatives that would bring about change, dependent on the actions of the Cuban government.
Ms. Huddleston means well, and it's obvious that her heart's in the right place. But to think that dialogue with the castros without demanding concessions will make them respect democratic principles is something you will only see in a Disney movie. We have 50 years of proof to support this. Myself and other pro-sanction folks have said this a million times, and we'll say it a million more times: the fault for Cuba's current state lies with a despotic, criminal regime which has refused to grant even the smallest concessions to its own people.

Sanctions against Cuba are a democracy's way of saying that we will not support anti-democratic and anti-liberty forces in our hemisphere, let alone our backyard. It is a moral AND rational approach that the rest of the free world ought to join us in. Alas, that's also something that could only happen in a Disney flick.



Blogger Henry Gomez said...

Well said

5:43 PM, March 10, 2008  

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