[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Hurricane Aid to Cuba

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Aid to Cuba

The disaster caused by the terrible one-two punch of major hurricanes in Cuba, and what to do about assisting Cubans in dire need, has created a moral dilemma of sorts in the Cuban-American community.

Expectedly and understandably, there is a rising tide of support in favor of a temporary lift in U.S. sanctions against Cuba so that people can visit relatives and send money without restrictions. Perusing the Miami Herald alone, there is an editorial board opinion, a column by metro columnist Myriam Marquez and a letter to the editor by Carlos Saladrigas, each in their own way asking for a temporary easing of restrictions.

I understand the sentiments behind their opinion. I even share them to some extent. Never really being in favor of certain aspects of the current travel restrictions, I could accept a temporary lifting of said restrictions, for example, even if it's contradictory to my basic pro-sanctions stance.

Unfortunately, this has become another "wedge" issue being used by some to portray the conservative, "historic" exiles as putting politics and personal interests ahead of the interests of the Cuban people they proclaim to support. The hard-liners, of course, support the U.S. government's decision to not lift restrictions, period.

When this issue first came up, it crossed my mind more than once that perhaps this is a good time to lift the restrictions for a short time. On the surface, it appears bad that the U.S. won't lift sanctions to help those in dire need. It looks really bad.

However, all you have to do is scratch beneath the surface once or twice, and all of a sudden this whole thing is not what it seems. Myriam Marquez notes that this is an opportunity to show our compassion and to put aside politics. I agree, and that's why non-government agencies (NGOs)are currently authorized and prepared to provide direct aid to Cubans to the tune of up to $10 million per agency, regardless of sanctions.

The Havana regime, not surprisingly, has refused to accept this aid. Who's playing politics here?

Carlos Saladrigas suggests that Cuban-Americans who support the sanctions are only hurting Cubans, not the regime. I would respons to Mr. Saladrigas (whom I respect despite differences in opinion vis-a-vis Cuba relations) that the denial of U.S.-based aid, the constant internal corruption and lack of human rights in Cuba, etc., all have done far more damage to Cubans than hurricanes or anything Miami hard-liners have conjured up.

Mr. Saladrigas asks, "can we for once put the Cuban people first"? Absolutely (since when HAVEN'T we), but only when those truly responsible for accomplishing that task, the Cuban government, decide to do so. Otherwise, all of the good intentions of hard-liners, moderates, dialogueros, and everyone in between just end up falling through the cracks of a corrupt system that values permanence and power more than the well-being of their people.

Accepting the aid of the NGOs directly to the Cuban people would have been a good first step. Obviously, that's not the kind of "aid" the regime prefers. They prefer that aid be hand delivered to Havana in cold, hard cash. Perhaps Carlos Saladrigas could (should) have pointed that out, even if he disagrees with the sanctions.

Finally, as far as putting people above politics, apparently it doesn't seem to matter to folks like Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia where the money ends up in Cuba, as long as it feels good and scores political points in the process. Who's playing politics here?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Robert. It's very difficult to put aside emotions during times like this. Shame on the politicians who seek to manipulate humanitarian sentiment to advance an agenda.

1:07 AM, September 11, 2008  

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