With Cuba, Time Is On Obama's Side
The repression is there in abundance: religious intolerance, lack of press freedoms, human rights violations, political prisoners, and restricted travel. Fortunately, President Obama is savvy enough to know that he will not push for Castroâ€™s overthrow like Kennedy, will not disrupt the Cuban economy like Nixon or Reagan, or try to destabilize the government so that hundreds of thousands of Cubans would flee on rafts to Miami.
[Global: Opening To Cuba]
African Americans fondly remember when El Commandante Fidel Castro visited New York in 1959 and stayed at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem.
He secured a close emotional bond with the Black community from that forward; and in fact, that was the same hotel which served as the headquarters for Malcolm X’s organization after his hasty departure from the Nation of Islam.
When members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) recently toured Cuba, many pundits saw the trip by the African-American lawmakers as a highly structured visit sans the gulags and the horrible slums.
Cuba is not what it seems. The Cuban officials steered the politicians into areas where their country put its best foot forward. After almost 50 years, it was not necessary to trot out the many hardships of Cuban life under Fidel’s iron rule, while continuing to peddle the charismatic image of the man who led the band of guerrillas down from the mountains to seize the country away from the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista and his U.S. supporters.
Since Castro underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006, Cuba has been in a state of flux. At the time, U.S. President George W. Bush declared that "the time of the brutal dictator was almost over" to reporters, but Fidel didn’t die and stepped down as head of state. His brother, Raul, assumed the leadership mantle, with his qualities as tough, pragmatic, and very organized. Unlike his brother, who could be called the visionary, Raul was the enforcer, like cold and calculating Frank Nitti in Capone’s mob, cutting down foes and eliminating all dissent.
Gone are the massive round-ups and the mock Stalinist trials of the early era; but still there is little semblance of human rights or freedom of the press in Cuba. Four major opposition journalists have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison. They include: Oscar Sanchez Madan, the correspondent of the Cubanet website in Matanzas; Raymundo Perdigon Brito, one of the founders of the independent Yayabo Press Agency; Ramon Velazquez Toranso of the Libertad News Agency; and, Armando Betancourt Reina, the editor of the underground newspaper El Camagueyano.
According to Reporters Without Borders, some 40 other journalists have been subjected to intimidation, searches, questioning, beating or threats. The current data of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation notes that Cuba has 246 prisoners of conscience, including 25 opposition journalists.
In contrast to the Bush administration, it is fine that President Obama wishes to melt the Cold War barrier between America and Cuba, and abolish limits on family travel and cash remittances to our neighbor off the coast from Florida. He hopes that this humanitarian gesture will signal a need for a serious Cuban push for democratic reform and human rights. No doubt our new president will discuss this, among other things, when he meets with Latin American leaders in Trinidad and Tobago later this month.
Nonetheless, the recent trip by the Congressional Black Caucus had all of the trappings of a similar trip undertaken by American air pioneer Charles Lindbergh to Nazi Germany in 1938, falling victim to Hitler’s charm and Goring’s aviation ploys, yet failing to see the larger intent of the Third Reich’s aggressive global schemes. Guided through the splendid tour attractions of the island by Cuban leaders, Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, remarked: "If there is repression in Cuba, we didn’t see it." Very naïve!
The repression is there in abundance: religious intolerance, lack of press freedoms, human rights violations, political prisoners, and restricted travel. Fortunately, President Obama is savvy enough to know that he will not push for Castro’s overthrow like Kennedy, will not disrupt the Cuban economy like Nixon or Reagan, or try to destabilize the government so that hundreds of thousands of Cubans would flee on rafts to Miami.
Go slow, go methodically. He is a realist and knows that Cuba has many economic and financial needs. That Venezuela and Russia cannot provide billions of dollars of aid in this current fiscal crunch.
It’s a waiting game. And time is on President Obama’s side.
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