Salt Lake Tribune
When President Bush made his recent speech about tightening legal American access to Cuba, I and 30-plus other Utahns were in Havana on a KUER-sponsored educational exchange. Based on my personal observation during a week in Cuba, I must say the administration is dead wrong in its position.
Cubans continue to face rationing that includes six eggs and a few pounds of rice and soy products a month—commodities the Cuban government buys from U.S. agribusiness. On the street, we were asked for soap or milk, an experience I’ve never had in even the poorest parts of Mexico.
Cuba is a desperately poor country with a terrifically proud people. They are as patriotic as we are. The Cuban economy is based on the U.S. dollar. If our government’s goal is change in Cuba, it would be better served by increasing trade and tourism, not tightening it. Both trade and tourism are transforming Vietnam and China (two other communist countries). Why can’t we take an equally enlightened approach to Cuba?
I fear that the only reason President Bush is rattling his sword at Castro is to pander to the south Florida voting block that gave him the presidency in 2000. While his speech may garner some domestic support, it offers an unenlightened, backward approach to foreign policy in Latin America. The United States is not well served in this, and neither are our relations with a fascinating people just 90 miles from our shore.
Salt Lake City