As some Americans sound off on the lack of wisdom in current U.S. policy toward Cuba, there is a tendency to forget exactly why the Fidel Castro government is so despicable.
The Castro regime’s harsh crackdown since March 18 on dissidents on the island, including librarians, journalists and intellectuals, has pointed up just why most observers, whatever their view about sanctions, believe that Cuba would be better off if Castro’s government became history sooner rather than later.
Criticism of current American policy toward Cuba tends to focus on the fact that it is monolithic, basically waiting for the death of Fidel Castro before it evolves into something more nuanced. Another growing group of critics of present policy appreciates growing U.S. export sales to Cuba, particularly by American farmers and pharmaceutical companies. They lament that Cuba is still obliged to pay cash, because U.S. banks cannot extend credit.
Another group of critics of current U.S. policy focuses on the electoral aspects of the issue, particularly the fact that President Bush’s brother, the governor of Florida, draws votes from the Cuban-American exile community in Florida, some of whom still hold the Democrats responsible for what they consider to be the selling down the river by the Clinton administration of Elian Gonzalez in 2000.
Then there are the tourists and those in the travel industry who profit from Americans’ visits to Cuba. Cuba is, in fact, an interesting and attractive Caribbean destination, perhaps competitive in charm and cost with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other tourist spots.
What the “Fidel Castro is really a cuddly agrarian reformer” group may have missed is that over the past week or so the Castro regime has arrested as many as 75 economists, librarians, journalists and human rights activists—in sum, pretty much the active opposition to his regime. Some of them were arrested for being too much in communication with the wrong Americans, officials of the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Cuba, where American diplomats are based absent U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Others arrested simply had the audacity and independence of spirit to be opposed to Castro’s catastrophic economic management of the island since his advent to power in 1959, and the virtually total lack of political freedom on the island. The Castro government has, of course, labeled those it arrested “terrorists.”
We would suggest that the part that Castro’s government likes—the trade, the tourism, the favorable coverage in glossy American tourist magazines—be put in total cold storage until he lets the creative opposition in the country out of jail and permits them to resume the normal political activities that characterize a society perhaps starting on the road to recovery from decades of rule by cold, dead Communist hands, among the last in the world.