BY MARY SANCHEZ | Knight Ridder Newspapers
Now is a good time to recount the conflicting lunacy of Cuba-U.S. foreign policy. Lined up point by point, the stagnation of the situation is astounding.
The Bush administration is bent on pressing forward with tactics that have not worked for almost 50 years, since Fidel Castro took power. But rather than saying “uncle/tio” and possibly switching gears, the government is trapped by hardheadedness.
Castro is holding equally as tight by punishing his own people whenever the U.S. displeases him.
And so it goes, two countries lockstep in a Cold War-era dance that benefits no one.
Remember Cuba is supposed to be our enemy. And so, the United States does not allow Cubans to travel to the United States if they might profit monetarily from the trip. And the U.S. government keeps its citizens from traveling to Cuba without proper approval. It restricts how much money Cuban-Americans can send family members and limits their visits to once every three years.
But because this is politics, the “rules” are subject to change at bureaucratic will. A few recent examples:
A team of Cuban baseball players eventually got the OK to play in the World Baseball Classic, on U.S. soil, competing with a roster of 16 teams. George Bush caved to the threat of the United States never hosting another Olympics.
Initially, the Cuban team was essentially banned from the competition, organized by Major League Baseball and its union, when their visas were denied. The International Olympic Committee made it clear that such shenanigans in world competition wouldn’t be allowed. The preliminary rounds were played in the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
A group of almost 60 Cuban academics were not so successful. All they wanted to do was meet with colleagues at an annual conference, also in Puerto Rico, at the same time the Cuban athletes were allowed to travel.
The U.S. denied the visas for the scholars, preventing them from attending the International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association. Never mind that many of these same professors have been allowed to attend the conference in previous years, in locations throughout the United States.
Then there were the 15 lucky Cubans who sidestepped the “wet foot/dry foot” rule. U.S. policy is if a Cuban can make it to dry U.S. land, they can enter the country. But if caught at sea, they are sent back to Cuba.
Last month, a group of Cubans made it to an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys. But because the bridge was missing pieces, it was deemed not technically connected to land. They were sent back. A judge thoughtfully overruled, saying the U.S. government “acted unreasonably.”
And finally there was a successful move by the United States to force a Mexico City hotel to evict a group of Cuban energy executives meeting with their U.S. counterparts. The rationale was that because the Maria Isabel Sheraton Hotel had U.S. financial ties, it was not allowed to serve Cubans.
The Mexican press went crazy, questioning how the United States is forcing other countries to do its bidding. The meetings shifted to a Mexican-owned hotel.
2006 will likely bring more of the same.
The eerily titled U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is meeting again. The State Department commission was created to “accelerate the demise” of Castro. Rumor has it the group plans to clamp down more, further restricting meetings or collaborations between the United States and Cuba.
For several years, the Bush administration has been busy denying visas for students, academics, musicians, teachers and religious people. The rationale is to isolate Cuba and force Castro to lose power, magically turning Cuba into a democracy.
This is endless dance. A tit for tat where neither side is gaining ground.
Castro marches on often oblivious to the suffering of his own people. He is not letting hundreds of Cubans who have been given visas to emigrate to the United States to leave. And, new restrictions have been issued to tamp down the growth of home churches in Cuba.
The only absolute losers are the Cuban people; both on the island and their loved ones in the United States.
No easy answers exist.
But please, would someone with authority have the courage to say Basta/enough!
ABOUT THE WRITER