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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Misdirection on Cuba Policy - Boston Globe editorial

Posted June 26, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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SENATOR JOHN Kerry is advocating a policy toward Cuba’s internal politics that is realistic in the short term. The next US president, however, needs to support a democratic opposition on the island to discourage the long continuance of dictatorship.

In a statement June 5, Kerry said he supported the US economic embargo of Cuba but opposed the tougher rules against travel and financial transfers to Cubans by their relatives in the United States, which take effect June 30. Kerry is wrong on the embargo, which has done nothing to liberalize the regime in 43 years.

But he is right to oppose the travel restrictions. In the statement, he said, ” . . . We should promote the interchange of ideas that will begin now to lay the foundation for economic prosperity and an independent civil society that I believe are so crucial to peace and democracy.” Quickening the flow of dollars into the country might whet Cuban leaders’ appetite for more, which would be best obtained by loosening the economy, though probably not while Castro lives.

Contact with foreigners, however, will not by itself end the dictatorship. Vietnam and China revamped their economies without disturbing the alliances between army and Communist Party that sustain both regimes.

In an interview with The Miami Herald, Kerry caused a controversy by seeming to slight the Varela Project, which tries to promote democracy by using the legal mechanisms of the state. Oswaldo Paya, its leader, gathered 11,000 signatures to present a petition to the national assembly seeking change.

“. . . It has brought down the hammer in a way that I think wound up being counterproductive,” Kerry said. Castro struck back hard against the Varela Project last year, leaving Paya alone but arresting many supporters.

After the controversy broke, Kerry wrote an article explicitly endorsing the Varela Project. Jamie Rubin, one of his foreign policy advisers, said this week by telephone that the senator was most concerned that fervid US support fostered a perception that dissidents were tools of Washington.

Obvious backing from the United States can be counterproductive, but the next administration should advance democracy in subtler ways, encouraging Europeans, Latin Americans, and Canadians to come to the dissidents’ defense.

When Castro leaves power, his brother Raul, the army commander, will be next in line. The military already controls the tourist industry and will have every incentive to keep letting foreigners in. The chief goal of US policy makers should be to make sure they do not continue to crowd out the democratic yearnings of the Cuban people.

Member Comments

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On June 28, 2004, MJD wrote:

The joke about the Varela Project is the fact that the petitioning was done privately ie without any media exposure whatsoever.Back in 2001 when Jimmy Carter ( in all his wisdom )visited Castro and announced on cuban TV that there was in fact such a project , it was the first time Cubans heard it existed !. After Carter left the island Castro decided to run a media campaign of his own on Castro channel 1 and Castro channel 2 ( there are no other choices unless you have a sattelite dish. The petition ? To keep Socialismo forever and to make Castro president for life .The media attention was a brtual onslaught of Castro this and Castro that ,,The result?
The petition passed ( surprise ! ) I was there that week and I remember sharing the grim reality with other Cubans that essentially Cubans have no choice and no voice.Absolutely no control over their own sense of self determination. It was a sad feeling of isolation and helplessness.  I’ll never forget it.

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On June 29, 2004, andy douglas wrote:

Could anybody give me a satisfactory explanation as to why Americans are allowed/encouraged to do big business in China ( a country which doesn`t have a multiparty democratic system and which has a much worse human rights record than Cuba,or even America for that matter ) but aren`t in Cuba? If Cubans could enjoy a degree of economic prosperity, then an unforced/natural desire for political change would be more than likely to follow from a broader base. As it stands, the primary difficulties facing the vast majority of Cubans are economic, not political. Why does the American administration insist on screwing down your average Cuban even furthur, whilst providing more ammunition for Castro to defend his own position? Please could anybody replying to this avoid using terminologies such as “bad guys” and “good guys”

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On June 30, 2004, Dana Garrett wrote:

RE: Post by Andy Douglas

Although it is true that Cuba made maintaining a socialist economy part of its constitution, it is important to remember that Cuba learned the importance of maintaining a prevailing economic order by means of a nation’ constitution from the United States of America.  Consider how the USA enshrined capitalism in the 14th amendment of its constitution:
AMENDMENT 14 (1868).
SECTION 1. … nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law….

Today as I consider the grim reality of millions of elderly Americans who must decide whether to pay their electricity bills or buy the medication they need, I feel an utter sense of hopelessness about the prospect of the USA ever adopting a universal public health care system because the 14th amendment to the constitution cares more about protecting ultra-wealthy elites who own and operate private health insurance companies than it does elderly Americans who daily face the decision to either keep the electricity flowing to their refrigerators or to pay for the medication that helps to keep them alive.