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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

US Cuba policy breaks only hearts - opinion

Posted December 28, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Knight Ridder | By Myriam Marquez

My father’s only niece died on my birthday. Just like that. Teresita was gone, barely a year after my first cousin retired from her bookkeeper’s job at age 62.

We were just getting to know one another again, starting to connect the branches on the family tree, to share recollections about our very independent grandmother. We had gone from virtual strangers separated by time-stained photographs and Cold War politics to close family. As if my leaving Cuba at age 4 had been only yesterday.

By phone, we shared her elation at becoming a grandmother, celebrated my older son going off to college, her niece in Miami getting married - in short, we acknowledged God’s gifts of love and family, the mundane stuff of memories. We kept talking about my getting back down there.

Last year, I almost made it back. I had planned a trip to cover a family-reunification conference in Havana - a follow-up to my 2002 reporting trip. The Cuban government nixed the travel at the last minute. The regime had just arrested 75 human-rights activists, independent journalists and librarians. It was in no mood to talk up the diaspora of the Cuban family. So the conference was postponed.

Figuring it wouldn’t get any easier for me to go back to Cuba as a journalist - particularly one whose opinion doesn’t quite mesh with “revolutionary paradise” - I started looking into other options. I considered applying for a family visa.

But then the Bush administration imposed a new travel and remittances policy this year that denies the very meaning of family. The new policy does not count cousins, aunts or uncles as family worthy of having personal contact. No travel allowed to see cousins or nieces and nephews, no money for aunts or uncles who may have raised you like their own child. Trips from Cuban-Americans wanting to visit family on the island were limited to once every three years and only for siblings, spouses or parents.

In the failed belief that tightening dollars will topple Fidel Castro after almost 46 years in power, the new U.S. rules stooped to the ridiculous. Sending soap and toothpaste was aiding and abetting the enemy.

As usual, Castro got the last laugh. He simply outlawed the use of the dollar on Cuban streets, and imposed a 10 percent charge to exchange U.S. dollars to the island’s convertible peso. Right off the top, Fidel gets 10 percent.

Last week, the U.S. Interest Section in Havana put up the number 75 in lights - a “holiday” reminder of Cuba’s crackdown almost two years ago. On Thursday, Cuba put up a billboard in front of the U.S. offices showing photographs of abused Iraqi prisoners and a large swastika in red with “Made in the U.S.A.” stamped right on top of the word “fascist.”

In such a venomous environment, it’s a miracle that Cubans on either side of the Florida Strait manage to stay close to family, cousins included.

Had Teresita gotten ill in any other place in this hemisphere, I could have gone to see her, sent her any medicines she needed before her liver failed, as it did, from hepatitis that went untreated. (Cuba’s “free” health-care system at its usual mediocrity.)

Had U.S. policy on Cuba not been hijacked by extremists, I would have hopped on the first plane out, embracing my grieving cousins at their mother’s funeral. Bush’s policy isn’t hurting the regime as much as it is breaking Cuban hearts.


Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

Member Comments

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On December 29, 2004, YoungCuban wrote:

Yet still the majority of Cuban exiles voted for Bush?

Again, Cubans do NOTHING to improve the situation or relationship with Cuba and all for what?

To break every Cubans heart including their own!

It’ funny how the exiles continue to be a bunch of rats following the foot steps of the Piped Pipers known as the US government.

When will Cubans finally figure it out?

It hasn’t worked in 46 years and it will NEVER work as long as every Cuban who is still continues to support the seperation of family and continues to dance like puppets when the puppet masters pull their strings!

Ask yourselves how many of the first exiled Cubans who came to the US are even alive today?

I’m not talking about the young children who came at 2 years old,I’m talking about the ones who came who were 20-50 years old,and even the ones who were very young are now in their late 40’, early 50’,they have a snowball in hell chance to go back to Cuba in the way they want it to be!

My own mother has never gone back to Cuba after coming to the US before the revolution,she finally has seen the light and will reunite with her famnily this coming year 2005.

Not seeing any family since coming to the US in her early 20’, she’ an idiot in my opinion!

She finally figured it out though,family has NOTHING to do with politics!

Leave the politics to the politicians and keep YOUR family as close as possible!

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On January 02, 2005, waldo wrote:

Cubans in Florida are helpless and not very free to think or decide by themselves. They are constantly bombarded by radio, T.V. and newspapers, mostly controlled or ownwed by a rich Foundation white oligarquy, with ideas and much propaganda for hate against Havana and the spirit of revenge. Also in the streets, supermarkets, restaurants and homes the same non-sence is repeated and if anyone comes up with ideas for peace or unity, he or she is immediately looked down and branded as a communist traitor. The presure on the “Miami disidentes” is huge, ugly, well organized, powerful and fearfull. Phone treats are common and a regime of terror against those that think different do exists. Many scared ones find refuge only in silence. There may be repression in Communist regimes, but there also is plenty of repression by the Miami regime.