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Asking right-wing Cuban Americans to nurture democracy is like asking wolves to be vegetarians.

Related Gully Stories

The Cuba Files
Includes Cuba Today: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

The Complete Elian
The Gully's complete coverage of the Elian Gonzalez Saga.

Cuba Libre

One Hundred Years of Failure:
U.S.-Cuba Policy Back at Square One

by Kelly Cogswell

APRIL 18, 2000. The case of Elian Gonzalez is the crowning jewel of one hundred years of U.S. failure. From the moment we deigned to "liberate" the island from Spain in 1898, our policies towards Cuba have been idiotically jingoistic at best, and brutally vindictive at worst. Never has "fostering democracy" surmounted its status as catchphrase to become the actual end, not to mention means, of our policy.

Mark Twain, who at first had enthusiastically supported the Spanish-American War, later bitterly declared, "Training made us nobly anxious to free Cuba; training made us give her a noble promise [of independence]; training has enabled us to take it back." The U.S.-imposed Platt Amendment to the Cuban Constitution handcuffed the country, since the United States reserved the right to send troops to occupy Cuba at will. Although it was repealed in 1933, the U.S. continued to call the shots in Cuba until Castro seized power in 1959.

Nothing has improved in the last forty-one years as the United States has allowed the powerful right-wing Cuban-American community to dictate U.S. policy towards Cuba. They act without regard to law, morality, U.S. interests, or even the interests of those Cubans actually on the island who are risking their liberty by working towards democracy.

The embargo, cornerstone of U.S. policy as advocated and hypocritically undermined by Cuban-Americans, simply does not hurt Castro. It only punishes the Cuban people, especially mixed race, and black, most of whom don't have Cuban-American relatives sending them dollars. Cuban-Americans (the very same people who are tireless advocates of the embargo) send more than 800 million dollars a year to their Cuban relatives. After tourism, this is the island's main source of hard currency.

So, while the embargo impoverishes Cubans, the crumbs that come from Cuban-Americans are ensuring their own future economic and political dominance of the island.

Likewise, U.S. multi-million dollar funding of the Castro-haters of CANF, Radio Marti and the like, also has had no beneficial effect. Partly because asking right-wing Cuban-Americans to advocate democracy is like asking wolves to advocate vegetarianism. Their idea of a plan for reform doesn't go much beyond repeatedly broadcasting a version of the refrain, "Screw the devil Castro, screw the devil Castro." When they run out of vitriol, they broadcast Spanish soap operas. What more does Cuba need?

elianWhile Cuban-Americans are generally hard-working and successful, when it comes to Cuba their visible representatives seem to descend into madness. Making Elian Gonzalez a symbol, keeping him here against the law, and against the will of his father, is not a blow against Castro. On the contrary, it has solidified support behind the dictator and has destroyed the life of a small boy. The apathetic young people of Cuba who had not shown any interest in politics for some years, are now renewing the ranks of the hardline communists in an emotional upsurge of nationalism that Castro could ride for another decade.

If we really want to see democracy in Cuba, we must take the reins of U.S.-Cuba policy from the hands of right-wing Cuban-Americans, protect the voices of moderate Cuban-Americans committed to democracy in both Cuba and Miami, and acknowledge that history of the island neither began nor ended with the revolution of 1959.

In short, we, the United States, must develop a real foreign policy towards Cuba to replace the Miami zealots' vendetta against Castro.

Related links:

For Cuban history, go to J.A. Sierra's
The Timetable History of Cuba.

For Mark Twain's insight on U.S. imperialism
To the Person Sitting in Darkness

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