Give Them a Break
Marvin R. Shanken, Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Havana—The Insider's Guide, November/December 2011
They value education and hard work. They are peace-loving. They are friendly. They pose no threat to the United States. They love Americans. A country with that kind of profile should be among our closest friends, if not a valuable ally. Given that description, you must think we are talking about Canada. But, in fact, that’s the nature of the Cuban people. Despite all those truths about Cuba, we deny U.S. citizens the right to travel there or do business there. Instead of friendship and diplomatic ties, the U.S. Government considers them to be enemies. It is simply crazy.
We’ve been to Cuba many times over the last 20 years. Every time, we return with the same thought. If it were not for the political BS in this country, the Cuban trade embargo would have ended long ago. American businesses would have settled their disputes that arose from the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and many Cuban-Americans who settled here after the revolt would have found a way to resolve their own antagonism and hostility toward the government leaders in Cuba.
Instead, American leaders, both in Washington and Miami, continue to insist that the only way to bring change in Cuba is to crack down even harder, make it even more impossible to travel or do business there. President Barack Obama, who entered office in 2008 with the possibility of reducing U.S.–Cuban tensions, just last week once again signed the official documents keeping the embargo in place; while President Clinton ceded the presidential right to Congress to end the embargo, President Obama could have at least forced a debate about the embargo. Or there’s Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who wants to pass a law reversing all the new travel regulations which have allowed more Americans to visit Cuba through licenses granted to academic, humanitarian and educational organizations.
The officials have it wrong. First of all, the only people getting hurt are the Cuban people. Much of the deprivations they face come from the U.S. trade embargo which limits their access to the closest and most prosperous market to them. Secondly, the mere fact of people-to-people contact is the quickest way to enlighten Cubans about the outside world, especially their big neighbor to the north.
There is a window open right now which has made it easier for Americans to take sponsored trips to Cuba. We’ve given you a guide to Havana that is current and will make any visit there more enjoyable, especially for all cigar lovers. But the real reason to go is to get to know the Cuban people. It’s time the U.S. government came down on the people’s side and dropped the ridiculous and outdated policies that keep any progress from being made.
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