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A Republican View

We must continue to stand with the Cuban people
Lincoln Diaz-Balart
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007

I recently came across two news reports that I placed copies of in my files.

One was titled "Portugal Concerned Young People Will Forget Coup of 1974." It read: "Bloodless Action Toppled Dictator, Brought Democracy. Lisbon, Portugal. The coup was swift, bloodless and effective, so smooth and neat that as Portugal prepares to mark another anniversary of the Army coup that brought it democracy, some citizens fear it is at risk of being forgotten. An older generation that lived under dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's heavy hand, proudly recalls the courage of the dissidents and the outpouring of joy when disgruntled Army officers led the coup that toppled the dictatorship."

The article went on: "The coup paved the way for the country, Portugal, to join the European Union in 1986, a coming of age that accelerated the pace of change as development funds poured in and Portugal scrambled to make up for lost time. Portugal crammed into 10 years social and economic development that had taken other countries decades to accomplish."

Another news wire that caught my eye read, "Two Bills to Seek End of Cuban Embargo." "The time has come to lift the trade sanctions in Cuba," said the author of one of the bills, adding that "the embargo has been ineffective, counterproductive, and a failure." The decades-old embargo, he continued, "has not yielded the result it intended."

I found an interesting contrast in the two articles, because during the decades-long dictatorships in Portugal and in Spain, or during the dictatorship of the 1960s and the 1970s in Greece, no one ever complained that the European Union, which was then known as the European Community, made it absolutely clear that its doors would remain closed, that there could be no conceivable entry into the European Union by Spain or Portugal or Greece until they were democracies. No one ever complained. No legislative or diplomatic initiatives to let Spain and Portugal and Greece in the community were ever initiated. No one filed bills in any of the democratic parliaments of Europe saying "the Oliveira Salazar regime in Portugal has lasted 50 years" or "the Franco regime in Spain has lasted 40 years; our policy of isolation has failed. Let us end their isolation, because they have lasted so long."

On the contrary, during the last year of Franco's dictatorship there was a mobilization in the international community to reimpose the blockade that the United Nations had imposed on Franco decades earlier. And the position of the international community at the time of the coup in Portugal in 1974 and the death of Franco in 1975, that policy of solidarity by Europe, was decisive in the political openings and democratic transitions that took place in those countries that had long been oppressed by dictatorships.

Political prisoners were liberated. Political parties were legalized. Long-term exiles, those who had survived, were able to return. And free elections were held. In other words, freedom returned.

That precisely is the goal of our policy with regard to Cuba. That is why we maintain a trade and tourism embargo on the Cuban dictatorship. That is why we deny the U.S. market to the Cuban dictatorship, a regime that has kept itself in power through terror and repression for 48 years. Because, first, it is in the national interest of the United States for there to be a democratic transition in Cuba, as it obviously is in the interest of the long-suffering people of Cuba.

Second, just as in the democratic transitions that occurred in Spain or Portugal or Greece, or in those that took place in South Africa or Chile or the Dominican Republic, it is absolutely critical that there be some form of external pressure for a democratic transition to take place in Cuba once the dictator is no longer on the scene. At the time of the disappearance from the scene of the Cuban dictator, it will be absolutely critical for the U.S. embargo to be in place as it is today, with its lifting being conditioned, as it is by law, on three fundamental developments in Cuba.

Number one, the liberation of all political prisoners. Number two, the legalization of all political parties, independent labor unions and the independent press. And number three, the scheduling of free, internationally supervised elections. The exact same conditions that brought about the democratic transitions in Portugal, in Spain, in South Africa, in Chile, in the Dominican Republic and in many other dictatorships.


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