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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Fred Thompson, March/April 2009

(continued from page 1)

Dear Marvin,

In her article in the February 2009 issue ("Memo to President Obama"), Julia Sweig from the Council on Foreign Relations encourages President Obama to lift the embargo that the United States has maintained on Cuba for nearly 50 years. She argues that this is in the American national interest. I disagree. The goal of Cuban authorities has been to maintain themselves in power in perpetuity, even at the expense of improving the living conditions of Cubans, and to undermine the only country that stands in the way — the United States. Naturally, those authorities lend support to countries that have the same aspirations. This explains why Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported how Fidel Castro, while visiting Iran in May 2001— just four months before 9/11— proudly proclaimed that "Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees." Just last September, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque indicated that the U.S. embargo had forced Cuba to spend more than $89 billion to get goods and services elsewhere. This is money well spent to keep Americans safe and to keep America on its feet.

Despite many overtures by U.S. administrations to lend a helping hand to the Cuban authorities, they have all been rebuffed. When President Carter tried to open a U.S. interests section in Cuba, the Cuban government responded by sending many jail inmates with criminal records and patients with mental illnesses to the United States via the Mariel boatlift. After President Clinton eased up on travel and remittance restrictions, Havana reciprocated by shooting down two U.S. civilian planes in international waters. Although President George W. Bush offered humanitarian aid five times to help out with the ravages of two hurricanes, Raúl Castro turned them down. These examples show that Cuban authorities are not interested in any bilateral agreements with the U.S.

Thus, it is not the United States that needs to change. It is the Cuban government that needs to open up to the free world. When Cuban authorities free all political prisoners without any quid pro quos, call for free elections that are monitored by international organizations, embrace a private economic model and set up a mechanism for settling U.S. property claims from seizures after the Cuban revolution, it will be appropriate for President Obama to change previous U.S. policy.

Jorge E. Ponce Burke, Virginia

Dear Marvin,

When I was given a travel humidor that was stuffed with 18 cigars, I could not imagine how it would impact me. Each cigar was a different flavor and style. I celebrated Christmas about a month early with my family because I was being deployed on my fifth tour from home. During this deployment I would be away for roughly 18 Sundays and with the gift I would be able to count down to my return in an Advent calendar style.

I recently started to smoke cigars with my brothers-in-law during our family Sunday time. They and my wife, Tracy, felt it important for me to be able to carry on the tradition just as they would in my absence. Being able to get a break and relax on a Sunday in the North Arabian Gulf is hard enough, but when the time comes around, I cherish the Sundays that I had and will have when I go back home.

Now that I have shared that, I write about the true impact of that gift. My first son was born five days before I departed on my most recent U.S. Navy adventure. Being able to catch that hour on my Sundays has given me a chance to think back on the few short days I was able to hold my son Jeffery the II. At the same time it allows me to close my eyes and dream about the many more days after my return that I will be able to spend with him.

I have been in the Navy for about 11 years and most deployments have come and gone with ease. I'm a chief now and have the brotherhood of my fellows and the backing of my crew. Nonetheless, not one of these great bonds holds a candle to the "Puff" and "Eyes closed" I do on my Sundays with my son. Until my return, light one up this Sunday for family and cherish the days in between them.

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