Attorney Miguel Olivella has an excellent response in the Tallahassee Democrat:
Morality, not votes, guides embargo
Re: “What keeps U.S. and Cuba apart? Well, Florida” (Carl Leubsdorf, May 21).
Carl Leubsdorf advances the notion that the Cuban embargo should be abandoned since it is in place solely due to political considerations that trump “the national interest.”
If Leubsdorf had his way, we would lift the embargo to create an atmosphere of change in Cuba that would enable Cuba to join the global democratic revolution.
Leubsdorf appears to suffer from an extreme case of naivete when it comes to the likes of Fidel and Raul Castro. But before presenting my humble opinion as to justifiable reasons for the embargo, let’s dispel the premise for Leubsdorf’s opinion piece, i.e. that the Cuban-American vote dictates policy positions by Florida politicians.
Recently, Gov. Rick Scott expressed support for the embargo. It is no secret that the governor is pro-business. The business community at large favors a lifting of the embargo because of the obvious trade and financial opportunities. This constituency is much larger than the Cuban-American constituency, and thus Gov. Scott’s position on the embargo is clearly a net vote count loss for him.
Even an unabashed Florida liberal such as Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is vehemently opposed to relaxing U.S. policy toward Cuba. The Cuban-American community can hardly be considered Wasserman Schultz voters in light of fundamental disagreement with her overall political philosophy. Moreover, I would suspect that her support of the embargo has cost her votes with her Democratic base.
History also teaches us that the Cuban-American vote does not translate into election victory in Florida. If Cuban-American votes could truly carry an election, President Obama — a vocal proponent of abandoning the embargo — would never have won Florida in 2008.
So why would our pro-business governor and the liberal Wasserman Schultz refuse to sanction a lifting of the embargo? Because they are both guided by a moral compass that will not allow them to reward one of the most reprehensible, Machiavellian regimes of our time with more trade than currently is in place. And, unlike Leubsdorf, they do not suffer from the rose-colored-glasses belief that trade with Cuba will engender democracy.
For some 50 years, the Castro regime has prohibited all political dissent. My fellow countrymen and relatives have been tortured, executed and imprisoned for daring to express any political view that differs from the regime’s philosophy. There is no right to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement or due process of law. Enforcement of government policy is carried out through surveillance, detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions and dismissals from employment.
Rewarding this conduct with open trade is unconscionable.
As for democracy, Fidel and Raul Castro have perfected a tyrannical system that has made them and their friends inordinately rich. This power structure includes not only human right atrocities, but a complete dominance over the economy, which is in the exclusive hands of the Cuban military and the Castros’ circle of friends.
Any company seeking to engage in commerce with Cuba must go through the state, and since the Castros enjoy unfettered control over all aspects of the economy, the only beneficiaries of commerce would be the Castros. No thinking person can possibly believe that the Castros would allow democracy to flourish, since it would jeopardize what they have been zealously protecting for 50 years — lives of privilege and wealth.
If commerce were truly able to sow the seeds of democracy, they would have been sown long ago. Every other country in the world engages in trade with Cuba, and even with the embargo, the U.S. is one of Cuba’s top five trade partners.
Travel to Cuba by foreigners will not open the eyes of the Cuban population and cause them to demand democracy. If that were so, the 2.4 million tourists who traveled to Cuba last year along with the hundred thousand or so Americans who made their way to the island should certainly have accomplished this by now. If that many travelers who enjoy freedom of thought and ideas have not sown the seeds of democracy, the lifting of U.S. travel restrictions on Cuba can hardly have any effect.
We should not sanction murder, torture and oppression for the sake of what some profess is our national interest — profit. Our national interest is much nobler than that.