Conscience and Morality

I can accept any Cuban exile’s wish to see the travel restrictions lifted so that they may visit family members. I may not agree with it, but as I’ve stated many times before, I am no one to tell a person not to go see their father or mother or other family member. It’s a personal choice that one makes.

What truly bothers me, however, are the “No one has the right to prevent me from travelling freely. Im an American!” and the “Why can’t I go see it for myslelf? Why should I have to take your word for it?” arguments.

Now, farbeit for me to tell anyone where they can or cannot travel to, and I’ll admit that while I support the travel restrictions for Cuba, I do so with a compunction or two. But the presupposition of these travel restrictions is not an ideological one. Never has been. And the argument that these travel restrictions limit the amount of money going to the Cuban government is a secondary one.

The reality of it is that these restrictions are based on morality and conscience.

Vaclav Havel states it quite eloquently in the Prague Monitor (via The Real Cuba):

I cannot go to Cuba to relax on the beach and keep my eyes shut, while dozens of political prisoners are behind bars there,” said Havel, who spent a total of five years in Czech communist prisons as a regime opponent.

We cannot pretend that nothing wrong happens in Cuba. A lot of evil occurs there,” Havel added.

One of the arguments we always hear from castro supporters is that Cuba was a playground of the rich tourist and the mafia. Yet here we are almost a half century later and not only is Cuba the playground of some from around the world, but now it’s even worse. Where there once was somewhat of an economic separation between some Cubans and their ability to mingle with foreigners, now there is an outright government imposed apartheid.

Yet every year, tourists from Canada, Spain, Germany, England – all over the world – vacation in Cuba and they ease their consciences by berating the red herring evil US embargo, all the while their presence there makes them de facto and willing accomplices in the apartheid. It is those who travel to Cuba and lay on her beaches and sip rum in her bars and sleep soundly in her four star hotels who are immoral. It is they who frolic about the island, enjoying their vacations while the average Cuban struggles to survive who lack conscience.

And those who choose to travel to Cuba to “see it for themselves” are just as guilty. Cuba isnt a fishbowl for them to be tapping on the glass to see the reactions of its inhabitants, to then, after a few days, fly back to the safety and security of their homes while those fish remain trapped in their fishbowl. With little food and little hope of ever swimming freely.

28 thoughts on “Conscience and Morality”

  1. Val,

    I know what you mean. It is next to impossible to go to Cuba and not participate in the apartheid system. There are burly security guys with sunglasses and earphones in the entrance and lobby of hotels; a friend of mine got past them to meet me, but he was nervous the entire time. Another old family friend (in his 80s now) walked right past the security guys, but was astonished that the cafecitos we had amounted to one-half of his meager monthly pension payment.

    Despite this, we still want to be able to see our family members in Cuba, and not just once every three years. We don’t want to lose touch no matter what obstacles both governments put in the way. Family is more important than politics to us.

    We have a new cousin in Cuba, but we can’t even send baby clothes as a gift under the Treasury Department’s latest restrictions. I just don’t get the point of that.

  2. Val,

    Arguing about “morality” is ideological, contrary to what you say. Despite Havel’s description of going to Cuba to “relax on the beach”, the loudest voices against the restrictions are Cubans with intentions to visit family. Not tourism, but welfare. That’s the priority. That’s why your statement that its those who “travel to Cuba and lay on her beaches and sip rum in her bars and sleep soundly in her four star hotels who are immoral” is a false argument. We are talking about Cuban exiles with families IN Cuba.

    If you hang you argument on “morality” then you know full well that Cuban families can make the same case. Your argument gets you nowhere.

    If you support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then, I believe, you must support the other covenants of the UN, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ICCPR was ratified by the US in 1992[1] and codifies the “right to liberty and freedom of movement”, which article 4 says: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”[2]

    That’s the right that the Cuban families here in Miami seek. If you believe that it is moral to uphold freedoms and abide by standards of international laws, then why not grant the same luxury to others?

    Human Rights Watch came to the same conclusion in 2005 with their report titled “Families Torn Apart
    The High Cost of U.S. and Cuban Travel Restrictions”, saying: “The solution, however, cannot be based on the disregard for the rights of individuals or the welfare of families. It is time for both the Cuban and the U.S. governments to end their inhumane travel policies.”[3]

    If you think this is a “moral” issue, then how about the principle of universality. We preserve our freedoms, by living example, and granting those rights to all.

    [1]http://www.ohchr.org/english/countries/ratification/4.htm
    [2]http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cpr.html#Article%2012.1
    [3]http://hrw.org/reports/2005/cuba1005/5.htm#_Toc116941366

  3. Chino and Orpheus,

    Again, farbeit for me to tell you or any other Cuban not to visit family in Cuba. That is your personal perrogative and you and your family live with the consequences of your actions, whether good or bad.

    What I do know is that you both focus on your abilities to travel freely back to Cuba while neglecting to mention the ability of your family members to be able to travel freely from Cuba. What about them? How does your travelling to and from Cuba help them achieve that same freedom to travel freely?

    As long as we allow ourselves to be Cuba’s number one export – the only true export the island has left that brings in almost a billion dollars a year – then the staus quo will remain the status quo. Your families will continue to need your assistance from abroad and you will continue to be their welfare provider. And nothing will change. Nothing. Dont you think this is exactly what castro’s government wants and exactly why they allow some to leave and force some to stay?

    Ask yourselves why more Cubans dont take to the streets, why more cubans didnt take to the streets when the “transition” occured. It’s not just fear that prevented them from doing so. But I have to believe there is a certain comfort (for lack of a better word) level for them knowing someone from abroad will always be there with a few dollars here and a few dollars there and its no so much as a risk to their lives that prevents them from taking to the streets, but also a risk of being unable to cionnect with their families abroad whose support they are accustomed to.

    Again, those that feel they are morally correct in supporting their families from abroad are, in fact, morally correct. But that doesnt mean that those who view the travel restrictions as a necessary evil, to help not just their families but all Cubans in the long run, are immoral. They too are acting in good conscience.

  4. Hmmm. Orpheus2 and Chihuahua_Hunter are very diligent about citing sources. Tremendous similarities in how they write and cite. Could they be one and the same troll, I wonder? I’ll do some IP checkin’ just for grins, because inquiring minds want to know…

  5. Val,

    I don’t think anyone is calling another “immoral”. We are judging the “morality” of a policy, not people.

    You replied with a question, so let me respond in kind: How does NOT traveling to and from Cuba help them achieve that same freedom to travel freely?

    There is no doubt that we want the same freedoms for all, and the ability to exercise them. But, how will a travel restriction achieve these ends, especially with the growing opposition to it.

    As I posted elsewhere, Libya is an example where a negotiated agreement brought some change, especially after sanctions were lifted. The change in Cuba will come from efforts of change from BOTH parties, not just one.

    Let us not deviate from the main point. The travel restrictions are placed WITHOUT a moral basis. In other words, there is no evidence that shows that travel affects the level of repression on the island. If you have evidence to the contrary, let me know.

    Did government repression increase when Carter eased travel restrictions? How about trade? Did governemnt repression immediately increase after trade sanctions were eased in 2000? The answer to both is: there is no credible evidence that shows this.

    The imprisonment of the 75 that occured in 2003, occured because of allegations of financial conspiracy with the US. NOT easing of travel or trade.

    US policy is more strongly linked to political repression in Cuba.

    Let us respect the rights of US citizens, and acknowledge that these restrictions don’t have merit.

  6. Why don’t these people who so want to visit their families in Cuba ever mention the fact that mobility is restricted for Cubans within Cuba.

    They are not even freely allowed to move around on the island.

    Sounds to me as if all the concessions always have to be made on this side in order to benefit Cuba. How about asking the Cuban government to make concessions to benefit the Cuban people. We need to start re-stating this argument in terms of what Cuba needs to do, not what the US needs to do. The Cuban people need to start placing the blame where it belongs. The real embargo/restrictions have ALWAYS been by Cuba against Cubans. Thats why we all had to leave. I’m tired of all the BS.

  7. Orpheus2 said, “US policy is more strongly linked to political repression in Cuba.”

    Oh, so it’s the evil US policy that causes political repression in Cuba. Give us a break.

  8. Please give me a break. Sure there is a small fraction of cubans that want to help their families on the island. However, I have heard horror stories of men traveling to cuba for the explicit purpose of having sex with 13 year old girls or going to see their mistresses over there, while they lie to their families here. As well as gay men traveling over there to get their rocks off. How does this help the cubans. This only serves to denigrate the people there. Where husbands and fathers send their wives and daughters to prostitute themselves in order to be able to put food on the table. The cubans here have become immoral in going over there. We also know why the Germans, Canadians and Spanish go there too. Who are they kiding. And to top it off, how many recently arrived cubans, who have won the so called “lotteria”, have returned within the year to celebrate their daughters 15’s. They fluant the little they have accomplished in the face of the people who are stuck there. Let’s be honest, who are they trying to help?

  9. I know two people who went to Cuba as tourism. Evebn though I don’t agree I was surprised when they both recounted how they went out od their way to see the real cuba and how they became aware of the apartheid system. I don’t know if that had any influence on their decision to not visit cuba but i think it did.

    in particular, one of my friends, is a newyorikan mulata. and when she spoke in spanish at the airport they thought she was cuban and prohibited her to visit any of the tourist places including her hotel. they moved her to a b&b

    that said, i’m with val in that US people should not be allowed to go vacation there.

  10. Orpheus/Chihuahua Hunter,

    Please read my last comment to you in the Gore Vidal post.

    While you bring up some valid points, sock puppetry is a major no-no in the blogworld.

    As for you comments, to wit:

    How does NOT traveling to and from Cuba help them achieve that same freedom to travel freely?

    Money, Orpheus. Money. You are, in essece, paying the jailer to see your family. And the jailer, knowing full well that if he releases your family he wont have your hard earned cash, keeps your family in jail. Not to mention that there is a certain complacency ( I know Im gonna get hell for saying but so be it) with the Cuban people. As long as they can expect that chequecito from Tio pepe and Tia Cuca in Hialeah every week, they have one less reason to take it upon themsleves to change their own lot in life.

    The change in Cuba will come from efforts of change from BOTH parties, not just one.

    How is the view from that far up la mata? When has the Cuban government ever conceeded to anything? When has the Cuban government ever abided by the terms of any agreements theyve made? For crying out loud, they still have yet to abide by the last 40 years worth of “agrements” through “negotitaions”. What makes you think theyre going to now?

    The travel restrictions are placed WITHOUT a moral basis. In other words, there is no evidence that shows that travel affects the level of repression on the island.

    Two words, mountains of evidence:

    TOURISM APARTHEID.

    Did government repression increase when Carter eased travel restrictions? How about trade? Did governemnt repression immediately increase after trade sanctions were eased in 2000?

    See response above.

    US policy is more strongly linked to political repression in Cuba.

    Perhaps that’s what your professors at FIU would like you to believe. And the statement itself proves a lot more about you and your ideology than your self professed yearning for the Cuban people’s freedoms.

    Let us respect the rights of US citizens, and acknowledge that these restrictions don’t have merit.

    yeah, and, once again, FUCK THE CUBANS.

  11. You are right about the restrictions imposed on Cubans by the regime. We should never forget that the Cuban government routinely restricts Cubans from travelling abroad, on pain of imprisonment or worse. The U.S. government restricts Americans from travelling to Cuba, on pain of a fine (usually not imposed). Similar restrictions, but not the same punishment by any means.

    The Ladies in White couldn’t leave Cuba to get their award. Cuban friends who wanted to attend conferences in Puerto Rico or the US have to go through endless Cuban government redtape, usually to be denied. But among the few that the Cuban government approves to go are those the US government won’t allow in. I say let Cubans visit the US to see their family members, to attend conferences, whatever. Let even Cubans who support the regime come here and see free speech, free press, and open debate in action.

    What about my last point? Anybody think it makes sense that our government says I can’t send baby clothes to my new cousin?

  12. Chino,

    I guess the baby clothes fall under some of the banned articles probably through some techinicality.

    Besides, with over 6 out of ten babies being aborted in Cuba, there’s bound to be a surplus sooner or later.

  13. As stated, it’s the US embargo, not the Canadian embargo or the European Embargo. Why aren’t these countries sending in goods to be sold to the cuban people? Where there a will, there’s a way… Must be: BECAUSE THEY TO PAY THE BILLS, YOU BIG DOPE!!!!
    Not only that, it’s easier to control a group of people by feeding them a load of crap, year after year. They have become complacent in their little island. Just read Animal Farm, this book reminds me so much of cuba…..

  14. Anyone can send $100 a month to their relatives in Cuba. Even with what the regime skims off the top in the exchange and the inflated prices at the government owned stores that buys a lot baby clothes.

    But let’s keep on pretending that the embargo is responsible for all the misery while the real culprit dies of natural causes, as the only free person in all of Cuba.

  15. I ain’t gone play Sun City anymore. Used to be a time the left was against Aparthied but the usual rules never apply to communist dictators, especially the “romatic third world hero” Castro. Pheh. Tell yourself whatever lies you need to sleep well but you are just playing Sun City and I ain’t gone play Sun City no more.

  16. I could go on about how the right to travel freely and property rights were are part of our system of governance dating back to english case law and the magna carta. And how the right of free travel was affirmed in the case of Aptheker v. State as a 5th amendment right.

    I could right verse after verse about how the embargo has failed for 50 years and shows no sign of working any time soon.

    I could write about how reducing tourism takes money out of the common Cubans hand by depriving him of tourist dollars which is his best chance to make money and feed is family.

    But I will just say this:

    Representative Republics are not suppose to tell their citizens where and where not they may travel. Communist dictators do that.

    Governments with Quasi free market systems are not suppose to infringe upon their citizens property rights communist dictators do that.

    I also assume that none of you buy cheap electronics and clothes that are made in Communist China that routinely tortures and murders religious practitioners and pro democracy dissidents. And you also don’t fill your gas tanks with gas from Yemen, Oman, Egypt, Syria, and Sudan [which is supporting an ongoing genocide] all countries that have some of the worse human rights records in the world. And the you have written your congressman demanding a trade embargo be implemented with the aforementioned countries. If you answered no to any of the previous statements in this paragraph then you’re a hypocrite and you can shut up now.

  17. Now that Castro is on his way out and some sort of a transition is about to begin maybe now would be a good time to modify the travel restrictions. Until about a year and a half ago (When the program was cancelled.) any US citizen could travel to Cuba on a People to People diplomacy license. You weren’t supposed to go there and behave as a tourist. Instead you were supposed to meet with groups inside Cuba and it was hoped that they would try to push for change. The problem with it was that a lot of Pro-Castro folks travelled this way and it didn’t have the desired affect.
    How about that we reinstitute this program again but this time require that each traveler go through a very extensive education program before they go. Teach these people to see what is wrong with the Castro regime.On top of that, actively promote this program to organizations that are clearly pro-democratic and pro-capitalist. Try to make sure that there will be a good mix of people that want to promote change inside Cuba. This may have several effects. One, the anti-Castro traveler will be better armed in the debate that he will find himself involved in Cuba. Two, the pro-Castro traveller may be able to open his eyes a little better and see what is wrong about the system that Castro has created. It may slowly errode the support that Castro gets inside the US while at the same time exposing Cuban’s to a much more expanded array of idea’s instead of just what Grandma has to say. Plus, it could no longer be claimed that the US restricts travel for it’s own citizens.

  18. Also I’ll add that no one appointed Val and his hardliner friends as the supreme Judge of what is moral and what isn’t. That privilage is reserved for god.

  19. Yeah Mike you could rehash all those lame arguments to coddle the dictatator but then we’d have to refute your bullshit with all of the same logical arguments that douchebags like you either can’t or won’t get through their heads.

    Whatever. Go away if you don’t agree. Or don’t, I don’t give a shit because the embargo ain’t going anywhere for at least two years. I don’t think the castro apologists in congress have a veto proof majority.

    VETO, VETO, VETO.

  20. Hey Conductor: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’m sorry it’s unprofessional to laugh at someone’s “argument” like that. Most pro-embargo exiles here don’t refute my FACT’S (and they are facts) with logical arguments.

    They resort to emotional rhetoric (such as comparing communist Cuba to the holocaust) and character assassination. That may work for those of you drinking the hard-liner cool-aid but it doesn’t actually convence anyone else.

    Also I wouldn’t be so sure about that veto!!! I can recall Bush vetoing something ONE time [although he may have vetoed other legislation since then] and that is the federal funding for stem cell research. He allowed BILLIONS in pork to pass though the congress without ever using a veto. And this from a supposedly conservative president.

    Also I wouldn’t be too sure about your “veto proof majority”. After all a lot of those Republican seats in Congress are held by Senators from Southern and Midwestern states that produce large amounts of meat and agriculture and are chomping at the bit to weaken or totally get rid of the cumbersome embargo to make trade more efficient for their districts.

    This combined with the fact that there are large [and extremely profitable] oil deposits laying right off of Cuba’s shores might be the last nail in the coffin for your senseless embargo.

  21. Val: Two wrongs don’t make a right. It is not the place of the U.S. government to curtail property rights or freedom of travel. It is also not the place of the U.S. government to bail out business on the back of tax payers. Both policies need to be changed.

    Lift the embargo and if companies are stupid enough to do trade with a government that doesn’t pay it’s bills then they can go out of business for all I care.

    JMK: I’m sure you’ve never made a careless spelling or grammatical error. I’m not writing an office memo, I’m writing a comment on a blog. If I make a careless mistake or two then oh well. No skin off of my nose. If the spelling or grammar in my posts bother you that much then feel free to not read them.

  22. Val,

    I admit I’m uninformed, because I’ve never seen the insides of a totalitarian regime, and I don’t know the details of Castro’s authoritarian techniques, but in my idealism I can’t help but believe that increasing the level of interaction between our peoples would allow, if nothing else, the establishment of a healthy underground movement which might rise in stature over time.

    In that light, is it naive to think that increased communication and interaction between the Cuban people and others like Americans would lead to greater benefits? I would also think that the sooner it were done, the better. If a country can taste some success and see what’s beyond it’s borders, isn’t it more likely to want even more of the same? Unlike Iran or North Korea, Cuba is so close to the US that I would imagine we could very positively influence it. If this is just a pipe dream, then why would it not work?

    You often mention prisons, poverty and abortions. Isn’t it valid to argue that the blockade of Cuba causes the population to remain poor, to have fewer children than otherwise, and so on? Are we not making Cuba suffer because we hate Castro? Isn’t the blockade essentially an imprisonment of innocent Cubans by America? If the goal is to release Cuba from its imprisonment, isn’t one possible solution to attempt increased communication and increased interaction?

    It seems like the arguments about the blocade focus on the reasons why Castro should not be rewarded, but if the goal is to remove him and his economic system as quickly as possible, isn’t it fair to consider what a high dose of capitalism might do to the population? Or am I missing something that would make this idea unrealistic.

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