Why care?

I’ve been meaning to post a link to this excellent piece over at Cubanology. You may have already read it, and if so, its’ well worth reading it again, if you havent, you’ll be glad you did:

Cuba: Why I Care
By Claudia Fanelli 1/20/2007

I am not Cuban. I don’t attempt or pretend to be. I am Italian-American, the granddaughter of economic, not political, immigrants. As a result of my background, the concept of political immigration was foreign to me until I met my Cuban-born Spanish professors in college twenty years ago. Even so, knowing them as well as I did but never discussing their ordeals, I had only marginal knowledge of Cuban history. With regard to the Cuban exile experience, well, let’s just say that if I didn’t hear it from Tony Montana, then I didn’t know about it. My ignorance was never questioned much since I live in Pennsylvania where the Cuban population is sparse. However, now that Cuban history and literature are part of the high school Spanish curriculum where I teach, I felt compelled to know more than what the student textbook told me. Books, Blogs, movies, documentaries and talking to Cubans have helped me to understand what is so seemingly foreign a concept to the average American: the current situation in Cuba.

Other teachers ask me questions about Cuba and while I am in no way an authority, I do my best and get an answer if I don’t have one. You see, my colleagues have no clue about what is going on in Cuba, and until I began talking to them, they really didn’t care to know. Perhaps they are relieved that I keep abreast of what is taking place so that they don’t have to. After all, Cuba is barely a blip on the radar of most Americans. I am always sure to inform the curious about the suffering and the human rights violations that are taking place in Cuba as a result of a 48-year death grip on the country and her people. I cite my sources when I need to and I state statistics when challenged by a fan of Fidel. Once presented with the propaganda espoused by Hollywood and parroted by those who swallow it, I unload the litany of contradictions as well as the endless list of human and civil rights violations that people who don’t live in Miami either don’t know or choose not to acknowledge.

Trust me, you’ll want to read the whole thing.

22 thoughts on “Why care?”

  1. That was a very touching essay showing the truth in simple words.

    Thanks Val for posting it and thanks to Claudia Fanelli for writing it.

  2. A good piece of work. It explains how I feel as well. Too bad Mr.10 Vague, Fluffy Reasons To Lift the Embargo will likely never understand it.

  3. This noble lady is not in a minority. Every opinion poll taken since the early 60s has shown that the American people despise Castro’s dictatorship and wish the Cuban people to be free. The mainstream media may not get it (or report it), but the American public always has known the truth about Castro.

  4. Bill, were you refering to me? I don’t think it was 10 vague points. Would you like me to post the points I made? I’d be more than happy to on another forum.

    Ms. Fanelli’s essay is excellent and captures well the general frustration of many. Her sympathy for the suffering families of Cuba is spot on. One can read this blog and others, documentaries and books to find out, but also reports by human rights organizations and other academic research.

    But, there’s a gap in Fanelli’s essay. She makes a clear case on why we should be infuriated, but what do we do about it? How do we as Americans create change in Cuba?

    This is where the real debate lies. Fanelli’s essay, as excellent as it is, just states the obvious: the majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of Cuba.

    The most recent Gallup poll (Dec. 8-10, 2006) showed that 71% of Americans interviewed have an unfavorable to Cubans. Actually, for the past decade, 60% or more of Americans have always had this view.

    But, if you look at questions towards US policy towards Cuba, its a different story. For many years, and according to many other polls, Americans favor re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and ending the embargo.

    What does Fanelli think about this?

    This is the real debate. Fanelli’s essay is reminiscent of what his been written for many years.

    So, what do we do? I think we should listen to what many Americans are saying.

  5. Mambi,

    I dont know guy. You seem like an intelligent person and someone who knows the castro regime better than your average American. What does the Cuban government have to offer the US as far as negotitations? What have they done as a measure of “good faith” to bring the Us to said negotiating table? A simple “hey come and sit down and we’ll talk” simply isnt going to cut it. negotiations only work when both parties are willing to make conscessions. So far, the cuban government has done absolutely nothing that would lead anyone to believe there is a willingness to negotiate.

  6. blogs.herald.com/cuban_connection/2007/01/group_states_te.html#comment-27869834

    I have no idea who you are, so please forgive me if I can’t address you directly. The above link is my reference. Val posted this on 17Jan07. As I commented on that site, the reasons are vague with appeals to authority and reasoning that just don’t hold up. Basically, I want the Cuban people free,with all it implies. Allowing accesss to a multi-trillion dollar market with Cuba under the current Stalinist kleptocracy will not help. If you have a better idea than “the embargo makes the US look more evil than castro”, let’s hear it.

  7. You want to re-establish diplomatic relations with a communist dictator that has sent thousands of innocent to the firing squads without even a fair trial and who has jailed many more??? You want to have relations with someone who denies the citizens their most basic human rights and who jails, murders, or represses anyone who disagrees with him???

    You want to establish relationships with a government that holds hostage its own citizens by not allowing them to leave the country as they wish???

    You want to have diplomatic relationships with someone who has threatened to nuke the US???

    I don’t think you realize that negotiating with Castro is like negotiating with Hitler during WWII, because Cuba is very much like a concentration camp.

  8. Prieto asked: “What does the Cuban government have to offer the US as far as negotiations?”

    – An end to the US/Cuba conflict.

    “What have they done as a measure of ‘good faith’ to bring the US to said negotiating table?”

    – Raul said he was willing “to settle the long U.S.-Cuba disagreement” and Thomas Shannon, deputy Sec. of State, rejected it.

    You. like Shannon, may not believe this gesture by Raul is credible, but how can you know until its been tested? And, why not risk it? What is there to lose? Furthermore, a gesture of good faith must be shown by the US too. You think Cuba trusts the US? The trust between the two is non-existent.

    Even then, a complete lack of trust towards Cuba is a position that entails waiting for Cuba to make their own changes.

    How much longer do you wait?


    I want an agreement on a US policy towards Cuba. That includes a policy that follows international standards and principles. Where if sanctions are necessary, then a multilateral policy will be effective.

    This is not a personal request, its a solution where those who are effected most can agree. Namely Cubans on the island.

  9. – An end to the US/Cuba conflict.

    This has got to be the single most blindingly stupid response Ive every heard. Seems to me you are not interested in improving the lives of the Cuban but to end a “conflict” that CAN BE ENDED IN A NANOSECOND IF THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT HAD ANY RESPECT FOR BASIC, CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS.

    But your concern isnt for that, now is it? Youre concern is to end “the conflict.’ Screw the Cuban people, Screw the political proisoners. Screw human rights. Screw the abject depravity instilled upon the Cuban people by their government. As long as “the conflict” ends, its all hunky dory. I can assure you, none of us here want anything more than the end of the conflict, the thing is that some of us wont sacrifice the future of the Cuban people and Cuba and our moral principles or our convictions for a hypothetical end of some “conflict.”

    You know what Cuba has to offer the US? Freedom to live like human beings for the Cuban people.

    Dear Lord what an alarmingly idiotic response.

    – Raul said he was willing “to settle the long U.S.-Cuba disagreement” and Thomas Shannon, deputy Sec. of State, rejected it.

    Yeah, i mentioned that in my original comment to you. What exactly did raul offer as a token of good faith? His word?

    You. like Shannon, may not believe this gesture by Raul is credible, but how can you know until its been tested? And, why not risk it? What is there to lose? Furthermore, a gesture of good faith must be shown by the US too. You think Cuba trusts the US? The trust between the two is non-existent.

    first of all, its not a gesture. Its lip service. A “gesture” would have been something atune to releasing political prisoners or allowing all those Cuban with already US approved visas to leave the island or some such “gesture” to back up his lip service with ACTIONS. Those are “gestures”. raul making some comment about “willingness” to go to the table, because thats what he said, he didnt ask the US to come to the table, he stated a “willingness” to come to the table. thats not a gesture nor a token of good faith and if you believe that it is, I have a couple of bridges in NY i can sell you. Cheap.

    End to the Cuba/US conflict my ass.

    I want an agreement on a US policy towards Cuba. That includes a policy that follows international standards and principles. Where if sanctions are necessary, then a multilateral policy will be effective.

    then it seems to me that Cuba should allow world organizations such as the Red Cross and other human rights orgs to visit the island freely, being that we are going to be following “international standards and priniciples”. It should also allow a free press and the foreign press to operate freely as well, being that that is an international standard and principle as well. It should also put an end to the apartheid system in place in Cuba, the one very much like that of South Africa in the 80 that the whole WORLD supported sanctions and embargoes against.

    never have I heard more ridiculous and naive arguments for US/Cuba for negotiations.

  10. Claudia is on target with her thoughts. She is not Cuban but Mr. No Spine who claims to be Cuban is very anti Cuban American calling us Wellfare subscribers. He should read her article and zone in on the 125,000 Cuban American businesses which bring to the economy over 26 billions of dollars.

    Great job Claudia! I Thank you again for your great article, knowledge and compassion for the Cubans.

  11. There’s an obvious misunderstanding. I also suggest what I have written on my blog for specific issues that should be given priority, such as the release of political prisoners. But, I think I understand your frustration, which may originate in the systematic deterioration of human rights and standards of living on the island.

    And, this is perhaps where we may diverge most because it belongs to interpretations of political history. But, in a pragmatic response, such differences are to be minimized and end results maximized, such as a free Cuba.

    Anyway, lets both calm down and clarify our positions before we engage in ad hominems.

    I do not believe that change in Cuba can/will happen in a “nanosecond”. To believe that, in my opinion, is like waiting for a leopard to change its spots to stripes. Basically, I believe change in Cuba will come from hard work from both the US and Cuba. But, there are obvious obstacles from each nation, such as both governments differing ideological principles, and perceptions of threat to their sovereignty.

    To get beyond these obstacles, I believe, a negotiation process, where there are EQUALLY perceived concessions, is a path to creating an environment to effectively address the lives of Cubans.

    I have faith in this model because there are many examples (even recent ones) that have been successful. But, as the history of social movements has shown, specifically improving the lives of a population requires incredible effort. Look at our own lives here in the US. The rights and freedoms we have didn’t come easy. It took the bravery of people to take to the streets and minorities to face down barrels of guns.

    I’m not suggesting that such a situation must happen. I’m suggesting that it can be avoided.

    So I’m not saying “screw” this or that. I’m saying lets look at how he can learn from the pages of history to improve the lives of Cubans. Many would bring up the case of South Africa, but in that case, sanctions alone was not the hair that broke the camel’s back. The anti-apartheid movement went back decades before sanctions, and it was the commitment of regular people, and the blood of many South Africans, that ended that misery.

    We can avoid that. The US is the most powerful nation on Earth, it has the resources to make a change. I believe the best way to take advantage of these resources, is to offer them to Cuba in a bilateral and equal exchange. Only THEN, the hard work begins.

    Imagine if someone asked YOU to change something about yourself in a “nanosecond”. These aren’t easy things.

  12. US/Cuba Negotiations

    Like the dictator Fidel Castro, Raul Castro also murdered many innocent cubans, his hands are not clean and he is just as responsible for violating the human rights of Cubans as Fidel is.

    Raul Castro has not had a measure of “good faith” in his life. The only thing he could do is free ALL political prisoners, confess to all his crimes and turn himself in. He has done NONE of that. In fact, with every breath he takes Raul Castro is violating the human rights of Cubans and living a good life at the expense of the slavery and suffering of Cubans.

    There IS an agreement on the US policy towards Cuba and it very simple: THE US DOES NOT DO BUSINESS WITH MURDERER COMMUNIST DICTATORS such as Fidel Castro and his new heir Raul Castro.

    The US does not have to take any step into ANY negotiation with Cuba because the US is not violating the rights of any Cuban, while the communist regime is.

    The US does not have to demonstrate its credibility to ANY murderous regime and in any case it is the Castro brothers who still have many debts that they haven’t paid to their creditors.

    It is absurd that you even say “Where if sanctions are necessary” when referring to the regime in Cuba because guess what??? Cuba has been found guilty at the UN many times for violating Human Rights, so it is obvious that the communist regime doesn’t care about sanctions.
    It is also very disrespectful to the thousands of Cubans who the regime murdered in firing squads, the other thousands that were jailed, and the millions of Cubans who are denied their human rights even right now.

    Understand this: there can NEVER be a transition into freedom when a dictator is the head of the country.

    The only help the Cubans need is to get rid of the communist government, the socialist system, and the communist dictator and his gang of leaders.

    Anything else would not be freedom.

    If you make business with Cuba you will be making business with Castro because he and his gang are the ones that control EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE. So you will be supplying the regime with money and you will be placing a burden on US taxpayers because so far the Cuban government has proven to never pay its debts, not to mention that if the regime has more money it will tighten up more and increase the repression.

    I find it quite inmoral and stupid in terms of economy to trade with ANYONE related to the communist regime and its leaders.

    And the “bilateral and equal” exchange can go to the gutter just as the communist regime has sent to the gutter the human rights of cubans.

  13. QbanArtemisa,

    I really respect your outrage, and reasons behind it. But, there’s also a flip side that I concern myself with: a US policy towards that has been condemned by many human rights organizations. And, it too deserves criticism because it is OUR policy. So, we both want change. Let’s find a point of agreement.

    You misquoted me, because I specifically said: “Where if sanctions are necessary, THEN a multilateral policy will be effective.” I don’t abandon the use of sanctions altogether. It has been researched thoroughly that unilateral sanctions have poor success rates around the world. Whereas, multilateral sanctions have a better record in a more globalized society.

    I don’t think its totally accurate to say that the United States doesn’t do business with “murderous communist dictators”. The US does business with many countries that have horrendous human rights records, even countries where citizens don’t have the freedom to change their governments, have fair elections, assemble freely or have fair trails. One astonishing example is the relations that the US has with Equatorial Guinea, a nation that the State Department describes as similar to Cuba.

    We can put these huge differences aside, for an end result that is beneficial to Cubans.

    Questions of morality should be given their proper place for debate, but where there are TWO camps in conflict, the people in between get crushed. Where’s the morality in that?

    Many human rights groups in Cuba reject US policy, why shouldn’t we listen to them. Some are from the Ladies in White, like Miriam Leiva, some are from the Varela project, there are others.

    An agreement with them, and Americans must come forward for a suitable policy. This I believe is a road to change. If we toss it to the gutter, then we toss out those voices too.

  14. Thank you Val for including my essay here, I am honored.

    As for “US/Cuba Negotiations,” there is no “gap” in my essay. I did not write about how to solve the embargo issue or how to solve anything else. I’m a Spanish teacher, not a diplomat/ambassador/magician. My topic was WHY I CARE ABOUT CUBA. As in, why do I, a non-Cuban, give a damn when so many others do not and WHY do *I* think they do not care. I don’t know how to solve these problems. If I did, I’d be the saner, smarter, cuter version of Jimmy Carter.

    So, let me be clear- thank you for the compliments in your post but please understand the nature of my original essay.

    Claudia Fanelli in PA

  15. Dear US/Cuba Negotiations:

    If you look in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “negotiate” is defined as such:

    to arrange for or bring about through conference, discussion, and compromise

    Now, when you read this definition and look back in history to the wonderful outcomes that cool and calm heads were able to negotiate, you get this giddy feeling all over and it is quite easy to think, as you obviously do, that “negotiations” are the magic bullet to make all our troubles go away.

    However, alongside all the wonderful outcomes, there are also tragic ones. And if you examine each one, a common thread appears among the two. The good ones were outcomes achieved when both parties had a mutual benefit to end their differences other than to simply negotiate for the sake of negotiating. The bad ones, you’ll notice, are the outcomes when one party is forced to cede their position and principles.

    What you are advocating is for the US to forget all that is correct, lawful, and fundamentally right, on the hope that the Cuban dictatorship will see our willingness to be nice, and then suddenly have a change of heart.

    That way of thinking has, throughout history, led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people (Hitler and WWII is a perfect example). That way of thinking has not produced one, not one, viable and justifiable end to a conflict. It may have ended a conflict, but at the price of many lives (Pol Pot in Cambodia, for example).

    You can tout your negotiations horn all you want, that’s exactly what the Cuban dictatorship wants you to do. Do fifty years of reneging on trade agreements and foreign loans say anything to you? Has the Cuban dictatorship ever done anything-I said DONE, not SAID-that leads you to believe they would ever negotiate in good faith? No, they haven’t, and you know they haven’t. Your pie in the sky is just that, a pie in the sky. And you should give thanks you’re in the US because in Cuba, pies in the skies are not part of the ration book.

    In conclusion, I refer once again to the definition of the word you believe will cure all of mans’ ills. The definition uses three terms that are key to a negotiation: Conference, Discussion, and Compromise. I’m sure the dictatorship in Cuba is willing to do a conference (they apparently love that stuff, they do conferences for this, that, and any other stupid thing they can think of to bring in hard currency). Discussion on the other hand, that’s something else. Discussions require both sides to be willing to listen to the other and Cuba’s dictatorship has never been willing to do that. We call differing view points in the US opinions. They call it “anti-revolutionary activities.” The last word is compromise; I’m not even going to get into that. If you think the dictatorship is capable of compromise, you are too far gone.

    What Ms. Fanelli wrote in her essay is actually a view, outside of our Cuban exile world, that we seldom see. And between those who do not see our plight, and those among us who see it as someone else’s fault other than the perpetrators that made Cuba an island nation, we have a very long way to go indeed. I thank Ms. Fanelli for her fantastically written piece and I thank her for seeing our plight for what it is; an injustice that the world has decided to avert its eyes from. You can’t negotiate with a blood thirsty shark, nor can you negotiate with a blood thirsty communist dictatorship.

  16. I need to correct myself, I meant to say “the perpetrators that made Cuba and island prison,” not an island nation.

  17. I second what pilotal said.Is this pilotal that flew for Amerijet?If it is this is J.R. that worked in mtx control pls contact me if its who I think it is.

  18. Like Ms. Fanelli I am not Cuban. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania.

    Why care?

    As a curious 10 year old my friend’s father took us to Philadelphia International Airport to watch plane take off and land.

    I guess we were easily amused as well as broke.

    We got real curious when we saw two jet fighters at the airport guarded each by a soldier with a rifle.

    The time was October 1962 during the Cuban missle crisis.

    Ms. Fanelli the plight of Cuba is closer to the “Keystone State” than you think.

    Many thanks for putting perfectly into words what another non-Cuban feels for the people and the sorry state that Castro has made of Cuba.

  19. Ms. Fanelli,

    Let me state that WE are honored by your presence on this blog. Thank you for knowing the facts. For us, you represent the true America, one that is compassionate, and at the same time recognizes evil and repression.

    To …”US/Cuba negotiations”.
    Every time there has been a semblance of softening of relations, the regime has always immediately done things CONTRARY to having good faith. Clinton for example had that approach at early in his tenure – only to have the Brothers to the rescue shoot down happen.
    Would you have supported negotiations with Hitler? What you are calling for sounds like appeasement, not negotiations.

  20. PLP/J.R.

    I fly for myself, it is my hobby. Unfortunately, I have not had the good fortune your friend has had to enjoy flying as a career. Maybe in another life I’ll be smart enough to pursue my love of flying at an early age, instead of after career and kids, as I did in this one.

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