The following is a letter sent to the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, written by Dr. Carlos Eire, Yale University’s Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies:
Dear Mr. Lauer:
I have never written to a television progam before.
I just learned that the Today Show will be broadcasting from Cuba this week. I’m writing to urge you to seize the day. Please use your presence in Cuba to move forward the cause of openness in that island nation. Perhaps you can help the Cuban people gain some of the freedoms they have not enjoyed since 1952, when Fulgencio Batista seized power.
Compared to any Cuban on the island, other than those who run it, you have immense, almost limitless power. You have the chance to say whatever you want, because you are a visiting American journalist. This means that while you are in Cuba you will be one of the most powerful men in that island nation. Perhaps even more powerful than Fidel or Raul.
Think of that.
As you know, Cuba is still a relic of the Cold War, and a closed society, with a Gulag reminiscent of Stalin’s. Cuban authorities continue to insist that their repressive regime and their bankrupt economy can be blamed directly on the United States, its embargo, and the threat posed by the two million Cubans in exile, whose hostility to the Revolution is intense.
The truth is that the so-called Revolution has betrayed the Cuban people and enslaved them.
Please look past the official rhetoric while you are there, and past the tobacco factories, old cars, and wonderful music. Please invite dissenting voices on your program. They will be risking their lives and their well being, but are more than willing to let the world know how repressive the Revolutionary regime is, and how pervasive are its violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Here are the names of some individuals you should interview. They have already paid dearly for trying to exercise the rights we Americans take for granted. They will bravely endure reprisals, simply for the sake of telling the truth. All of them want greater openness in Cuba. None of them care about “left” or “right,” “conservative” or “liberal” as we lucky Americans tend to do. This transcends our petty politics. They simply want more voices to be heard in Cuba than are presently allowed. And they want change. Many of them can also bear witness to the human rights abuses that plague that nation, and through their witness perhaps bring world attention to the plight of the Cuban people. Above all, you should try to feature the Ladies in White, a group of women who march down Fifth Avenue in Miramar every Sunday, to protest the incarceration of their husbands, brothers, and fathers. Last year they were awarded the Sakharov Prize:
Oswaldo Payá: www.oswaldopaya.org
Elisa Gonzales Padrón (Lady in White)
Laura Pollán (Lady in White)
Miriam Leiva (Lady in White)
Berta Soler (Lady in White)
Loida Valdes (Lady in White)
Julia Nuñez (Lady in White)
Aini Martín Valero: email@example.com (Journalist)
Dr. Darsi Ferrer firstname.lastname@example.org
Liannis Meriño Aguilera (Journalist)
Aini Martín Valero (Journalist)
I append below a brief list of some of the ordinary things denied to Cubans. I noticed on one website that your show is going to highlight some of the freedoms Cubans enjoy. I hope you also highlight the freedoms they are denied.
Perhaps your presence in Cuba will help turn things around for the better.
Any questions, please let me know….
All the best as you set out for one of the loveliest and saddest places on earth.
Carlos M. N. Eire
T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies
Chair, Renaissance Studies Program
Author, Waiting for Snow in Havana, Winner 2003 National Book Award, nonfiction
Continue reading below the fold to find 32 things that Cubans cant do.
Thirty-two Things Cubans Can’t Do
Travel abroad without government permission.
Travel abroad with spouses and/or children. (Except for select government officials).
Change jobs without government permission.
Change residence without government permission.
Publish any piece of writing without government permission.
Own a computer without government permission.
Access the Internet without government permission (the Internet is closely monitored and controlled by the government. Only 1.67% of the population has access to the Internet).
Send their children to a private or religious school. (All schools are government run).
Attend religious instruction of any sort without penalties: Adults can be dismissed from their jobs; children are banned from any schooling past the age of 16.
Join any international associations, except as a government or Communist Party official.
Watch independent or private radio or TV stations (all TV and radio stations are owned and run by the government). Cubans illegally watch/listen to foreign broadcasts.
Read books, magazines or newspapers, unless approved/published by the government (all books, magazines and newspapers are published by the government).
Receive publications from abroad or from visitors (punishable by jail terms under Law 88).
Communicate freely with foreign journalists.
Visit or stay in tourist hotels, restaurants, beaches, and resorts (these are off-limits to Cubans).
Accept gifts or gratuities from visiting foreigners.
Seek employment with foreign companies on the island, unless approved by the government.
Own businesses, unless they are very small and approved by the government and subjected to crushing taxes.
Earn more than the government-controlled pay rate for all jobs: 17 dollars per month for most jobs, 34 dollars per month for professionals, such as physicians and top government officials.
Sell any personal belongings, services, home grown food products or home made handicrafts without government approval.
Engage in offshore fishing or gain access to a boat without government permission.
Join an independent labor union (there is only one, government controlled labor union and no individual or collective bargaining is allowed; neither are strikes or protests).
Organize any sports teams or activities, or artistic performances without government approval.
Claim any prize money, or proceeds from performances abroad.
Choose a physician or hospital. Both are assigned by the government.
Seek medical care outside of Cuba.
Retain a lawyer, unless approved by the government.
Refuse to participate in mass rallies and demonstrations organized by Cuba’s Communist Party.
Refuse “volunteer” labor assignments for adults and children.
Refuse to vote in one-party, one-candidate elections.
Run for public office unless hand-picked by Cuba’s Communist Party.
Criticize these repressive laws, or the Castro regime, or the Cuban Communist Party, the only party allowed in Cuba.