A steaming cup of Joe for you…

Recently Joe Garcia was interviewed by a web site called “Activate”. The topic was Cuba and Cuban-Americans. As part of my ongoing debate with Joe I fisked parts of his interview. Here is that fisking:

Activate: Can you describe the Cuban American community? Why does it appear more conservative than it really is?
Joe Garcia: The Cuban American community has shifted through the years because 70% of Cubans alive on earth today were three years old or younger when Castro came to power. However, a lot of the leadership of the Cuban American community today is historic; these are people who came from Cuba in their 20s and now today they’re in their 60s and 70s. They never held power in Cuba, and to some degree they’re just reacting against Fidel Castro. Their resistance to Cuba is impassioned because their memories of Cuba are painful. Families were broken up, possessions taken, and the Cuban government humiliated and scorned them for leaving, but they don’t have many links left to kin back home. On the other hand, recent émigrés to the US, who might represent a more progressive voice in the Cuban American community, have very little political power because they’re not registering to vote. It takes a while to become a citizen — usually a generation or more. Plus, if you’re a progressive or want to discuss things that aren’t seen as the dominant hard-line ideology, you can have a tough time here [in the US].

Faulty premise, faulty answer.
Pre-Castro Cuba was very progressive society. A simple look at the constitution of 1940 will dispel any ideas to the contrary. The death penalty was abolished, there were social safety net programs and contrary to popular opinion there was quality public education. What there wasn’t in Cuba in the 1950s was democracy. The press was censored and there was plenty of corruption. But Cubans identified with a classic form of liberalism. The revolution changed all that for most Cubans. They came to America after their businesses had been seized, their livelihoods ruined, their property confiscated, and their liberties taken. All in the name of the greater good and the betterment of society. Yes they had a traumatic experience, but their reaction was not an emotional one without basis in reason and logic as you suggest. One party in America uses the same codewords about social justice and equality that they had heard before. In the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s one party talked about the dangers of communism while the other one tried its hardest to convince America that it posed no threat. One party routinely stabbed Cubans in the back, while the other at least talked to them in terms they could identify with. Property rights, low taxation, individualism instead of collectivism.
Now we have successive waves of Cuban refugees. In fact most were born well after the revolution. And you are correct about the time lag between arrival and citizenship and voting. You are also correct that these people come with ideas that are very different because of their different formation. Many of them have simply been indoctrinated to believe in those lofty concepts about social justice and equality they just feel that fidel screwed up the plan. Thus the left wing may be somewhat appealing to them. Most however are exhausted with politics. But the “inconvenient truth” that you don’t mention in your spiel for liberalism is that during the “cooling off” time between arrival and the voting booth is that a lot of acculturation takes place. Acculturation is the process whereby a person from one culture adopts aspects of a new culture into which he is injected. For our parents that meant American culture. But here’s the key, for recent Cuban arrivals it’s Cuban-American culture (The so-called Miami Mafia). The problem for you and your colleagues is that along the way Cuban refugees defect from the liberal reservation. By the time they become citizens most of their family may have also arrived (removing the need to send stuff or travel to Cuba), they may have started their own business or achieved some sort of professional or work success. They don’t want high taxes or the government telling them what to do anymore than any other right thinking person. During the cooling off period, they learn that the Miami Mafia doesn’t bite. When they first arrive they don’t want hear or talk about Cuba. But as they acculturate and learn they acquire for the first time in their lives a way to discern the lies they were told in Cuba. Many of the most intransigent people I know are relatively recent arrivals.
The idea that there’s going to be a mass defection of Cubans or that the wave of current immigrants will favor the democratic party is in my opinion a myth that’s being peddled by you, Oscar Corral and a few others.
As for your swipe at the hard-liners being intolerant, eso es un disco rayado. Explain how Max Lesnik does what he does, how the Herald gets away with what it gets away with, how Aruca is still spouting his ridiculous propaganda, how you can go on TV any time you want. Please.

AT: Does the US embargo against Cuba make any sense?
JG: How do you have an embargo and still be Cuba’s number-one trading partner? Cuba buys more food and agricultural products from the United States than any other country.
AT: That’s because the US has adjusted certain aspects of the embargo for humanitarian reasons.
JG: I understand that, but then there’s no embargo. That’s like saying I’m going to starve you, but I’m going to sell you food and water so that you don’t starve to death. An embargo is an economic siege. What most Cubans are willing to protest are the travel and remittance restrictions. On a short-term basis, the US can say, “Let’s try this: nobody travels to Cuba and the regime is going to fall.” Maybe after five or ten years that would work, but it’s been four decades. It’s counterproductive to what we want, which is a vibrant civil society. The overwhelming majority of Cuban Americans — especially those with family still in Cuba — believe that the current travel restrictions are completely absurd.

An embargo to overthrow the regime?
The biggest misconception about the embargo is that it is in place to overthrow the castro regime. By this definition it can be categorized as an obvious failure. 48 years and castro is still there. But that definition strains credulity. If the United States seriously had an overriding interest in toppling the Castro regime it could simply do what it did to the Hussein regime in Iraq. It would take nowhere near that amount of military might to remove castro. In other words, for the US government, getting rid of the regime is a “like to have” not a “have to have”.
So why an embargo?
The embargo was enacted as a punitive measure in response to unlawful expropriations, without compensation, of American assets in Cuba. In fact, as you know, Joe, this was the largest such expropriation of American assets ever in the history of our country. The underlying condition that created the embargo still exists today. Cuba has made no attempt to settle with the American property owners who had their property stolen. I can make a solid argument that the embargo should remain for this simple fact alone. In order to uphold the principles of international law, such acts as theft cannot be permitted to stand. Cuba must agree to some sort of settlement in restitution for its actions.
The embargo today
More recently, as you know Joe, the lifting of the embargo became tied to additional conditions. Conditions that the US would “like to have” in Cuba. Conditions such as the release of political prisoners, the legalization of the opposition and opposition parties and the scheduling of free and fair multiparty elections. So how can the embargo achieve these goals? The idea of the embargo is to put pressure on the regime to do what it wouldn’t do otherwise by denying it of sources of hard currency. The embargo is a stick and removing it is a carrot.
Busting the embargo
You cannot deny that the embargo severely limits the amount of hard currency that enters Cuba. The Cuban government itself cries about it. But to point out one of the fallacies of your argument, the sale of agricultural products to Cuba does not “bust” the embargo. How can this be? Because under the current rules of the game, Cuba is buyer not a seller when it comes to bilateral trade. As a buyer, hard currency leaves Cuba but does not come back. That’s why its imperative for the regime to have the embargo, and specifically the travel restrictions, lifted. One of the few things that Cuba can still sell is its beaches and its culture to tourists. It also can sell family reunification.
Irrational and capricious
Now you can argue that, and I will concede, that the regime has proven to be remarkably resistant to the great pressure the embargo puts on it. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is pressure. And the answer to why the regime has been able to resist is because the leadership has simply decided the well being of Cubans is not as important their irrational capricious desires. It would be very simple for the regime to lighten the burden of Cubans. All they have to do is release the political prisoners, allow space for organized opposition and say that they’ll agree to come to the table to reach some sort of agreement on the stolen American property. Simple enough. But obviously the dictatorship, being a dictatorship, only acts in its own self-interests.
Reshuffling the deck
So if the embargo can’t put enough pressure on the dictatorship to make it change, what’s the point of keeping it? Well, that’s easy. The regime’s leadership today (and for the last 48 years) has been the same. But obviously nothing lasts forever. When fidel reaches his expiration date there will be a re-shuffling of the deck. The official discourse of the regime is that Raul is the successor, but all bets are off on that. Who knows how long a Raulista regime can survive, and/or how long Raul himself will survive? Perhaps fidel’s death and Raul’s succession without meaningful reform in Cuba, in and of itself, will be enough to create the tipping point among the average Cuban. But one thing is certain. At some point in the near future the person holding the reins of power in Cuba will not be a Castro. And that person may not be as capricious or irrational as the Castros have proven to be. That person may be the Cuban Gorbachev who will usher in change. And such a person will want to normalize relations with the US. To a true reformer, the simple concessions outlined above will be easy to make.
A logical fallacy
Beyond the possible future usefulness of the embargo, there’s another thing that needs to be addressed. That’s the logical fallacy that embargo opponents always indulge in. They argue that if the embargo hasn’t worked then removing it must work. This is called a false dichotomy. It’s a faulty construct in which the person creates only two outcomes. If answer A does not work then Answer B must. I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that regardless of status of the embargo, that there won’t be significant changes in Cuba (the kind you and I desire) until that deck I talked about gets reshuffled in a manner that’s favorable to rational decision making.
The downside to removing the embargo
So one must ask oneself if neither keeping or ending the embargo will end the regime what do we have to lose by ending it, by giving up the carrot without getting anything back in exchange? And the answer should be obvious to close observers of Cuba. Allowing the amount of hard currency to enter Cuba that lifting the embargo would represent will serve only to enrich the oppressors, fortify their oppressive apparatus and fund subversion outside of Cuba. We know this to be true based on Cuba’s history under Castro.

AT: If you open up travel and remittance limits, don’t you potentially dissolve the regime with a flood of money and outside contact?
JG: Yes, but that’s not how it’s seen by [older] Cuban Americans. I don’t think the embargo has much of an effect, but if my grandmother thinks it will somehow help to get rid of Castro…

It’s a lovely thought to think that we could “flood” Cuba with money and outside contact, but you know as well as I do that the Cuban economy is set up like the hoover dam. The only the thing that passes is what the government allows to pass. And it charges whatever it wants for what it allows to pass using its monopoly profits for things that don’t help Cubans. The regime simply will not give someone like me a visa to come to Cuba. You know that. How can I be an outside contact, an agent for change in Cuba if the dam prevents me from entering. And even if I found a way to get in, how long do you think someone like me acting as an agent of change would last?
The game is rigged and you are saying we can win it despite the fact that it’s rigged. I disagree. I don’t think we should play a rigged game.

11 thoughts on “A steaming cup of Joe for you…”

  1. How can anyone take Joe “Goldie Locks” Garcia seriously? He is a Democratic Party hack who in the 2004 presidential election announced that Kerry had won Florida and Ohio and would be the next president of the U.S.

  2. This is something that I wrote in my blog. Sorry that is in Spanish. The term “Dirty” in the article and the cynical tone in it is to mach Joe Garcia sarcasm in radio programs like, Matias Farias and Edmundo Garcia. I do not want to minimize the level of civility of this blog.
    Juan Cuellar
    Tuesday, August 7, 2007
    Dirty Joe
    Por Juan Cuellar
    Hay veces que las cosas que queremos mantener oculta se nos escapa facilmente por la lengua Esto sucede con mas frecuencia entre aquellos politiqueros ansiosos de publicidad, especialmente si tienen un ego desmedido, una frustracion oculta y un complejo de inferioridad manifestado en “agresividad verbal” para compensar sus inseguridades. Muchos han caido en desgracia al ser traicionado por sus lenguas. El comentarista radial Don Imus ha sido una de sus ultimas victimas.
    En el caso de Joe Garcia, Chairman del Partido Democrata y vice Chairman de la Organizacion New Democrat Network, (una fachada del Partido Democrata), y ex-director de la Fundacion Nacional Cubano Americana (FNCA), el cronico mal del lengualaz se hace evidente.
    Dispuesto a aparecer hasta en la sopa, y hablar como una cacatua, no deja pasar un dia en que el pobre vaya perdiendose entre los laberintos de su lengua de trapo? Como decimos en Cuba “irsele la lengua”
    Lo mismo en programas como A Mano Limpia, Polos Opuestos, y la cifarra del Partido Democrata con Matias Farias, Joe Garcia no desperdicia un instante para denigrar a la comunidad exiliada en nombre del “pueblo de Cuba” que sufre bajo las medidas de George W Bush? Hasta en un programa de radio que el propio Joe Garcia patrocina, como es el caso de Edmundo Garcia con la Noche se Mueve, el operativista anti-exilio no desperdicia una corrida de insulto para los exiliados. Los periodicos locales no se pierden el baraje de lengua de este calumniador. Hasta en programas castrista en Miami no ha dejado de aparecer.
    Esta “medida activa” concertada en el seno de los progresistas liberales del Partido Democrata le ha dado buenos dividendos economicos? Todo lo que se calumnie en nombre de ese pueblo de Cuba es un arma dificil de refutar. ?Pero que pasa si se descubre que todo eso es una falacia? ?Que sucede si ese “pueblo de Cuba” es lo que menos tiene en mente el ubicuo demagogo. Eso mismo acaba de hacer al que ya han bautizado con el seudonimo de “Dirty Joe”. Sin quererlo, se fue de lengua y de cara tambien.
    En una entrevista, en el semario electronico Activate, la periodista Julienne Gage le pregunta a Joe Garcia: ? Que es lo que tu piensa podria suceder en Cuba en los proximos an~os?
    a lo que Joe Garcia respondio: “Los Estados Unidos probablemente eliminara las restricciones de viajes a Cuba. Raul Castro probablemente sera forzado a realizar algun tipo de liberalizacion economica. El alfabetismo universal de Cuba, su localizacion a 90 millas de los EE.UU y su alto entrenamiento de una fuerza laboral barata significaria todo tipo de crecimiento economico…”
    Lo que “Dirty” Joe deja claro con esta aseveracion es que la vision de esa Cuba proxima no es de devolverle a ese “pobre pueblo cubano” la dignidad de vivir en libertad politica, social y economica? Lo que dice Joe Garcia, o mejor dicho, lo que propone, es hacer de ese pueblo una fuente de “mano de obra barata altamente calificada” para que fuera explotada en aras de un crecimiento economico para ese regimen que lo exclaviza. Para ello, en otro resbalon de lengua, “Dirty Joe” culpa a los exiliados de Miami en ser los responsables de evitar tal desarrollo economico. Bienvenido sea la culpa…Mr. Joe.
    Solo cabe recordarle a Joe Garcia, cabildero de oficio y politiquero conveniente que esa desesperacion en hacer negocios con Cuba ha embarcado a unos cuantos avariciosos, como fue el caso del Director de imigracion Mariano Faget, que por representar a la multinacional Procter & Gamble en su afan de explotar la mano barata de los cubanos de la isla, llego a convertirse en un espia de los Castros. La avaricia siempre rompe el saco

  3. ¨La Avaricia siempre rompe el saco.¨ Exactamente.
    Joe Garcia is a sell-out. Outstanding analysis Henry, I hope anyone who is tempted to buy into his deception listens to the show, and reads this. He might have himself convinced that his agenda is the best for Cuba, but his own words betray him.

  4. Haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast, but hope to do so in the coming days.
    Having heard and seen Joe Garcia on many occasions, I think a lot of his bluster (and that of the C-As who share his ideology) is a sense of insecurity and deep-seeded internal struggle that their political party has done so little, both in actions and words, to effect change in Cuba. Taking this a step further, this “rebellion” against their parents’ generation makes them feel guilty deep inside.
    When Joe Garcia sees people such as Henry and the rest of us here at Babalu – young, American, Republican and traditional (I can’t stand the term “historic” that Joe and his buddies have coined) with smarts and the drive to perpetuate our parents’ and grandparents’ fight for freedom in Cuba, it must drive him crazy with jealousy and guilt.
    I should know…I used to be kind of like Joe about 10 years ago.

  5. Firefly,
    Knowing Joe, as I have, since he used to mow my parents lawn as a summer job, I can assure you that the blond (and now graying) afro he sports is 100% real.
    I don’t have any personal animosity toward Joe but my “job” as it were is to analyze what he says and try to figure out if it makes any sense to me.
    Robert, the thing is that these guys want to portray the traditional position as irrational and emotional. But the more one studies the issues (especially around the embargo) the more one realizes two things:
    1. Many of the the anti-embargo crowd are not anti-castro
    2. There is no underlying strategy as to why lowering the embargo will work. It’s all hopeful dreaming.
    Hopefully I have stated some rational reasons for keeping the embargo. The most important of which is that we’re going to want the leverage when somebody else gets into power.
    Jewbana: just copy and paste this in the email:

  6. I have no problem with Joe Garcia expressing his opinion. Where I do have a problem, however, is when he is portrayed by the MSM as an example of a “reasonable” Cuban-American, as opposed to the intransigent Miami Mafia they love so much to vilify.
    Joe is nothing more than a political opportunist. He is parlaying the MSM’s dislike of the CA community’s rejection of their liberal ideology to promote himself and his career. He can speak about Cuba and what is best for its people until he is blue in the face, but we must all look at the premise behind his statements. In true Clintonion fashion, he is a pragmatist that will say and promote anything to further his own career.
    If tomorrow the MSM suddendly decides that castro and communism are bad, he will change his stripes in a blink of an eye. Each and every word he says is carefully measured to achieve the maximum benefit for him–not Cuba–just him.

  7. I have no problem with Joe Garcia expressing his opinion. Where I do have a problem, however, is when he is portrayed by the MSM as an example of a “reasonable” Cuban-American, as opposed to the intransigent Miami Mafia they love so much to vilify.

  8. Joe Garcia strikes me as combining the worst traits of a lawyer with those of an ambitious arriviste. Not a good combo, and certainly not one that inspires any confidence or respect. In my opinion, his overriding priority is clearly to succeed at the job for which he’s being paid by the Democrats, meaning getting more Cuban-Americans to vote for them. He may simply be a crass careerist/politician, or he may also be desperate to “make good” as a card-carrying “progressive.”
    In any event, whenever I see anybody being smugly condescending toward my parents’ generation, let alone even slightly dumping on them, the game is over. People like Garcia have NOTHING to say to me. At best, they embarrass me. It’s a case of verguenza ajena (and that’s when I’m feeling charitable). As if we didn’t have enough non-Cuban assholes to contend with. Le ronca, all right.

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