Finally got a chance to read Alberto’s excellent “oxymoron” post from a couple of days ago regarding this Newsday op-ed reaction to President Bush’s Cuba speech. In the op-ed, there was another paragraph that jumped out at me for its sheer contradictory nature:
I traveled to Cuba some years ago (before Bush took office, when it was easier to do) and found that the people there didn’t need to be told that the Communist revolution had been a bust. You could see it in the dilapidated roads and infrastructure, in the lack of adequate housing, in young people’s thirst for knowledge about the outside world and access to the Internet, in their private disdain and quiet mockery of Fidel himself.
James Klurfeld wrote the above paragraph just a few lines below this:
But that doesn’t mean that Bush’s policy makes any sense. It doesn’t. In fact, his policy doesn’t make any more sense now than the policy of isolation followed for the past 40-plus years by both Democratic and Republican regimes. And there are at least some indications that even some in the Cuban-American community are beginning to realize that a policy of active engagement, of allowing U.S. citizens to visit Cuba – not to mention opening trade and cultural relations – might well have more impact on forcing change in Cuba than the stale, old policy of isolation.
The argument that all we need is a flood of American tourists and relatives to visit Cuba to bring down the castros would be wonderful if it made sense, but we know it’s just not that simple. If Klurfeld is so sure that Cubans know the misery of their situation (BTW, he’s correct), then please tell me how Americans visiting the island and telling them how bad it is will encourage change?
Cultural relations, Klurfeld argues? There’s only one reason why businesses that offer calling cards to Cuba and send care packages to the island do so well: it’s those cultural relations, dummy!
People like Klurfeld want to imagine that the Cuba issue is something that a little American ingenuity and know-how will cure. Like I said above, if it was only that easy. That thinking, besides being too idealistic and plain naive, is just simply flawed and egotistical. You mean to tell me that Americans are better tourists than Europeans? Klurfeld himself proved my point when he visited the island years back when the “draconian” travel restrictions weren’t in place.
Not to be outdone, Time/CNN’s Tim Padgett quotes pro-trade Americans in this article:
“President Bush is right when he says this is a unique moment in Cuba, but he’s missing that moment,” says Jake Colvin, director of USA Engage in Washington, which favors moves like lifting the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba — something even most Cuban-Americans in Miami now favor, and which many Cuba watchers suggest the Castros actually fear. Bush insisted that engaging Cuba now would just give “oxygen to a criminal regime.” But, argues Colvin, “American citizens have always proven the best ambassadors of freedom and democracy.”
Of course, Padgett mentions the ever-hated “exile hardliners” as part of the problem:
Bush may also be alienating the very people he is reaching out to by suggesting Washington will be Cuba’s post-Castro arbiter. In the eyes of ordinary Cuban citizens, that is perceived as surrogacy for the Miami Cuban exile community — whose anti-Castro hardliners, with their dreams of resurrecting a pre-Castro Cuba, are as disliked by many Cubans on the island as the Castros themselves are.
I’d love to know how Padgett arrives at the conclusion that hardliners are as hated as the castros in Cuba.
Then in Padgett’s grand finale, supporting freedom-minded dissidents in Cuba is actually a bad thing:
What’s more, by attaching his Administration to Cuba’s dissidents so publicly, Bush may actually compromise the position of the Castro critics who remain on the island, whose credibility often rests on being seen as a movement independent of the Miami exiles. In past interviews with TIME and other media groups, Oswaldo Paya, an engineer who is the most prominent of Cuba’s dissidents, says he is uncomfortable whenever the White House tries to co-opt him and his colleagues. He says it simply makes their goals more difficult to achieve.
It would be funny it if wasn’t so sad. Too bad we’ve heard this joke one too many times.