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    Let the Cuban regime change first

    Posted on Saturday, 02.15.14

    EMBARGO
    Let the Cuban regime change first
    BY HELEN AGUIRRE FERRÉ
    HAGUIRREFERRE@GMAIL.COM

    I do not have any radical friends, although I do have friends with
    radically different ideas as to how to deal with Cuba. Much of the
    debate focuses on the embargo and how it affects making positive change
    in the communist country.

    A new push-poll by the Atlantic Council of the Adrienne Arsht Latin
    America Center shows that 56 percent of Americans nationwide, and 63
    percent in Florida, agree with “normalizing relations or engaging
    directly” with the Cuban government. Yet when the question referenced
    Castro’s human-rights abuses, the support for increased engagement fell
    dramatically, particularly in Florida, to 43 percent.

    Our relationship with Cuba is complex and constantly tested. Nearly all
    running for political office must define their position on the embargo,
    and the ones who win are usually the ones who say they support the
    embargo. At the same time, people-to-people diplomacy continues to grow.
    Can more be done to bring change to a country where the Castro family
    has controlled virtually all daily life since 1959?

    There is no easy answer.

    Since its inception, the Castro revolution has been ruthless and bloody.
    From the beginning, political detentions and murder were
    institutionalized. Thousands of opposition leaders, young and old, were
    held without trial and summarily executed at the infamous paredón.
    Families were divided when the government ordered young girls and boys
    to leave their homes and work in the fields; freedom of speech, press
    and worship was revoked, and then came the tragedy of the Bay of Pigs,
    followed by the Cuban Missile Crisis during the height of the Cold War,
    which helped cement the Castro regime.

    Everyone had to surrender to the revolution or face imprisonment, death
    or, if lucky, expulsion. Foreigners faced the same as all properties and
    corporations were surreptitiously confiscated. The romantic rebel, as
    The New York Times depicted Fidel at the time, was a myth, and he was
    condemned.

    The Castro brothers changed their tactics with dissenters, harassing and
    torturing them, but not executing as before. Those who wanted to leave
    were allowed, especially the younger members of the middle class who
    could someday become a real political threat to Castro from within. Back
    then, they were in their 20s. Today they are the ones who mostly
    populate what is known as the traditional exile community, the ones who
    remember life in Cuba before 1959. To this day, this group is feared and
    loathed by Castro’s mafia, and many support the embargo.

    Enacted in February 1962, the embargo was a response to Cuba’s illegal
    confiscations of U.S. businesses and properties without compensation and
    Castro’s conversion of Cuba into a military base for the Soviets, edging
    the world closer to a nuclear war.

    For decades Fidel has threatened U.S. national security, destabilizing
    governments in Latin America and fighting wars in Africa. It is still
    categorized as a sponsor of state terrorism because it actively supports
    terrorists. Although many in the United States might not take Cuba’s
    government seriously, Fidel Castro does take the United States
    seriously, cultivating spies, including Ana Belen Montes, a former
    senior analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency. Intelligence experts
    believe her to be one of the most damaging spies in recent history.

    Has Cuban policy changed enough for the United States to reconsider
    drawing the Cuban government closer? We could ask American contractor
    Alan Gross, who is being held hostage because the United States will not
    trade convicted Cuban spies for him or the Damas de Blanco, who are
    badgered and beaten as they practice civil disobedience on the way to
    church. This is, after all, the same Cuban leadership that ordered the
    shootdown of unarmed civilian planes in 1996 in international water,
    murdering three Americans and one legal resident. It is impossible to
    respect a government that does not respect its own people, let alone
    unarmed civilians. That does not mean that we ignore the Cuban people —
    on this we all agree.

    There are real and meaningful programs that are going on today that help
    the people on the island without directly enriching the dictatorship.
    Prematurely lifting the embargo, however, will enrich the Cuban
    government with much needed revenue and access to international credits
    that will benefit the economy that is run by the military. The Cuban
    government has always been in control of the relationship with the
    United States. But before anything else can change, the regime must
    first change its relationship with its own people. It is the right thing
    to do.

    Source: Let the Cuban regime change first – Other Views –
    MiamiHerald.com –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/15/3936237/let-the-cuban-regime-change-first.html