Lifting Cuba’s embargo – ‘More food, no freedom’
Lifting Cuba’s embargo: ‘More food, no freedom’
Should America’s 50-year embargo of Cuba be lifted? The New York Times
has called on the president to do so, but there is much resistance. Gero
Schliess reports from Miami.
“I don’t trust those guys,” says Rafael Hernandez, referring to Fidel
Castro and his brother Raul. Like many other exiled Cubans, Hernandez
fled to Miami in 1960, right after Castro’s Communist Party seized power.
Now, he’s sitting at the wheel of his taxi, visibly struggling with his
emotions. “If you ask me, Castro should die,” he says before turning to
Then: “It’d be good for the people,” answering the question of whether
the US should lift its embargo on the country, which President John F
Kennedy imposed 50 years ago.
Then he weighs in on America’s latest dilemma over Cuba, one sparked by
a New York Times article calling upon the US to remove the sanctions.
Were that to happen, Hernandez says, Cubans would get “enough to eat and
drink, but no freedom.”
Removing US sanctions shouldn’t come without strings attached, says
professor Jaime Suchlicki of the Cuban-American studies department of
Miami University. First, the Cubans must release Alan Gross, the
American aid worker who has been in a Cuban prison for five years, he
“On top of that, they have to open up the Internet, so all Cubans get
access to information. They have to open their economy, allow political
parties, respect human rights and freedom of opinion.”
As long as those conditions aren’t fulfilled, the political scientist –
himself of Cuban heritage- sees no reason to change US policy.
A half hour from Suchlicki’s institute, Arian Rodriguez works as a
barkeeper at a gay bar on Miami’s South Beach. “We were in Cuba, and we
realized how the sanctions affected our lives – that’s why we left,” he
said. He moved to Miami six years ago with his mother, while the rest of
the family stayed with his stepfather.
Arian’s stepfather is a human rights activist who spent five years in
jail. The family experienced Castro’s repression first-hand. But: “The
only people who suffer from the sanctions are the Cubans. The sanctions
have existed for so long, but they haven’t made a difference, so what’s
the point?” He points out that, fifty years later, the Castros are still
firmly in power.
From his perspective, there is one other reason why sanctions need to
be lifted. “The Cuban government won’t have an excuse for the desperate
poor situation.” Most young Cubans agree with him, he says, while older
people want to see the embargo maintained.
The latest polls support Rodriguez’ view, and they also show that more
and more Americans, and now even a majority of exiled Cubans, are in
favor of lifting the embargo.
While slow afternoon business gives Arian time to chat, a hundred meters
(330 feet) down the road, Mimi Franco and Mary Costa are having a
cigarette break in front of the SLS hotel. The two chambermaids had
heard nothing of the latest embargo debate.
“I have no clue about Cuba,” Mimi says. “I’m American, born and bred.”
Mary is from Mexico, but her partner is a Cuban who has been living in
the US for two years. “Once they’re here, they don’t want to hear about
Cuba anymore,” she laughs. Her partner has told her about changes in the
country – that people are allowed to own property and that travel
restrictions have been relaxed. “But the people don’t believe in
changes, they don’t believe in Fidel and Raul Castro.”
Ana Quintana, of the conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation,
is also skeptical. She considers all of Cuba’s reforms as no more than
“shop window politics” achieved mainly thanks to the pressure of
sanctions and the fall in oil prices, which make it more difficult for
Cuba’s remaining allies like Venezuela to support the island state with
subsidized oil. America’s Cuba policy needs to be
“human-rights-oriented,” and the motto should be “free trade only with
Lift the embargo!
John Hemingway, grandson of author and long-time Cuba resident Ernest
Hemingway, thinks the US embargo policy is hypocritical. After all, the
US does plenty of business with China and Saudi Arabia.
“After more than 50 years, the time has come to lift the trade embargo
and accept that the two countries determine their fates their own way,”
Hemingway told DW. He thinks US President Barack Obama should take the
initiative – if need be, by bypassing Congress. Hemingway feels bound to
the island, and visited it two years ago.
So did 19-year-old Javier Gonzales, a student at Miami Dade College. The
conditions under which people in Cuba live are difficult, he says. They
have little room, and “they don’t have food like we have, the water
isn’t clean, they get it from the river. They don’t have TVs and DVD
players. They’re super surprised when they see my cell phone.” Unlike
many others of Cuban origin his age, he still feels like a “Cuban in
America.” And he wants the sanctions to be lifted, “even if it’s hard to
deal with the Castro brothers.”
Don’t sell Cuba
Javier is a volunteer at the Miami book fair, and sits with a handful of
“friends of Cuba” at a reading of new Cuban literature, where Louis
Martínez-Fernández is presenting his book “Revolutionary Cuba: A History.”
Martínez-Fernández thinks the New York Times has been “pretty
superficial” in the way it has handled the debate. It isn’t enough to
simply say Obama can do it since he doesn’t have to get re-elected and
could secure himself a place in the history books with the decision.
There are, Martínez-Fernández believes, “lots of things he could do that
are less controversial.”
One thing he wants to avoid: that US investors flood Cuba with money,
and “US capitalism aggressively takes over the Cuban economy.” As far as
he is concerned, the best solution would be for Obama to strike a deal
with the Castro government which includes guarantees for democracy. But
the most important thing is “that Cuba isn’t sold off to the US.”
Source: Lifting Cuba?s embargo: ?More food, no freedom? | World | DW.DE
| 06.12.2014 –