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Ron Radosh

The presence this week in the United States of dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, the most well-known of Cuba’s brave dissident community, has again brought to the forefront the reality of the situation facing the Cuban people in the Castro brothers’ prison state.

Last week, Sanchez spoke at both Columbia University and New York University, where she recalled how different things were a decade ago during what Cubans refer to as the “Black Spring,” when independent journalists were given a summary trial and large jail sentences. It was the arrest of these opponents of the regime that led to the Ladies in White, the wives and mothers of prisoners who regularly marched in silence in front of government buildings each week.

Ten years ago, Sanchez pointed out, there was no access to the internet for anyone in Cuba, it barely existed, and there were no flash drives to record information and no social networking sites to spread the word about the state’s repression. Now, bloggers like Sanchez — who gains access to tourist hotels, posing as a Westerner so she can use their internet facilities — have managed to get past the regime’s ban on use of the internet and to freely reveal to the world the reality of life in Cuba.

“Many independent journalists and peaceful activists who began their work precariously have now resorted to blogs, for example, as a format to circulate information about programs and initiatives to collect signatures,” Sánchez said. She and others have done just that, getting signatures on petitions to demand the release in particular of one well-known Cuban journalist. In addition, Sanchez is circulating a petition known as “the Citizens’ Demand” to pressure the Cuban regime to ratify the UN political rights agreements signed in 2008. The signers are calling for a legal and political framework for a full debate of all ideas relevant to the internal crisis facing the Cuban people on the island.

In effect, this demand for democracy is nothing less than a call for creation of a political democracy that would, if implemented, lead to the collapse of the edifice of the Communist one-party state.

As Sanchez put it: “It is important to have initiatives for transforming the law and demand concrete public spaces within the country.” Since a totalitarian state does not allow for such space and prohibits a real civil society from emerging, the actions of the dissidents are a mechanism for forcing such change from below. They are fighting what her fellow blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo called a “culture of fear over the civil society” that the secret police seek to enforce.

For liberals and leftists in the United States, the main demand they always raise is to “lift the embargo.” According to the argument they regularly make, the embargo has to be lifted for the following reasons: 1) it is not effective; 2) it gives the regime the excuse to argue to the Cuban people that the poverty they suffer is the result of not being able to trade with the United States and other nations honoring the embargo; 3) lifting the embargo would hence deprive Fidel and Raul Castro from their main propaganda argument, revealing that the reasons for a collapsed economy are the regime’s own policies; and 4) trade and travel from the United States would expose Cubans to Americans and others who live in freedom, help curb anti-Americanism, and eventually lead to slow reform of the system.

What these liberals and leftists leave out is that this demand — lifting the embargo — is also the number one desire of the Cuban Communists.

In making it the key demand, these well-meaning (at least some of them) liberals echo precisely the propaganda of the Cuban government, thereby doing the Castro brothers’ work for them here in the United States. And, as we know, many of those who call for this actually believe that the Cuban government is on the side of the people, and favor the Cuban Revolution which they see as a positive role model for the region. They have always believed, since the 1960s of their youth, that socialism in Cuba has pointed the way forward to development and liberty based on the kind of socialist society they wish could exist in the United States.

Another brave group of Cuban opponents of the regime has actually taped a television interview filmed illegally in Havana. “Young Cuban democracy leader Antonio Rodiles,” an American support group called Capitol Hill Cubans has reported, “has just released the latest episode of his civil society project Estado de Sats (filmed within Cuba), where he discusses the importance U.S. sanctions policy with two of Cuba’s most renowned opposition activists and former political prisoners, Guillermo Fariñas and Jose Daniel Ferrer.”

The argument they present is aimed directly at those on the left in the United States, some of whom think they are helping democracy in Cuba by calling for an end to the embargo. In strong and clear language, the two dissidents say the following:

If at this time, the [economic] need of the Cuban government is satisfied through financial credits and the lifting of the embargo, repression would increase, it would allow for a continuation of the Castro’s society, totalitarianism would strengthen its hold and philosophically, it would just be immoral … If you did an opinion poll among Cuban opposition activists, the majority would be in favor of not lifting the embargo.

Next, they nail the claim that travel without restrictions by citizens of our country to Cuba would help spread freedom. The men respond:

In a cost-benefit analysis, travel to Cuba by Americans would be of greatest benefit to the Castro regime, while the Cuban people would be the least to benefit. With all of the controls and the totalitarian system of the government, it would be perfectly able to control such travel.

We know this, as I reported a few months ago, about how a group of Americans taking the usual state-controlled Potemkin village tour came back raving about how wonderful and free Cuba is, and how Cuban socialism works.

Finally, the two former prisoners made this point about lifting the embargo:

To lift the embargo at this time would be very prejudicial to us. The government prioritizes all of the institutions that guarantee its hold on power. The regime’s political police and its jailers receive a much higher salary and privileges than a doctor or engineer, or than any other worker that benefits society. We’ve all seen municipalities with no fuel for an ambulance, yet with 10, 15, 20, 50 cars full of fuel ready to go repress peaceful human rights activists.

Indeed, just this past week, more evidence came out substantiating how the secret police killed Cuba’s leading political opponent Oswaldo Paya, and sought to blame it on a car crash for which he and those with him were responsible. Last week, the Washington Post in a tough editorial made the point:

Mr. Payá, who pioneered the Varela Project, a petition drive in 2002 seeking the guarantee of political freedom in Cuba, was killed in a car wreck July 22, along with a youth activist, Harold Cepero. The driver of the vehicle, Ángel Carromero, a Spaniard, was convicted and imprisoned on charges of vehicular homicide; in December, he was released to Spain. He told us in an interview published on the opposite page last week that the car carrying Mr. Payá was rammed from behind by a vehicle with government license plates. His recollections suggest that Mr. Payá died not from reckless driving but from a purposeful attempt to silence him — forever.

This is the kind of treatment effective opponents of the regime get from Cuba’s secret police, measures taken upon orders of Raul Castro, whom useful idiots like Danny Glover and Sean Penn regularly visit. They fawn at his feet and those of his ailing brother, Fidel Castro.

This week, Sanchez and her colleague come to testify before Congress. They will speak as well at a public forum today, Tuesday, at the Cato Institute. You can watch on a live stream at 12:30 p.m. on the organization’s website.

The Cuban people have suffered long enough at the hands of a regime that came into power promising freedom and democracy, and instead inflicted on the Cuban people a totalitarian government modeled on that of the old Soviet Union. Cuba is finally on the verge of change, and it is time the people of our country give whatever support we can to those within Cuba bravely working for the creation of a real democracy in Cuba, and an end to the decades of rule by the Castro brothers.

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All Comments   (15)
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The USA, mostly for political and ideological reasons having to do with the staunchly anit-Castro South Florida Cuban 1st generation immigrant community, has had a strong embargo on Cuba for over 50 years. The Castros are still in power. The Kennedys are dead. LBJ is dead. Nixon is in disgrace and dead. Carter.. well, Carter is Carter. Ronald Reagan is dead. The Bushes are out of office. Bill Clinton is out of office. The Soviet Union is defunct. China is open to the West and is outcompeting the West. Even Hugo Chavez, who was about 6 when the Castros came to power, is dead. Doesn't anyone but me think it's time to try something different? As Einstein said, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." How about we try killing socialism with kindness? Want computers and servers? Give 'em special prices. Need rice and beans? No problem. Want cars? Go for it. Open our borders. I think socialism - or whatever Castroism is - would be dead in 10 years.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, forgot to mention something else:

And besides, we did to some extent lift the embargo: We now have a tourist industry for Cuba, and obviously that's not actually helping Cuba become Capitalist. If it was, they would have given up on it years ago. If even tourism doesn't work, how can full out Capitalism work? Besides, Communist Countries usually like tourism as it gives them an opportunity to feed visitors lies about what things are like. Effectively a live stage show.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm pretty sure the reason why China's outperforming us is precisely BECAUSE it's open to the West.

And anyways, the advice on exposure to Capitalism won't work, as unlike the USSR and other Communist Countries, Castro actually inherited a country rife with Capitalism and a prosperous economy, yet he killed it. Exposing him to Capitalism will not actually impact Cuba becoming Capitalist, and if anything will most likely make things even worse.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nobody seems to remember the interview the Jeffrey Goldberg did with Fidel Castro, in which Castro said that Israel had the right to live.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-castro-and-israels-right-to-exist/63369/
Fidel is not the same person as Raul, to be sure. But maybe the U.S. can make a deal with Cuba in which we would have normal relations with them if they had normal relations with Israel. If Cuba and Israel became friends, the Marxist-Islamic Alliance would collapse.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He only said he doesn't deny the holocaust. That doesn't necessarily mean that he actually thinks that Israel had the right to live. Don't forget, Stalin most likely didn't deny the holocaust, and yet he planned to do something very similar (Doctor's Plot), and had Stalin not died and had even his own staff thought the plan to be insane, he most certainly would have carried it out. Besides, Communists lie to people in an attempt to deceive people. Have you forgotten it was the Communists, more specifically Lenin, who came up with the phrase "Useful Idiots?" I also suspect that was the real reason why the United Nations (an organization that was, and still is, run by Marxists/Communists) decided to found Israel, especially when Israel when it was first "founded" (in terms of it being established for a given period of time in recent history, although scripture indicates differently), they actually did behave similarly to Socialists until they wised up by the 1960s.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Correction "Don't forget, Stalin most likely didn't deny the holocaust, and yet he planned to do something similar (Doctor's Plot), and had Stalin not died had even his own staff not thought the plan to be insane, he most certainly would have carried it out."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was of the opinion that a flood of American tourists visiting Cuba would help to turn things around.Seems that this low information voter was wrong.Thank you PJM.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sending tourists to Communist countries usually means the Communists will, to quote how the Grinch Stole Christmas, "think up a lie and think it up quick," to deceive them. Useful idiots they call them. Pepoya can explain in more detail about that, as can Paul Kengor. While I haven't personally experienced it, I do know someone who almost managed to be tricked until the last minute: My uncle. He initially was deceived by the Soviet tactics until he discovered evidence that implicated the horror they inflicted onto christians when visiting a church. He narrowly saved the convent at the last moment. It's sort of like the joke about a corrupt senator who died ending up staying in heaven and in hell, and after choosing hell, he learned he made the wrong decision when he saw what it was really like.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The Cuban people have suffered long enough at the hands of a regime that came into power promising freedom and democracy, and instead inflicted on the Cuban people a totalitarian government modeled on that of the old Soviet Union. "

I'm glad you mentioned that. When Fidel Castro led the military forces that caused the old dictator Batista to flee the country, he was asked if he was going to be the leader of the country. He insisted that he had no political ambitions and that there would be free and fair democratic elections in six months or so. That was at the beginning of 1959. His people have been waiting 54 years for those elections and they haven't happened yet.

If the Castros are so sure that the Marxist path is right for their country and is overwhelmingly approved by their people, let's have those elections. If the Castros are correct, their policies will be democratically endorsed and they'll be vindicated and no one will have any right to call them a dictatorship any more.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, although even if the Castros did actually implement democracy, they probably did it the way they have done it in history. Don't forget, when France overthrew Henry XVI and installed Robespierre as their democratic leader, it quickly devolved into a horrifying place, where people killed each other, turned on each other like wolves. That is the true face of democracy I'm afraid. Even our founding fathers stated that we shouldn't implement democracy. If I remember correctly, one of them said that a "democracy" is two wolves and a lamb debating what is for dinner, the definition impying that it is a horrible thing. We aren't a democracy, or a democratic republic. We are a constitutional republic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...lifting the embargo — is also the number one desire of the Cuban Communists."

Thats it? Thats the only strategic reasoning to not lift the ban?

On the other hand, most rational strategists not only consider the circumstance(s) of cause for an action but also, the 'desired' affects of an action. Korea, Cuba, Iran and all those who make our enemies list, what has embargo's done to force some 'desired' geopolitical result(s)?

Carter thought an agri commodity embargo was some great intellectual feat for forcing a desired outcome only to have lost the U.S. foreign trade position for decades to come. Korea, Cuba and Iran are again examples of failed logic, creating great suffering of the people while government officials bast in palaces of gold and luxury goods, for how many decades now?

Rather than concede too intellectual idiocy, they remian rigid and steadfast on course of failure!

Anybody have proof of long term embargo successes? Anybody have any logical rationale beside "thats what the communists want' for not lifting the Cuba and all other embargos?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't know, Ron puts out all this info; but don't we already know the underbelly of the communists?
Open our access to Cuba. If we had done this under Reagan, what do you think Cuba would look like today? You can not stop American culture, capitalism, or the optimism in which the Cuban's see us. We are still the shinning city on the hill.
Let us end the embargo now!! In 20 yrs Cuba could be our 51st state.
You overcome communism with freedom1 Let's start.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
By opening up trade you support the regime.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Don't be too sure anti-communists aren't being used by another "anti-Islamist" Mona Eltahawy, who turned out to be a liberal anti-Semite and orthodox Muslim apologist.

I've little doubt Sanchez would join the Dem Party and La Raza if she moved to America.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There were once respectable liberal anticommunists, but the anti-anticommunism of the New Left changed all that. Now it is hard to tell the difference between a left liberal and a full-throated communist. See http://clarespark.com/2012/07/19/communist-ideas-go-mainstream/.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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