by Ernest Barteldes
Today, any American citizen can hop on a plane and fly to ‘rogue nations’ like Iran or North Korea, provided he or she gets a visa to enter those countries. Even though they are part of what the Bush administration called ‘the Axis of Evil,’ there is nothing (legally) that this country can do to against you if you decide to do so. However, the same does not ring true in case that same citizen decides to spend a few days sipping mojitos at a Caribbean island just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. If you do that, you are breaking the law, and might suffer dire consequences if you go for it anyway.
For forty-eight years, the US government has enforced this outdated embargo against Cuba, an initiative taken when Fidel Castro’s communist regime nationalized companies and industries, which deeply hurt US interests on the island. Today, the blockade has merely become a political tool in the hands of the powerful Cuban-American lobby that snarls against the Castro brothers because of the property they lost there when everything was made public.
Over twenty years ago, Brazil restored diplomatic relations with Cuba (to great opposition from the Reagan Administration), and there was a lot of noise about that from those who opposed the measure. Well, the world did not end then, and today Brazilians routinely visit the island, stay in their hotels and enjoy their music, climate and food – which we only get a whiff of when making a stop at Calle 8 in Miami. To do the same, Americans have to go through sort of a covert operation, flying to Canada or Mexico and then booking our trip from there – under risk of being discovered and prosecuted upon their return.
Just this week, the General Assembly at the United Nations voted 185-3 to condemn the United States for keeping the embargo in place. The only countries that supported the US were Israel and Palau, a small Pacific island nation. In response to this symbolic vote (which has happened for the 19th consecutive time), Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez stated that “the blockade is an uncultured act of arrogance that is ethically unacceptable.”
Those who defend the embargo argue that it should stay in place due to Cuba’s history of disregard to human rights and personal freedom. Well, if that is the case, we might as well
forbid travel and trading with countries like China and Saudi Arabia, who also have no room for dissidents within its borders. However, we have grown more and more dependent on these countries and their products. Still, we can’t buy a hand-rolled Havana in this country. So much for promoting free trade.
But there are voices that are willing to change this. A coalition of businesses, political organizations (among them a number of Cuban-American associations) have come together
to support Congressman William Delahunt’s HR 876, which restores US citizens’ rights to travel to Cuba. Together, they have created OpenCuba.org, which invites people to sign a petition to push for approval of the measure, and to also call their congressmen and women in order to gain support for the measure.
I personally support this and urge readers to do the same. It doesn’t make any sense to be restricted to freely travel to that beautiful country because of the arrogance and pride of a few hard-liners who use hate as a political tool.