Thursday, August 23, 2007

Our main goal: Freedom in Cuba

Miami Herald, Tue. Aug 21, 2007

When my father was a young man living in Kenya, the freedom and opportunity of the United States exerted such a powerful draw that he moved halfway around the world to pursue his dreams here. My father's story is not unique. The same has been true for tens of millions of people, from every continent -- including for the many Cubans who have come and made their lives here since the start of Fidel Castro's dictatorship almost 50 years ago.

It is a tragedy that, just 90 miles from our shores, there exists a society where such freedom and opportunity are kept out of reach by a government that clings to discredited ideology and authoritarian control. A democratic opening in Cuba is, and should be, the foremost objective of our policy. We need a clear strategy to achieve it -- one that takes some limited steps now to spread the message of freedom on the island, but preserves our ability to bargain on behalf of democracy with a post-Fidel government.

The primary means we have of encouraging positive change in Cuba today is to help the Cuban people become less dependent on the Castro regime in fundamental ways. U.S. policy must be built around empowering the Cuban people, who ultimately hold the destiny of Cuba in their hands. (To continue reading: Our Main Goal....)

My Commentary
I agree with Mr. Obama and applaud him for having he courage to call for a change in our policy toward Cuba. The only other presidential candidates breaking with the status quo is Democrat Chris Dodd and Republican Ron Paul. (For a summary of the position of all presidential candidates visit: The Candidates on Cuba Policy)

It is a past time for a change in US policy toward Cuba. At one time, when Cuba was sending its army around the world and fomenting revolution in Africa and Latin America our policy made sense. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of Cuba’s benefactor the Soviet Union, there has been little logic to our policy. Our current policy is a relic of the cold war and remains due to the political might of the Cuban-American Community. The restriction on tourism lacks all logic when Americans are not prohibited from visiting countries such as Iran or North Korea.

The thing that makes totalitarian governments “totalitarian” is that there are no other meaningful spheres of influence. When total power and influence flows from the government and there is no private business sector, no non-governmental educational establishment, weak religious institutions, no trade unions, no sources of information other than the government press, then that society is totalitarian. The government can exert absolute authority and exercise thought control and make people totally dependent on the government for their survival.

Political democracy may not immediately flow from the growth of the non-governmental sectors, but there is a degree of freedom one can have without political freedom when there are other influences in society than government only. With the growth of the non-governmental sectors a demand for democratization is bound to follow. In Poland we saw the fall of the Communist regime due to the power of Solidarity and the Catholic Church. Trade has changed China. China is still an authoritarian government but is Communist in name only. It is doubtful that we could again see a return to a Maoist China.

What will hasten the democratization of Cuba is contact with people from democratic countries and increase in trade. With trade and investment can come a demand that the Cuban government make concessions. Foreign investors will not make massive investments in countries without a predictable legal system and some guarantee to the ownership rights of their investment.

As Cubans increase their income from tourism and foreign trade opportunities, they will want a better standard of living and consumer goods to purchase with their new income. Creeping capitalism will weaken the state. The people will also learn more of the outside world and increasing want an end to the status of permanent revolution and the policies that keep them in poverty. Simply allowing Cuban Americans to increase the amount of money they are allowed to send home and allowing increased visitation, will hasten a lessening of dependence on the government and a desire for change on the part of the Cuban people. It is high time we end our illogical policy toward Cuba.

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