While perhaps not permitting voting or independent communication, if Cuban citizens such as the Damas, are out marching peacefully, carrying flowers, perhaps the Cuban government could be persuaded to actually protect them, rather than deliberately unleashing militants against them to beat them up (as it also did in Panama). Doesn’t a government have an obligation (especially in light of increased tourist eyes) to protect all citizens who are not harming anyone else? No longer can it be said that they are agents of the “Empire” since now the Empire is now friend, not foe? Just a thought.
I’d dared hope that Cuba might follow the Chinese and Vietnamese model of opening up economically but not politically, though it will only do so if US investors demand it and don’t just acquiesce, as I guess Cuomo did. Even over time, an economic opening doesn’t necessarily lead to free speech, free assembly, or elections, as we have seen in China lo these many decades after Nixon-to-China. Yet, most Chinese are better off today. They may not be able to freely access the internet, write or speak openly, vote, or organize independently (even world famous artist Ai Wei Wei was imprisoned, subjected to a huge fine, and had his passport confiscated), most couples still are allowed only one child, and political arrests and executions even for property crimes are common, yet Chinese are able to travel, they often study abroad, and China even allows Peace Corps volunteers. Travelers and investors there have considerable freedom to deal directly with local citizens and to make their own choices (though language is more a barrier there than in Cuba), so if something like that should happen in Cuba, even without free assembly and expression, it would be a definite improvement.
However, US investors need to insist on hiring and paying their own workers as a cost of doing business in Cuba. Perhaps they prefer to use the current established system, as long as it brings them profit—probably from US tourists or other outside sources, since Cuba internally is bereft of resources and produces very little, not even its own food—only cigars and rum, the two items Obama cited that visitors are allowed to bring back. I just spoke with a man with long State Dept. experience now going to Cuba on behalf of an investment group. I tried to persuade him to respectfully explore how both sides can adapt and move toward each other, both in terms of civil rights and economic rights that trickle down to workers, but it sounded as though he was just interested in how much money his investors might make. So, I’m feeling discouraged about both the DR and Cuba, not knowing the administration’s game plan in either case (after voting twice for President Obama).
A blog reader who is also a neighbor passed along to me her massive copy of Fidel (1986), the classic biography by the late Tad Szulc, former NY Times correspondent. I read it almost 30 years ago, when it first came out, and now have re-read it from a more experienced perspective. At over 700 pages, it’s an amazing opus. Szulc had extraordinary access to Fidel Castro, meeting with him numerous times, including right after his victory in 1959. Castro apparently spoke freely and at length with Szulc, enjoying ready access to a US-based writer of his caliber. The result is a biography seen mostly from Castro’s viewpoint. Fidel Castro was certainly imaginative in his tireless scheming to stay in power and to aggravate the United States. Interestingly, early Fidel loyalists who turned against him and often suffered years of imprisonment as a result, are only mentioned in the book in their early days of fighting and working by his side, with nothing said about their later disaffection and expulsion from the inner circle, although that had happened well before the book came out. Take one case from my own book, Confessions, that of Jorge Valls, a philosopher and poet, imprisoned for more than 20 years and released in 1984, partly through my efforts, of whom Szulc says only that Valls introduced Fidel to one of his lovers, Naty Revuelta (p. 231). Likewise, early followers Gustavo Arcos and Jesús Yánez, two others profiled in my book, later became staunch opponents of Fidel and suffered years in prison. But only their early years of loyalty are mentioned by Szulc, although their break with Fidel occurred well before the book’s release. This tends to give a skewed picture of the man and his popularity in the 1980s, even though the collapse of the USSR, Cuba’s patron, had not yet occurred and Fidel was still at the height of his powers and his bravado then, though soon the rug would soon be pulled out from under him with the Soviet implosion.
Certainly Fidel Castro had enjoyed overwhelming support in 1959, but the book overlooks the extent of his internal opposition, evident almost from the very beginning. And Szulc describes the Mariel exodus of 1980 mostly as Castro’s retaliation against remarks made by President Jimmy Carter. But what about Cubans only too eager to leave? Of course, I had ringside seat during Mariel, with my teenage foster son Alex having been forced onto a boat at gunpoint as part of Castro’s vengeful emptying of jails and mental hospitals. However, Szulc had it right when he said of Fidel, “He demands instant response to his slightest whims” (p. 43). Now, ironically, brother Raul has seen an alliance with “the Empire” as the only way to save the Communist Party and the ruling elite. It’s hard to believe that Fidel in his right mind would ever have agreed to such a course, his anti-Americanism was so visceral. I note that Szulc’s reputation as a writer and an international correspondent, as well as his unparalleled access to Fidel Castro, made his book an instant best seller and a definitive resource in its time, even though, in my opinion, his portrait is incomplete and relies too much on Castro’s own words and not enough on independent sources.
All this below has been happening, according to Capitol Hill Cubans-- 24 Apr 2015
On Sunday, over 50 members of the pro-democracy group, The Ladies in White, were beaten and arrested for displaying pictures of current Cuban political prisoners.
-- Cuban political prisoner, Yuriet Pedroso Gonzalez, is on the 50th day of a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment. His condition is life threatening.
-- Cuban democracy activist, Niober Garcia Fournier, of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) was stabbed by a Castro regime agent. He remains hospitalized.
-- The Castro regime ratified a three-year prison sentence against democracy activist, Mauricio Noa Maceo, for trying to set up a satellite television connection.
-- In Palma Soriano, UNPACU activist Victor Campa was arrested, while Ruben Torres Saiz was detained, then left gagged and tied on top of an ant nest.
-- On Wednesday, more members of The Ladies in White were arrested in order to impede a lunch they had organized to help feed the needy.
-- And today, Castro's security forces stormed Havana's Central Park to stop a small protest by democracy activists. Among those arrested was democracy activist, Wilberto Parada. A visiting Spanish journalist was also arrested.
For hardcore Cuba watchers, here’s a thoughtful and extensive exploration of possible future scenarios:http://www.e-ir.info/2015/05/03/the-political-economy-of-the-cuban-reforms/
A lament now about another country in my Caribbean volunteer sphere for Amnesty International: the Dominican Republic. I’ve mentioned the effort to strip Haitian-born and Haitian-descended people living in the DR of their Dominican citizenship. In an earlier Latin American trip, including to the DR, VP Biden apparently failed to raise the DR citizenship issue although we tried to inform him and his staff in advance. The Obama administration has not responded publicly on this issue and seems to be trying to be non-interventionist and uncritical of other governments, not throwing its weight around, especially in Latin America. Revoking the visas of a few Venezuelan officials is as far it has been willing to go. Maybe it has its hands full with ISIS, Iran, and Ukraine.