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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Embargo Is a Religion

The second and more important interaction of the day was the issue of the UN Embargo Vote. While the U.S. lost this vote for the 18th time, the hardline Cuban American embargo community was proud that they had turned this into a domestic political issue. A clarification was made that it was more about campaign contributions than principle, that the community was no longer monolithic in its support for the embargo. Yet during an exchange with a prominent Cuban American exile attorney, I was taken aback by the response given to the question, "Does it matter to you that the United States, our country, is regularly condemned by the world community for the embargo, that this position hurts the entire country's credibility and effectiveness in foreign policy around the world?" To which he responded, "No. I don't care nor does the exile community care.
We had everything taken from us." While I could not speak to his personal experience of what he or his family lost in the Cuban Revolution fifty years ago, I was still taken aback by the arrogance of this man's statement-- he does not care whether the United States loses its credibility or its reputation in the world for supporting a policy that damages our country and his brethren in Cuba today in so many ways.
After the United States opened its arms to the Cuban community that fled Cuba after the revolution; that gave the community every possible consideration-- including its own special immigrant category under the Cuban Adjustment Act, and U.S. taxpayer dollars now exceeding more than one billion spent on the U.S. Cuba policy failure to date, it is still not enough? Not to mention that Cuban Americans are among the most successful immigrant groups in America. Why does the embargo crowd want to hold this issue politically hostage -- and the ignorant politicians who support this for a campaign check? Why would they want us to cut our (U.S) nose to spite our face? And then I realized why in spite of the magnificent social and economic progress of the Cuban American community in South Florida, this particular sector of Cuban Americans have squandered their ability and capacity to be any real influences in Cuba -- they want to keep fighting the battle even though the war was lost. What a pyrrhic victory! Arrogance is such a hollow power.
I was told the embargo was a religion, an icon in South Florida. An icon of what exactly? Fortunately, my hope for the future was restored by another Cuban American exile child who stated to me "It matters to me that the United States' reputation in the world is damaged by what we are doing. We are only hurting the Cuban people with this embargo. Unfortunately no one in Miami will admit how many different interests depend on the embargo for their livelihoods -- radio stations, politicians, etc.
The embargo does have to end and we in the community need to move forward. Everyone who wants to travel to Cuba should be able to go if they want to." In the meanwhile, pro-embargo forces are getting ready to see if they can block their fellow American's freedom to travel to Cuba one more time in the Congress with money and continue to hurt their Cuban brothers and sisters on the island.
And the ignorant politicians will line up for a campaign check from them and willing to sacrifice our rights and our national reputation in the process on Capitol Hill. What America really needs is serious campaign finance reform. That is for another discussion another day. Until there is campaign finance reform, we have to meet this challenge head on.- TM

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