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Friday, May 7, 2010

Letter to Editor Published in May 2010 Cuba News

Your article, "Foundations Bankroll U.S. Organizations That Favor Lifting Embargo Against Cuba" (CubaNews, April 2010, page 1), reveals an important political conclusion that the pro-Cuba travel and trade community must fully embrace — nonprofit organizations do not get legislation passed; industry and organized voter interest groups do. And while the nonprofit organizations on this side of the issue are doing their maximum to educate, reason and logic will always take a back seat when they are competing alone against political money in Washington. They are simply no match for the pro-embargo political money forces that continue to strangle this issue and hold it hostage. However, when reason and logic are backed up with political money in Washington, you will get legislation passed and reach the president's desk with a measure to sign into law.
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The nonprofits are simply not equipped to take on the likes of the pro-embargo forces on Capitol Hill or at the fundraisers of every member of Congress running for re-election. Where was this side of the issue represented at Gloria Estefan's recent Democratic party fundraiser in Miami with President Obama? I think you get my point. The travel and agriculture industries, and moderate Cuban-American and U.S. interests who want to change policies, must step up to the plate and take charge of this issue if we are ever going to win it. It is going to take political courage and commitment, but it can be done. The pro-embargo crowd is relatively small. The 5,000 or so wealthy exile hardliners who fund the US-Cuba Democracy PAC are no match for the 100,000 Americans who want to travel to Cuba now, and the even larger Cuban American majority and travel and agriculture industries that want a change in U.S. policy. The majority has still not politically organized. As the saying goes, it is time to put the political money up or remain ineffective.
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So it behooves organizations like Arca and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation to focus on more specific uses of its grants like academic, scientific, sports, healthcare and other types of people-to-people contact between the U.S. and Cuba, until all the restrictions are lifted. The pro-embargo forces have made it easy for all of us to think we care about human rights in Cuba by wearing white clothes, attending demonstrations and reading Yoani Sanchez's blog on the Huffington Post. Pro-embargo congressmen even play to this by calling Cuban dissidents, making a lot of speeches, and wasting even more taxpayer money on Cuba "democracy" funding. But has any of this made any real difference in Cuba? Has this led to the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, who continues to languish in a Cuban prison? The Cuban government will not be shamed or humiliated into reforming by anyone. Isn't it time we begin influencing them into reforming? Policies of influence must now replace those of interference.
— Attorney Tony Martínez, Editor US Cuba Policy & Business Blog
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