Thursday, July 01, 2004

Cuba: Cubans in the U.S. prize self-interest over freedom

...[N]ew U.S. rules limiting the number of trips Cuban-Americans can make to the island ... [have gone into effect] severely restricting Cuban-Americans' ability to travel to Cuba and send money to their relatives.

Washington's aim is to strangle the socialist government economically and force Fidel Castro from power.

But many Cuban-Americans say the strategy is cruel.

"The U.S. government is separating families," said Ms. Franco, a cashier who lives in Hialeah, Fla. "It's inhumane."

Her father was more blunt: "Give me President Bush, and I'll tear him into little pieces."

The new rules, some Cuban-Americans say, are likely to increase the number of people traveling to Cuba illegally through third countries such as Mexico.

The measures may also cost Mr. Bush Cuban-American votes in November.

"A lot of people in Havana and Miami are against these rules," said Caty Gonzalez, 41, a Miami accountant visiting her niece in Havana.

A government commission headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell recommended the policy changes in May. The commission said Cuban-Americans send their relatives cash remittances totaling $400 million to more than $1 billion per year. Cubans spend much of the money at government-run stores where products are typically marked up as much as 240 percent. And those revenues help keep the Castro regime alive, U.S. officials say.

Under the new regulations, Cuban-Americans can no longer send cash to uncles, aunts, cousins and nephews. Only immediate family members – grandparents, parents, children and siblings – are allowed to receive up to $1,200 per year.

The rules also reduce to $50 from $164 the amount of money Cuban-Americans can spend per day on food and lodging while in Cuba.

About 160,000 travelers – including an estimated 125,000 Cuban-Americans – visited Cuba from the United States last year. Under the old rules, Cuban-Americans were allowed one visit per year.

Bush supporters say the new measures are justified because the Cuban government exploits Cuban-Americans, charging them millions of dollars in excessive taxes and duty to help prop up the socialist system.

"The Cuban government complains about U.S. policy, yet when a nun takes powdered milk to the poor in Cuba, she must pay taxes on it," said Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, an anti-Castro group in Washington, D.C.
I can't help wondering why Cubans are bitching about a policy that can bring Castro's dictatorship to an end ... if only Cubans would think strategically. From the reactions of Cubans such as the Francos, I would say that many Cubans have yet to learn that freedom is not free. Many seem to have forgotten why they left Castro's Cuba and the dangers they passed through to make it to the U.S. They seem to have forgotten the oppressiveness of Castro's communist paradise, the imprisonments and torture of dissenters and journalists, the citizens' lack of rights, the grinding poverty and lousy social services.

Instead of being willing to sacrifice for freedom, many Cubans seem to be content with the status quo, or they want to be comfortable while they await freedom's arrival. Life doesn't work like that. Castro will not go gently into that good night, and he has devised stratagems to ensure that Cubans remain in bondage even after his demise.

Yet, when President Bush has developed and implemented a policy to ensure that all Castro's plans come to nought, that Castro is overthrown before death takes him under, Cubans bitch because their personal comfort is affected. Nobody seems willing to make sacrifices for what they want ... freedom. Nobody wants to challenge the status quo for freedom. It seems that, for Cubans, when freedom comes, it must not trouble the tenor of their lives too much.

The great pity is that after forty years of living under a dictatorship, the best Cubans can come up with is a Burger King attitude to freedom, and they can only cherish it if they have it their way.

Val Prieto is right.

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