Cuba hardliners suppress free exchange of ideas
Posted on Monday, 05.19.14
Cuba hardliners suppress free exchange of ideas
BY RIC HERRERO
It’s not hard to see why most Americans quickly tire of national
politics. Personal attacks and distortions have become the norm, and
that’s especially true in the debate over U.S.-Cuba policy. At first
glance there aren’t any good choices. In Havana, you have the same old
rhetoric and tactics of repression from a five-decade-old dictatorship.
In Washington, you have a small group of hardliners almost entirely
dedicated to smearing and intimidating anyone who expresses an opinion
different from their own on U.S. policy. To date they’ve been far more
efficient in turning off well-meaning Americans from participating in
the Cuba conversation than in actually helping to bring democracy to
Cuba. Today there’s an alternative.
Regrettably, what’s left of the old hardliner crowd has once again
resorted to desperate tactics to try to distract from a new debate over
how to better help the Cuban people while advancing the best interests
of the United States. In his May 14 online oped, Cuba trade embargo and
the politics of deception, Frank Calzon, one of the longest serving
peddlers of the politics of intimidation, made several baseless claims
and personal attacks against a new advocacy organization, #CubaNow, and
me, its executive director.
#CubaNow was created precisely to move past these old politics. It was
somewhat amusing to be lectured on transparency and efficiency by
someone whose own deputy was thrown in jail for embezzling more than
$500,000 in taxpayer dollars not long ago.
The purpose of #CubaNow is to shed light on the realities that are
taking hold on both sides of the Florida Straits, and foster a real
debate over how to adapt to them. Despite modest economic reforms in
recent years, the Cuban regime continues to fall short of meeting many
of the most basic needs of the Cuban people and needs to do more on
human rights. However, there are changes taking place on the island, and
we cannot ignore them.
The first and most important reality is that America’s blanket sanctions
framework commonly known as the “embargo” and codified under
Helms-Burton and other legislation hasn’t worked. That’s why polls
conducted over the past 10 years have shown a trend resulting in a
majority of Americans and Cuban Americans expressing support for lifting
the travel ban to Cuba and revising or repealing many of the sanctions
The second reality is that President Obama’s policy changes in 2009
allowing greater travel and remittances on the part of Cuban Americans
have coincided with modest economic changes in Cuba, which together are
fueling greater changes than we had seen in the last five decades.
Hardliners haven’t caught up. They continue to lobby for keeping the
same old policies in place despite the overwhelming volume of evidence
that it has been a colossal failure. Like their kindred spirits in the
Cuban regime, Washington’s Cuba hardliners have done a disservice to the
American people by imposing a false choice over Cuba policy for decades.
To hear them tell it, it’s all or nothing, pro-embargo or pro-Castro,
basically Patria o Muerte. That false choice has robbed us of a real
debate, and we reject it.
#CubaNow believes our policy toward Cuba can and should be tailored to
simultaneously empower the Cuban people, pressure the Cuban government
over on-going human-rights violations, and advance U.S. national
interests throughout our hemisphere. Our advertising campaign in the
Washington, D.C. metro system is aimed at President Obama because we
believe he is best positioned to facilitate the process of change in
Cuba by getting the government out of the way so the American people can
help strengthen Cuban civil society.
Given the recent surge in independent economic and political activity on
the island, the president should move forward with a more-robust policy
package. He should further eliminate obstacles to engagement between the
American and Cuban people, lifting counterproductive sanctions like the
travel ban and increasing support for independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
As a 501(c)4 advocacy organization, #CubaNow has and always will comply
with all disclosure requirements under U.S. law. If any of our donors
want to publicly announce that they support our effort, we encourage
them to do so. However, we want our organization to serve as a vehicle
for all Americans to participate freely in promoting a Cuba policy that
actually works without fear of personal attacks or reprisals. Attacks
like the one that stained these pages.
If #CubaNow must serve as the target of hardliner mudslinging in order
for others to feel safe to speak out and openly participate in this
debate, then so be it. We welcome it, and we welcome a real debate with
fresh ideas. After all, if we want to promote freedom of speech in Cuba,
no one should trample on it in America.
Ric Herrero is executive director of #CubaNow, a 501(c)4 advocacy
organization. Online at www.cubanow.us and @Cuba_Now on Twitter.
Source: Cuba hardliners suppress free exchange of ideas – From Our Inbox
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