I don't usually post political opinion here on my blog. I have on occasion written about politics regarding Cuba because it's not just politics to me. It falls more under the umbrella of home town gossip.
Cuban politics in particular aren't just things that are happening 3,000 miles away. They affect real people in my life. People I am related to, or that I've met, or who's writings I read almost daily.
On Wednesday, President Obama made the declaration that now was the time for the U.S. to be "normalizing" relations with Cuba. I had been traveling all day. Just returned from a family trip to Northern California and had not heard the announcement. But my inbox was full of inquiries from the media. Would I be willing to give my reaction to the president's announcement?
I was conflicted for a moment. I know how these discussion inevitably go. There's the "it's about damn time" group. They are of the opinion that Cubans will be better off as soon as U.S.-Cuba relations begin to thaw. The argument goes something like this: There will be a new influx of American currency into the now 3rd world (or is it 4th world?) country which will save the day.
Always missing in this argument is the fact that Cuba has been able to trade with every other nation. Today there are tourists spending their hard currency on the streets of Havana, not making a bit of difference to the lives of everyday Cubans. Those are the ones with names and faces and children and dreams. They are the ones most affected in this drama. And all that money is going straight into the coffers of the Castros, who just happen to be millionaires, by the way.
Also, the U.S. already provides food and medicine and goods to Cuba. (You didn't know that, did you?) The only difference is that, up to now, Cuba has had to pay for those. With this new U.S.-Cuba BFF system, it's like we've issued Cuba an unsecured credit card. Our taxpayer dollars get to prop up the declining Cuban economy. And what do we get in return? Umm…we get to go to Cuba and spend more of our money to buy what? Cigars? Coffee? Seriously?
Let me say here that I'm glad American Alan Gross has been released from his 5 year Cuban prison ordeal. He was "swapped" for the remaining members of the Cuban 5 who were serving long prison sentences for espionage and murder. Yes, you read that right. An innocent man incarcerated in a Cuban jail for 5 years exchanged for convicted spies and enemies to our nation. Remind me, please, how this is in any way fair?
There are also rumors that 53 other prisoners will be released. But there are thousands. What about them? Will all the political prisoners be released? Why not? That means there really won't be any noticeable change. Next week, 53 more will take their place. That's how the communist apparatus keeps the population in line.
I have so much I want to say. And I'm so conflicted.
In a perfect world, opening up relations between the U.S. and Cuba would make life easier for my family, the ones who are scraping by, making impossible ends meet every single day. Or would it? This particular world is far from perfect. And it's being run by a treacherous, murdering regime who care nothing for human rights or for the welfare of their people. That is the hard truth.
The president wants to normalize relations with Cuba, but sadly, Cuba is not normal.
I have thousands more words to write on this topic, but I'll just leave some links here and you can feel free to educate yourself. It's tough to be Cuban right now on either side of the Florida Straits. Because those of us who left early on in the revolution have tasted the bitterness of having all we loved ripped away and have also known the sweetness of growing up in freedom. Those still there in Cuba can't even remember what hope tastes like.
What do I wish the outcome of all this would be? A free Cuba. Sadly, I don't think that even came up in the talks between the Castros and the president.
And that's the saddest thing of all.
Here are some links. If you have any you'd like to add, please feel free to share in the comments of this post.
My interview with KCET – In California, Announcement Seen From Varying Points of View.
My friend, Robert Molleda posted this very articulate essay on Facebook.
From Capitol Hill Cubans – Cuban Dissent Leaders React to Obama's Announcement.
From the PanAm Post – Only Cubans Can Save Cuba.
From HuffPo – In Cuba Policy Debates, Theories Don't Cut It.
From Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez – Goliath Opens His Wallet.
From my friend, Marc Masferrer over at Uncommon Sense – If U.S.-Cuba normalization doesn't free the Cuban people, it will fail.
From Gustavo Perez-Firmat – The Last Exiles.
From Gustavo Perez-Firmat's daughter, Miriam Perez – Why I Don't Want To Hear About Your Vacation To Cuba.
Follow updates from lots of sources over at Babalú Blog.