CSC letter printed in Financial Times

Campaign News | Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Rob Miller replies to Republican Congressman's letter attacking Cuba

In response to a letter from Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart in the International Financial Times, CSC Director, Rob Miller had response letter printed on January 13:

US increasingly isolated over policy towards Cuba


Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart's letter (January 9) illustrates precisely why the new Obama administration must be bold in forging a more sensible approach to Cuba.

For too long a small group of rightwing Cuban exiles in Miami have used financial and political power to leverage the US government to pursue aggressive policies towards the island.

Fortunately, today the congressman is way out of step with the "hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans" he claims to represent, as demonstrated by a November 2008 post-election poll showing that 55 per cent now think the US "embargo" should end and 65 per cent believe the US should drop restrictions on travel and money transfers and re-establish dialogue and diplomatic relations with the island.

To the congressman's chagrin, the US is increasingly isolated on Cuba. In 2008 185 countries voted at the United Nations to end the blockade, Latin-American countries called on President-elect Barack Obama to scrap it, and Europe continued to engage positively with the island.

Your editorial "Prepare the ground for post-Castro era" (December 31) rightly senses the new mood prevailing in the US towards future relations with Cuba. Whatever differences one may have with Cuban policy, it is far better to share, exchange and understand than to threaten yet another dangerous US-sponsored "transition" and continue with a failed policy that is detrimental not only to the people of Cuba but to the US itself.

Rob Miller,

CSC Director


International Financial Times letters page,

9 January 2009

Three conditions apply to lifting of embargo on Cuba

From Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Sir, Your editorial “Prepare the ground for post-Castro era” (December 31) was uncharacteristically ill-informed. As a representative in the US Congress of hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans and the author of the codification into US law in 1996 of the embargo on the Cuban dictatorship, please allow me to offer the following information.

The reason we maintain a trade and tourism embargo on the Cuban dictatorship (a regime that has kept itself in power through terror and repression for 50 years) is, first, because it is in the national interest of the US for there to be a democratic transition in Cuba, as it obviously is in the interest of the long-suffering people of Cuba; second, because, as in the democratic transitions that occurred in Spain or Portugal or Greece, or in those that took place in South Africa or Chile or the Dominican Republic, it is absolutely critical that there be some form of external pressure for a democratic transition to take place in Cuba once the dictator is no longer on the scene (and Fidel Castro, while very ill, is still the ultimate power in totalitarian Cuba). At the time of the disappearance from the scene of the Cuban dictator, it will be absolutely critical for the US embargo to be in place as it is today, with its lifting being conditional, as it is by law, on three fundamental developments in Cuba.

Number one, the liberation of all political prisoners. Number two, the legalisation of all political parties, independent labour unions and the independent press. And number three, the scheduling of free, internationally supervised elections.

At the time of the disappearance of the dictator in Cuba, the US embargo, with its lifting being conditional upon those three developments, as it is by law, will constitute critical leverage for the Cuban people to achieve those three conditions. In other words, for them to achieve their freedom.

With regard to your allegation that US sanctions have “failed”, I would ask you to remember what the Cuban dictatorship used to do when it received $5bn or $6n annually from the Soviet Union, an amount similar to what it would begin receiving each year from US tourism alone if sanctions were lifted.

I would ask you to remember Grenada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, Eritrea and so on. This is not the time to give the Cuban dictatorship countless billions of dollars unilaterally, while Cuba’s prisons remain full of heroic political prisoners and while the regime remains a state sponsor of international terrorism.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Member of the US Congress, Florida


Financial Times editorial: 31 December 2008

Prepare the ground for post-Castro era; The embargo has helped Fidel survive 50 years in power

In the early hours of New Year's day 1959, the dictator Fulgencio Batista stole away from Cuba. His ignominious departure, entirely in keeping with the manner in which he had ruled, opened the way for the headstrong son of a prosperous farmer to take over the country.

Tomorrow, the farmer's son, Fidel Castro, leader of a scruffy group of rebels who overcame the odds to destroy Batista's army, celebrates 50 years in power. He is no longer president, having passed the title to his younger brother Raúl in February but, despite his poor health, he is still assumed to guide the country from behind the scenes.

It is hard, even now, to separate Mr Castro's myth from his achievements. For some he remains a revolutionary hero, standing up steadfastly to Washington, a survivor for half a century of US efforts to assassinate and ostracise him.

It is true that Cuba has seen great change under his leadership. It boasts universal healthcare and education, and no longer suffers the wide disparities in wealth and income so common in Latin America. It is also a country that many Cubans say has gained its dignity, one that is no longer a satrapy of the giant empire to the north.

But it is also a country that, because of a lack of prospects, loses thousands of its most enterprising young people every year to foreign countries, including the US. It is a society in which people suffer severe restrictions on freedom and human rights, where they struggle for housing and lack access to technologies such as the internet and mobile telephony now commonplace elsewhere. Many make their livings on the margins of Cuba's tourist industry, scrambling for hard currency. Where is the dignity in that?

It is also an economy that has been dependent on the handouts of others: from the Soviet Union for 30 years, which association brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962, and more recently from oil rich Venezuela.

It cannot be denied, however, that one reason for this economic hardship is the US embargo of Cuba. first imposed in 1962. As economic sanctions go, this must be one of the most spectacularly unsuccessful efforts in history. Indeed, the embargo - the "blockade" as Cubans call it - has been a gift to Mr Castro, allowing him to blame the consequences of his chronic economic mismanagement on the gringos . That it remains, in spite of its failure, is testimony to the effectiveness and stubbornness of the hardline Cuban-American lobby and lack of courage of US politicians.

But times are changing. Mr Castro is ailing. The first cohort of Castro-hating exiles is dying out, and opinion polls show their descendants are more amenable to thawing relations with Cuba. Most significantly, a new US president has arrived in the White House with new ideas about how the US should handle hostile regimes.

Cuba, it is true, is unlikely to be one of Barack Obama's top priorities. The political costs of lifting the embargo, even now, may outweigh the advantages. But there is much short of that his administration can do, including lifting restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba and even opening discussions with Havana.

One benefit of a new approach may be an improvement in Washington's relations with other Latin American states, the deterioration of which under George W. Bush has allowed other actors such as China and even Russia and Iran to step in.

More importantly, these opening steps should be used to lay the groundwork for a new US policy towards Cuba, one that looks to the future of their relationship after Mr Castro dies. In such a policy, Cuban exiles in Florida should be encouraged to play a role, since their skills and capital can be critical in helping to regenerate the country.

It is in neither country's interest for Mr Castro's death to be followed by economic and political turmoil in Cuba. The US must now begin planning to avoid it.


Join the CSC Press Action Network and help respond to negative or untrue stories about Cuba in the press. Call 020 8800 0155 or email today.

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