Itís All About the Cuban People

Posted by: David Schwedel on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cuba street photo

I remember going to Cuba with my wife some years back.  I told her then that I would not want to go again until Cuba had done away with the Castro regime.  Watching her 80+ year-old grandfather carrying two 5-gallon buckets of water on a broom stick over his shoulders, from a well, nearly ¼ mile back to their apartment was infuriating to me (he refused to let me help, saying, “it is my exercise”).  More than fifty years under Castro’s regime had people between the ages of 5 to 65 believing that ALL of their problems were brought upon them by the USA.  This is what they were taught in school, and in every piece of literature that I myself saw available in any shop or gift store.

Half of my family is Cuban.  Their livelihoods were taken from them, their assets, home, everything completely stripped.  All this rhetoric I hear and read from both religious as well as non-religious friends about how awful it all is; in particular our President visiting Cuba.  The bottom line is the embargo has not worked.  There’s not much to add to that statement other than that.  Cuba was overthrown by a Dictator.  There are really just a few options when something like that happens: a) the people rise up against the dictator; b) the country remains a dictatorship until it is invaded by a foreign military force; c) economic sanctions for long periods foster a change in policy; or d) the dictatorship remains indefinitely since there is no strategic value to any foreign government to take their lands.  But there is another consideration which it seems the US and our Allies do understand; the well being of a country’s citizens.

I respectfully disagree with many people on their Cuba position, and stand shoulder to shoulder with my family, who support an “open dialogue” and considered diplomacy when it comes to Cuba.  I commend my friend Mike Fernandez, and others like him for taking a strong stance on this.  There is no better way to deal with a dictator’s regime than bringing the concept of democracy to their people – in a peaceful way.  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. 

One of the most difficult matters will be ensuring that Cuba makes good on the assets it seized from Americans and US based companies 56 years ago.  And this is where I begin to lose hope simply due to the fact that we must rely on Congress.  In 1996 Congress signed the Cuban Liberty Act, which bars the President from lifting the embargo on his own (Helms-Burton Act), and it precludes US assistance until such time that there are democratic reforms which do not involve the Castro brothers in any way, and authorizes sanctions against companies and countries that do business with Cuba. The thaw has begun.   

There is no better time than now for the US to push forward to effectuate change.  Fidel is “retired”, and Raul is slated to step down in the next 24 months.  Americans who lost property in the Revolution must receive some level of justice in the future.  However, who speaks for the freedom of the people who have been living in Cuba for the past 55 years?  When Maria’s grandfather finally passed away, I often thought of those 10 gallons of water that served as their “daily allocation”.  This meant it was all his family had to bathe, cook, and clean with for the day – since there was no running water or A/C to their broken down apartment.  The average American uses around 15-17 gallons of water in an 8-minute shower.

Her grandfather had no ability to “move” into a “new place with a better view or upgraded appliances”; that was until someone died, or the Government pointed at you and forcibly moved you to another place.  At the end of the day, I feel for the people who lost their property and things.  My own people suffered tremendous losses when the Nazis took power.  Our relatives and countless thousands of others lost their homes, businesses, property, and assets as well – forever.  The concern from past generations in my own family was not to “get back what we lost”, but to build a better future, and work toward amending the past.  Our people did well in the US much like many of the Cuban people have here. 

Truth be told, it is not easy to “make it” in the US.  In fact, we have met Cubans who left Cuba to come to America, only to return back to Cuba.  They left saying, “You guys work too hard here”.  It will be interesting to see how Cuba takes to the possibility of democracy in the future.  Truth be told it will take many, many years for change to take permanent hold in Cuba.  The ultimate sign of that change will be the eventual release of political prisoners, and the ability of Cuban Americans to have their day in court to at least have the opportunity to resolve their losses under the Castro regime. 


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