Cuba's 'Changes' Amount To Nada
Just as America's "useful fools" were beginning to buy the smoke and mirror changes that appear to be taking place in Cuba, out comes a new report condemning the communist island for multiple human rights violations.
The changes are purely cosmetic. Under Raul Castro, who officially replaced his brother Fidel as the island's dictator in February, Cubans are being given access to things they should have always had — from cell phones to hotel rooms — but still can't afford.
Yet this is still the same regime that "created a permanent panorama of breached basic rights for the Cuban citizenry," according to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Commission, which is the human rights arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), also noted that Cuba still has no independent courts or free elections, and still restricts freedom of expression by jailing more dissidents and journalists than any other country in the Americas.
The report covered human rights violations that occurred in 2007. But that's one area where no changes have occurred in Cuba. Regardless of which of the two Castro brothers is in command, Cuba still has one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
Yet a few meaningless "changes" by the Castro regime is apparently enough to sway some American "useful fools" — especially in the U.S. Congress — into thinking that this is some sort of aperture, and that the Cuban fist of repression is no longer clinched.
"Useful fools" is the term traditionally used by communists to describe gullible people who fall for the romantic appeal of leftist rebels. And they are still around. They want to sing "Kumbaya" and smoke peace pipes with the Castro brothers, even though these bloody tyrants are only utilizing them.
In fact, the so-called Cuban apartheid, which kept most Cubans from enjoying the luxuries reserved for tourists, will still exist. What good is access to modern necessities and luxuries if the Cubans cannot afford them?
What we now see on TV reports from Havana are the sad images of Cubans gawking through appliance stores that had been inaccessible to them and realizing that 21st century items are totally out of reach for 19th century wage earners.
Such is the "success" of the Cuban Revolution. Since the average Cuban earns 408 pesos ($17 U.S.) per month, what modern appliance can they afford to buy? What hotel room (starting at $60 per day) can they rent?
The only thing that has changed in Cuba is that the new Castro regime is trying to fool us into believing that things are actually changing there.
And it's not just Americans they want to fool. These so-called changes by Raul Castro are particularly meant to fool Cuban-Americans. After all, it is Cubans in exile who will supply the cash for their relatives to go shopping in Cuba.
While many Cuban-Americans call on the U.S. government to enforce the economic embargo against the island, many other Cuban-Americans are the first to break the embargo, by constantly traveling to Cuba and sending huge amounts of money to their relatives. It has been that way for years, and they are partially responsible for keeping the Cuban economy afloat and prolonging the life of the dictatorship.
What we are witnessing now is another gasp for air by the suffocating Castro brothers, a new technique for draining more money from Cuban-Americans, who will now visit Havana and invite their relatives to stay in fancy hotels and go shopping.
Such are the ironic contradictions of the Cuban Revolution: Among 11 million people, the only Cubans who can afford a decent living are the ones who have relatives who fled.
Nevertheless, U.S. government officials, and particularly presidential candidates, need to be aware that Cuba is seeking economic changes to save communism and its repression — and not to begin a peaceful transition toward democracy.
Although at least one presidential candidate — Sen. Barack Obama — has already said he would meet with Raul Castro "without preconditions," — showing troubling naivete — what our leaders need to do is stand firm for freedom in Cuba.
We cannot allow Cuba to turn into another trading partner such as China, a Communist country where the economy has been freed, but the people are still denied the most basic human rights.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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