News and Facts about Cuba

More tourists won’t change Cuba

More tourists won’t change Cuba
BY JAMES CASON

On Friday, Secretary John Kerry opens up the new U.S. Embassy in Havana.
Unfortunately, he shares many of the misconceptions advanced by former
Secretary Hillary Clinton at her recent speech at Florida International
.

Her incursion into the debate on U.S. Cuba policy could have been a
“teachable moment” had she been mindful of her academic audience and the
danger of ignoring the facts when trying to justify an abrupt reversal
of U.S. foreign policy. Instead she delivered another polemic on lifting
what remains of the U.S. .

Cubans, Clinton said, “want to buy our goods, read our books.” Yes, they
do, and for 10 years now Havana has bought annually hundreds of millions
of dollars of American foodstuffs on a cash-and-carry basis. As a former
chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, I can attest
that over the years, we distributed several hundred thousand copies of
the Universal Declaration of and tens of thousands of books
in an effort to break the iron censorship imposed by Castro’s communist
regime.

Promoting just as we did in Eastern Europe, our efforts included
shortwave radio broadcasts and distributing thousands of radio receivers.

The White House stood firmly behind American diplomats in Cuba. It did
not yield even when the regime expelled a foreign-service officer for
giving away copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Orwell’s book was
published years before Cuba’s Revolution, and is a quintessential
depiction of totalitarianism. Cubans readily grasp the context and,
ironically, it was Bill Clinton who initiated grants to
American NGOs to buy and distribute books and radios in the island.
President George W. Bush continued the initiative.

What would be “new” in the 21st Century would be for Raúl Castro to
repeal his book bans and cease his censorship, harassment, and
imprisonment of writers, broadcasters, readers, and listeners. Little
will change until the regime “normalizes” its relationship with its own
people by respecting human rights and earning their consent to be
governed by holding free elections.

More tourists won’t change Cuba. Millions of Spanish-speaking tourists
have visited Cuba and brought no change; neither will English-speaking
American tourists. In all my years in the Foreign Service, tourists
never became a major source of support for people struggling to attain
freedom. If tourists did have such influence, there would not have been
so many 20th-century Latin American dictators.

The administration’s “new” Cuba policy is a reversion to earlier eras —
before adoption of the Democratic Charter by the Organization of
American States — when the United States routinely sided with the
region’s dictators.

“Engagement” does not require acquiescing to dictators, and the issue
today is not “engagement” versus “no engagement.” The issue is: What
kind of engagement? Sadly, the administration has made numerous
concessions to Havana with no quid, pro quo in return.

In her speech, Clinton noted that President Bill Clinton ended his
efforts to “normalize” relations with Cuba when Raúl Castro’s MiGs
destroyed two small Cessnas flying in international airspace. Four men,
who were searching for refugees adrift in the Florida Straits, were
killed. At the time General Castro was Minister of the Armed Forces.

Mrs. Clinton suggested in her FIU speech that companies doing business
in Cuba will push for political reforms. Companies now doing business in
Cuba haven’t and don’t. American companies doing business in ,
Burma, and other totalitarian states typically become apologists for the
regimes — lest helping the victims of repression negatively impact their
businesses.

What is really needed is for the world’s democracies to condition their
economic and political engagement with Cuba to specific internal
reforms. That, would be a real new policy.

JAMES CASON IS MAYOR OF CORAL GABLES AND FORMER AMBASSADOR TO PARAGUAY.
FROM 2002-2005, HE SERVED AS CHIEF OF THE U.S. INTERESTS SECTION IN HAVANA.

Source: More tourists won’t change Cuba | Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article30959136.html

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