Thursday, May 8, 2008

President Bush on Cuba

President Bush gave a speech on Latin America yesterday and began with a discussion of Cuba.

In contrast to his last speech where he said we are seeing “the dying gasps of a failed regime” in Havana, the President was not triumphalist and did not even hint that the Cuban government’s hold on power is at risk.

Also in contrast to his last speech where he valued freedom over stability and seemed indifferent to the possibility of violent confrontation, yesterday he called on the Cuban government to “begin a process of peaceful democratic change.”

He dismissed recent changes in Cuba: “Cuba will not become a place of prosperity just by easing restrictions on the sale of products that the average Cuban cannot afford.” Fair enough.

And this: “Until there's a change of heart and a change of compassion, and a change of how the Cuban government treats its people, there’s no change at all.”

“No change at all?” I could understand “limited change.” Or “changes that are irrelevant to most Cubans.” Or “changes that do not affect the fundamental human rights situation.”

But this seems to be an effort to dismiss reality. Improved public transit, an end to “tourism apartheid,” sales of DVD players and computers, an end to cell phone restrictions, and especially the distribution of additional land to private farmers, are real changes, with real political impact inside Cuba.

President Bush placed Cuba outside “the community of civilized nations,” which is another step outside reality. It is simply ridiculous to suggest, as Cubans will surely take this statement, that the Cuban nation is not civilized. If the President meant that Cuba is isolated in international affairs, he is wrong on that too.

Without fanfare, the Raul Castro government is renovating its international relationships with nations large and small, whether we like it or not. The latest example involves the relationship with Mexico, which Fidel Castro blew up during the Vicente Fox presidency. The two governments normalized relations in March and are reportedly making progress toward a new migration agreement. This week, there was a meeting of Cuban and Mexican businesses in Havana, and Mexico opened a $21 million line of credit to jump-start trade.

Most intriguing was the President’s statement about his videoconference with dissidents the day before: “It reminded me about how much work the United States has to do to help the people in Cuba realize the blessings of liberty.”

In that conversation, President Bush was asked to ease restrictions on family visits and remittances. Which leads me to wonder – beyond moral and material support for the dissidents, does the “work the United States has to do” include listening to them?

11 comments:

Mambi_Watch said...

How tragic that this administration has listened more to hard-line exiles than to Cuban dissidents on the island. That is where the disconnect from reality lies, in my opinion.

Pres. Bush should follow his own advice and have a "change of heart and a change of compassion" towards what the leading dissidents are recommending now: policy change in US family travel and remittances.

I fear that if those calls go unheard by the US, the efforts of this unified Cuban democratic movement will be felt as a rejection, and doom future efforts for unity.

Anonymous said...

It drives me nuts every time Bush talks about Cuba. Its clear he is blatantly ignorant of the situation and I wish him and other supporters of the embargo would stop making blanket stereotypical generalizations.

In the end, its clear nothing will change before there is a new President, so his comments are basically moot.

Anonymous said...

Fidel, why don't you just shut up and get off the computer.

Anonymous said...

Bush is ignorant about tons of stuff.

the miami folk don't want to listen to real average cubans ...that would be too reality based

the folks who pull the strings in DC for us policy on cuba are not real cubans... hybrid apes they are (South FL. congressional body) - and way too white and ugly to be cubans anyway. Like the Diaz

rodri said...

freedom for family vists, NOW!

let us visit our grandmothers and fathers! the home of the free?

theCardinal said...

Here is what bugged me about the speech...Cuba received an inordinate amount of attention. It is neither the most pressing issue at the moment, the FTA with Colombia is, nor is it the biggest threat, that's Hugo if you can call him that, the most important partner, perhaps Mexico, or the rising star, Brazil. So why spend all that time talking about a puny island that even if liberated and converted to capitalism would be a puny market? Let us worry about the National Interest and not political interest.

Omar said...

The Miami hard-liners do want a change in Cuba but in their terms. That is, to take control over the island as they once had. Something different is almost meaningless for them. The point is not a democratic Cuba, but "our" democratic Cuba.
Bush loyalty is with this people. The definition of national interest of Bush is very narrow, old fashioned and extremely dangerous. Just take a look at The Project for a New American Century.
When Obama wins the presidency and send someone like Phil Peters as head of the US Interest Office in Havana, the relation between our countries will improve. Then, the so called Freedom that have been so far just a excuse to annihilate the Cuban Revolution and its impact all over the world, will transform into a sensible argument that we, the tribe of Cubans, will understand as a positive force to shape our destiny if practiced in the right degree.

Anonymous said...

c'mon Omar, let's get serious: "the control they once had"?

If you make the assumption that someone had to be at least 40 years old to have had wielded influence and "control" in pre-Castro Cuba, then that makes them around 90 years old today -- if they are even still alive. The idea that this cohort is the driving force behind U.S. policy -- to reclaim "the control they once had" -- is just plain silly. You need to update your talking points.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100 percent with Omar, nice analysis!

theCardinal said...

the hard liners speak for no one. I don't know why they are so feared. As long as someone doesn't thumb there nose at Cuban-Americans it would be possible to split the Cuban-American vote. Clinton did well the first time around. The Elian thing was handled wrong as extreme as the situation appeared to the outside world it galvanized Cubans in Miami who quickly adopted a "with us or against us" stand.

If you say Castro sucks and you want to bring freedom to Cuba that would be enough to peel away votes.

Omar said...

Anonymous at 12:38 PM. You are absolutely right about ages. But don't you think that the price is worth enough to nurture a group similarly interested in taking control of Cuba once again in the classical oligarchic way or to make a living about eternally, and unsuccessfully, trying to take control? There has been a niche created by the interest of the US to get rid of the Cuban Revolution. You could always find species to fill it. There is a lot of money in the game! Democracy? Come on! Curiously enough, the niche was filled by those who had everything and lost it all in 1959 (e.g. Rafael and Enrique)... or what amounts to the same, their offspring (e.g. Ileana, Mario and Lincoln). Just to mention the visible heads ... there could be a lot beneath. And to be honest, it has been also filled with people that has been unfairly hurt by the Revolution, and find some relieve in bitterness and revenge. Poor people. Really. I mean it. Whoever the group ready to play this game the purpose is very clear: humiliation, kill the example, economical subordination, just as before. The Master wants so, a lesson. I’m afraid it is too late. Reconciliation is a bad word. Freedom and democracy are just excuses. Hopefully, the landscape is changing and I just hope this time most of us, in Cuba and abroad will be benefited.
By the way, what is your point of view? Don’t you think, for example, that the embargo is a stupid thing?