Opinion: Illusions of Cuba clash with reality
The Castro brothers are as bad as ever, but some U.S. politicians and government institutions want to give them a free pass. (Flickr: fotoscubahoy)
By EMILIO T. GONZALEZ
Of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates, Ron Paul’s foreign policy views really stand out. His libertarian “we love everybody” mentality is naïve at best and dangerous at worst. His Cuba policy is a perfect example.
Rep. Paul easily dismisses serious threats posed by Cuba’s communist dictatorship, which just hosted a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“It’s time to change. The Cold War is over. They’re not going to invade us and I just think that a better relationship and trade relationship,” he said at a recent presidential debate in Florida. “I think the people have changed their mind … I don’t think they see a Jihadist under the bed every night.”
Sadly, he is not alone.
A few weeks ago I received invitations to travel to Cuba by two venerable institutions; the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution. Both offered friendly “People-to-People” tours in accordance with U.S. Department of the Treasury regulations. One tour even offered to take their participants to the site of the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Relations was outraged and rightfully condemned these trips. Chairman Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.) of the House Committee on Administration promised an investigation to find out why the Smithsonian Institution, a tax-payer funded organization, would schedule tours of a country listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the Department of State.
But my dilemma clearly served to highlight that after 50-plus years of dictatorial rule in Cuba, some of our more prestigious institutions and politicians continue to see Cuba as something it’s not.
There is nothing that can be said about the Castro dictatorship that they cannot explain away or ignore outright. Somehow, when it comes to Cuba, normal rational and well-educated people tend to give this particular dictatorship a pass. People who are otherwise horrified at what the Kim’s totalitarian rule has done to North Korea or how China has ravaged and occupied Tibet, think that it is trendy to be seen in Castro’s Cuba.
The saddest part about all of this is that few nations in the past 50 years have been as virulently anti-U.S. and anti-democracy as Cuba. The gerontocracy ruling the island today is, with few exceptions, the same people that came to power in January 1959. This is the same government that:
- Trafficked drugs into the United States.
- Imprisons, executes, and exiles political opponents; real or perceived.
- Does not allow independent trade unions, education, or political parties.
- Forced LGBT people, priests, and other “anti-social” elements into concentration camp-style work brigades.
- Harasses and physically attacks the “Ladies in White” and other peaceful pro-human rights advocates.
- Prostitutes its women and young girls to tourists for foreign exchange.
- Harbors cop-killers from the United States as well as IRA and Basque terrorists.
- Support nations that export terrorism throughout the world.
- Sent operatives to Vietnam to torture American POWs.
- Pressed the Soviets to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. in the early 1960s.
This could be a very long list. Cuba’s allies are any and all anti-U.S. regimes found around the world, in addition to a few Democratic congressmen in Washington D.C. So, in spite of the mountains of evidence showing that the Castro brothers oversee an undemocratic regime that subjugates, kills, prostitutes, and starves its people, why would anyone think that Cuba is worthy of an excursion? Did they really think that they could conduct real “people-to-people” exchanges in a police state?
Given the circumstances, I have to assume that the Smithsonian and National Geographic Society are also planning tours of other outlaw nations to include North Korea, Myanmar and Iran. Perhaps a lunch on women’s issues with the Taliban or workshops on religious tolerance with al Qaeda are in order. Why not? They hate democracy just as much as Fidel and Raul Castro. Shouldn’t they be worthy of such eminent exposure?
These attempts at making totalitarianism acceptable makes the sponsors look silly; stupid if you will. The organizers of these trips embarrassed themselves by wanting to appear chic by following the latest travel trends.
I’m sure that the Castro brothers are laughing at them right now for being so gullible.
Emilio T. Gonzalez is a Republican business consultant and a commentator for Univision. He served as Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council in the George W. Bush White House and later served as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.