Thursday, March 23, 2006

Letter to Josh Moskowitz - Updated

Dear Mr. Moskowitz,

I have read your column in today's Badger Herald and disagree with you on several points, which I have highlighted below.

Upon learning of Cuba’s victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic’s semi-final, a sense of inescapable irony passed over me. Guaranteeing itself a spot in the championship game against Japan, Cuba had managed to not only handily defeat its foe on the field but emerge victorious over those hoping to foresee its demise off the field as well.

Prior to the first pitch of the much-anticipated Classic, the Treasury Department refused to allow Cuba to participate because of economic sanctions the United States has implemented against Communist Cuba over the last four decades. The government relented only when the Major League Baseball’s commissioner’s office and Players’ Association reached a deal with Cuba that would send all of its profits from the games to victims of Hurricane Katrina. In securing the deal, the government was assured that not a single dollar received by Cuba from the games would be granted to Fidel Castro’s regime.

Ironically, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in late August, Cuba graciously offered to send more than 1,000 doctors and 36 tons of medical supplies to various Southern communities. Cuban physicians have been internationally recognized as among the most experienced and qualified in emergency relief, chiefly due to the prevalence with which hurricanes hit Cuba.
The Communist Cuban government, just like those of other communist countries of the past and present, is very skilled at propaganda. The fact is that Cuba has thousands of doctors around the world conducting internationalist missions for propaganda reasons and that many rural Cuban clinics and hospitals are understaffed because of these initiatives. Where would Cuba get 36 tons of medical supplies when it doesn't have enough for its own people? In Cuba, when you go in for surgery you need to bring your own linens with you because there aren't any in the hospitals. When a medication is needed, the doctor writes a prescription and says "I hope you have relatives in Miami that will send it to you." If you don't believe me, be my guest in Miami and I will take you to the pharmacies where they proudly proclaim "We ship medicines to Cuba." If Cuba's "free" healthcare system is so great how do companies that ship medicine to individuals in Cuba stay in business?" If you take me up on my offer I will translate for you as you speak to the customers, many of which are recently arrived from Cuba themselves, so that you can ask them what the healthcare situation is really like in Cuba.
Largely indicative of its zero-tolerance policy towards its southern neighbor, the Bush administration refused to acknowledge Cuba’s selfless and generous act. Its silence spoke volumes, indicating the administration’s growing isolationist stance towards the communist country.
It's not the President's job to heap praise on a repressive regime that is listed on the State Department's list of terrorist nations. He shouldn't praise Cuba for finding a loophole in this country's policies so that it can have a cheap propaganda victory.
Hoping to secure the support of Florida’s estimated 833,000 Cuban American residents in 2000, most of whom ardently oppose Mr. Castro, President Bush publicly acknowledged his desire to step up enforcement of the Trading with the Enemy Act. The Act, which makes it illegal for U.S. visitors to spend money when traveling in Cuba, was rarely enforced prior to Mr. Bush’s first election victory.

Within Mr. Bush’s first year, the Treasury Department issued 766 civil penalties to travelers; in the last year of the Clinton administration, 188 fines were imposed. One individual, Cevin Allen, 56, scattered his missionary parents’ ashes at the Cuban church they helped found and was fined $7,500 upon his return to the United States. In another case, a number of medical students, unable to afford the exorbitant costs of U.S. medical schools, were forced to leave Cuba over fears that U.S. authorities would jail them, fine them thousands of dollars or revoke their citizenship for studying medicine on the island.
Sir, I thought the reason we elect our leaders is to have them implement the policies we want to see enacted. Cuban-Americans did not create our system of government, why should we be criticized for utilizing the same democratic institutions that have worked so well for other minority groups in our country? The fact that the Clinton administration did not enforce certain laws is more of an indictment of him than on Bush. Frankly Mr. Bush is office today because of Clinton's mishandling off the Elian Gonzalez controversy and his weak response to the shoot down of two Civilian aircraft over international waters. I don't think I need to remind you that the difference in the 2000 election was less than 500 votes in Florida. The mobilization of Cuban-Americans against the Democratic party, which has betrayed the Cuban people time and again starting with the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis and culminating with Elian, can not be underestimated. Mr. Bush like any smart politician knew who his core supporters were and kept the campaign promises that he made to them.
There is little doubt that Castro’s Cuba employs a state apparatus intent on eradicating dissent, property ownership or individualism. There is little doubt that Cuba remains an impoverished, isolated, totalitarian nation 40 years after its revolution demanded equality and justice for all.
You are correct, there is no doubt that any of the above is true.
There is also little doubt that American students and visitors would not be of great help in continuing to plant the seeds of reform and change many Cubans already share.
I have grave doubts about this. If every other country in the world including democracies like Canada and the United Kingdom have been sending students and visitors to Cuba for the past 15 years and still the conditions you mentioned above exist, then what makes American students and visitors different? Students that visit Cuba are given a tour of what is essentially a Hollywood back lot. They are taken to specific hospitals and clinics, they are shown certain buildings and museums, they are lectured by people who sound very reasonable and it's all a fraud. They won't tell you about, or God forbid let you visit with, Guillermo Fariñas who is presently on the 51st day of a hunger strike for the right uncensored information or Dr. Oscar Elisas Biscet a black physician who is in prison for the simple fact that he peacefully demanded human rights for the Cuban people. Your idea that somehow cultural exchange will change Cuba strikes me as naive, as if you truly don't understand the nature of totalitarian states.
While President Bush has eased restrictions on humanitarian assistance to Cuba by religious and non-governmental organizations, he must also come to see student travel to Cuba as a similar form of aid. With a foreign policy guided by the implementation of democracy abroad, Mr. Bush should urge American students to study abroad — sharing with their professors and classmates the foundations and precepts our government was built upon. American influence, in a country ripe for reform, would go a long way in fomenting democratic change when Mr. Castro finally perishes.
There is no exchange in these student exchange programs with Cuba. The information flows one way. American students would never be allowed to share ideas of democracy, civil and human rights with Cuban students. That's just not the way it works in Cuba. You need to understand that Castro is every bit as repressive is Kim Jong Il of North Korea except that he has a better publicist.

In 47 years almost every variable in and around Cuba has changed. There have been 10 US Presidents (some of which have tried to reach out to Castro), the USSR collapsed along with Eastern European communism, even China has embraced some market (if not political) reforms yet Cuba remains locked in a time warp. The one variable that has not changed is Fidel Castro. It's plainly obvious that change in Cuba will not occur as long as he is in power. Moderates and progressives in Cuba's ruling class have been squashed by Castro's efforts to reconsolidate his "Revolution". They know which way they need to steer there country once he's gone, they just need that opportunity.

And it's strong measures against Cuba and world solidarity with the Cuban people that will bring about the demise of Castro not student exchange programs. An exchange, by the way, would mean that Cuban students could come here and learn about our country but you know as well as I do that it will never happen.

In closing let me ask you this, did the despicable apartheid regime in South Africa end because of student and cultural exchange programs or was it because of international pressure and sanctions? None of the serious advocates of freedom for South Africa's Black majority would have been caught dead promoting tourism and cultural exchanges to that country. Why the double standard? I think it's because the liberal complex in the US (comprised of the media, the academics and the Democratic party) never met a left-wing dictator that it didn't like.

Henry L. Gomez

UPDATE: Val was kind enough to send me a link to one of his posts at where we see what these exchange "students" do on these trips. Thanks Val.

1 comment:

Val Prieto said...


All you had to do was send him this link:

Those college students sure do bust their asses in Cuba!