As José Martí so eloquently put it over 100 years ago: "TO GAZE IDLY AT A CRIME IS TO COMMIT IT."
"TO GAZE IDLY AT A CRIME IS TO COMMIT IT."
"The Price of Homelessness. The Price of Liberty"
Poignant Article regarding the Cuban-American Exile's situation, penned by Jorge Benitez Sagol.
Mr. Benitez Sagol is the author of "Dear Uncle Sam".
May 5, 2000
The history of the Cuban people changed dramatically on Saturday, April 22, 2000. On that fateful day in Miami, the government of the United States of America, the wealthiest and most powerful country on Earth, achieved what 41 years of Cuban dictatorship could not, it taught us, the Cuban American exile community, to stand up for ourselves. Whatever illusions we held about our relationship to this country were shattered in a few minutes; and at that moment, an entire generation, raised or even born in exile, realized the futility of assimilation and became fully Cuban and Latin American.
The kidnapping of Elián González by agents of the Naturalization and Immigration Service goes beyond a simple and superficial act of collaboration between an unprincipled American president and a fascist regime. In fact, no conspiracy theory can explain the profound hatred which numerous American politicians, intellectuals and journalists have expressed toward Cuban Americans over the past weeks. It would require a book to fully analyze such anti-Cuban sentiments.
However, it can be briefly said that our current situation shares common elements with historical precedents such as the expulsion of the Spanish Jews in 1492, an ironic date given the fact that it coincides with the discovery of Cuba by Christopher Columbus. In many respects we, the Cubans of the diaspora, have become the new Sephardic Jews. We too are homeless, and we must be fully aware that the difference between an immigrant and an exile is very simple. An immigrant can always return to his country. An exile has nowhere to go.
Furthermore, we must analyze the words and lies which have been used against us by such individuals as Maxine Waters, José Serrano, Charles Rangel, Jesse Jackson Jr., Barney Frank, Patrick Leahy, Christopher Dodd, Janet Reno, George Stephanopoulous, Dan Rather, Daniel Schorr and a host of other “influential” Americans. They describe us as wealthy, aristocratic, racist, ethnocentric, clannish, dishonest, corrupt, criminal and ungrateful.
They refer to Miami as a banana republic and to the exile community as a Mafia. They claim that we have no respect for the rule of law and that we have too much political power for such a small minority. They dismiss our achievements and our contributions to American society as irrelevant and when they run out of hate speech, they declare that our suffering is a propagandistic invention based on an irrational hatred of a government which, in their view, has been beneficial to Cuba. If we oppose the regime, then we are hardliners. If we approve, then we are moderates.
None of this should come as a surprise. After all, for 41 years the American intelligentsia has refused to acknowledge that the Cuban government constitutes one of the most abusive, oppressive and corrupt regimes in the world. Whenever we mention the tortures and executions which routinely occur on the island, we are laughed at as neurotics who cannot appreciate the so-called achievements of the revolution.
Many American opinions about Cubans result from ignorance and provincialism. Unfortunately, the views often held by some Americans in positions of authority are the result of anti-Cuban hatred and a general contempt for Latin Americans.
If Elián's kidnapping were purely the result of a cynical agreement between Washington and Havana, then at least it could be understood in political terms. But Bill Clinton's and Janet Reno's actions, approved by American public opinion and the Republican Party's silence, go well beyond politics.
The crime which was committed against Elián signals the beginning of a long-term ethnic cleansing, a subtle and elegant ethnic cleansing through which we will cease to exist as citizens without being killed or Physically hurt in any way. We will simply become nonpersons. The message could not be clearer: The Cubans are a nuisance, and it is time for them to go away. Yes, we still have allies in the United States, honorable, decent Americans who believe in the priciples upon which this great republic was founded. Their voices, however, can not compete with the mercenary wishes of a decadent and arrogant majority that is willing to sell its soul for higher stock dividends and earnings made at the expense of Chinese political prison labor and Latin American sweatshop workers.
Yes, the Constitution still functions. But we must never forget that the rule of law is no guarantee against tyranny, especially in a country which legally placed Japanese Americans in concentration camps and legally denied African-Americans the most fundamental rights of full citizenship.
The United States is a marvelous country, but it also has a history of perfectly legal abuses permitted under a malleable constitution subject to the whims and caprices of nine judges who reflect the biases of the president and senators who appointed them for life. It is a fickle system which we Cubans can neither trust nor take for granted.
In view of this unpleasant reality, what are our options? Well, we only have one, the liberation and recovery of our homeland. But how can we achieve something seemingly impossible, especially when the odds are against us? The solution is relatively simple but emotionally difficult and painful. Bishop Pedro Meurice of Santiago de Cuba sums up our existential dilemma with one phrase: It is not easy. No, it’s not easy, but it must be done.
For decades we have believed in the myth of the regime's invincibility without realizing how fragile it actually is. The Cuban government survives largely because of a generous subsidy from the exile community. This clearly indicates that we, the exiles, could determine the fate of the island's dictatorship. The diaspora has replaced the Soviet Union as Cuba's welfare agency.
Unfortunately, what we sentimentally view as humanitarian aid serves only to prolong the suffering of the Cuban people while stuffing the pockets of the pro-Castro Cuban Americans who act as brokers. The suffering of our loved ones demands that we cut all economic aid to Cuba. Cuba's courageous dissidents have repeatedly begged us to stop sending dollars to the island. They argue that without the nearly one billion dollars which we send to Cuba annually the regime will face an economic crisis that could bring about its collapse. Furthermore, the dissidents clearly explain that money from the exile community helps finance the corruption that permits the aristocratic life style of the highest ranking members of the government.
These gangsters, the nucleus of Castro's Mafia, earn enormous profits from the dollar only stores where Cubans have access to foreign goods. It is an intolerably unjust situation fueled by well intentioned exiles. In a very real sense, our dollars finance the persecution of our countrymen, because without such funds, the regime would not have the spare cash necessary for its crimes.
Our dollars finance the tortures and executions. Our dollars finance the internal terrorism that keeps our countrymen in a state of constant fear, disease and hunger. Our dollars finance the spread of AIDS on the island. Our dollars finance the alcoholism and drug abuse which are killing Cuba's youth. Our dollars finance the horrible despair that contributes to Cuba's suicide rate, one of the highest in the world. Our dollars finance a Cuban war machine that spreads instability, terror and death throughout Latin America. Our dollars finance the systematic destruction of one of the most beautiful countries on this planet. American business interests, the same interests which shamelessly overlook China's crimes, now look hungrily toward Cuba. American companies, such as Archer Daniels Midland, relish the prospect of exploiting cheap Cuban labor by negotiating business deals with the regime. These firms enjoy both Republican and Democratic support for lifting the embargo.
If the United States lifts the embargo, then Cuba will become nothing more than a plantation for Castro and his American capitalist partners. The exile community will be shut out of the island while dissent will continue to be stifled through persecution, torture and execution. Is this what we want? Do we really want to condemn our fellow Cubans to slavery?
The lifting of the embargo will also facilitate the regime's eventual access to loans from the World Bank. Loans made without social or political demands will allow the government to follow the example of African dictators and demagogues who borrow money for the purchase of weapons with which to terrorize their own people. Loans, which are ostensibly made to end poverty, actually finance the political ambitions of dictatorial thugs. Is this what we want for Cuba?
The choice is ours. We can cut off all money to the island and accelerate the regime's collapse, or we can continue to finance oppression under the mistaken belief that we are helping our relatives. If we really love our relatives, then we must end all financial aid and all travel to the island. We can not expect foreigners to maintain an embargo which we are not willing to enforce. Furthermore, our long-term survival may well depend on Cuba's liberation.
Our welcome in the United States may not last much longer. How long will our presence be tolerated? How long will we be allowed to live freely? Will Elián's fate eventually become ours also? How many more Cubans must continue to drown seeking freedom? How many more Cuban children will be returned to face the horrors of Cuban psychiatry?
Without our country we are nothing. It is time to reclaim Cuba for all Cubans everywhere. Let us close our purses, wallets and checkbooks. Let us end this 41 year nightmare forever. Let us make Cuba free.
"VIVA CUBA LIBRE Y SOBERANA"