What good will lifting sanctions do if it’s unable to breach the apartheid system built from Castro’s legacy?
By: Spyridon Mitsotakis | November 29, 2016
In March of 2014, I spent two weeks in working-class areas of Cuba. I went as a visitor, but was not a tourist. I wanted to see communism for myself — and it was all I feared it to be.
About a year later, with Obama administration’s embrace of the Castro brothers, I wrote at Brietbart.com about a Cuban worker who explained to me that while they hear endlessly from the government about the “American embargo against Cuba,” the real problem is the “internal embargo” — the embargo that the government elite has imposed on the Cuban people to keep them from participating in the economies of the elite and the outside world.
What good will lifting the restrictions do if it is unable to breach the apartheid system the Cuban government has built between itself and the Cuban people?
With help from some statistical data from my dear friend Frances Martel, I wrote about what I saw: a glimpse into the way people live after 55 years of the Castro brothers’ rule. With the death of Fidel, I feel that what I wrote bears repeating:
The internal embargo is so complete that, not only is there physical separation from the elites, but there is even a separate currency. The Cuban people use the Cuban Peso (CUP), whereas the government elite and the tourists use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The CUC is worth 25 times the value of the CUP, and the nation’s tourist areas, luxury restaurants, and other attractions for foreigners will not accept Cuban pesos, effectively keeping the native population out.
In the cities, the people live in squalor, while the elites look down on them from balconies like feudal overlords or prison guards. In the countryside, the people must travel to work on foot (often barefoot) or in hot crowded buses where nothing but the engine is working and have to endure military checkpoints, almost as if they lived under a foreign occupation. The only successful part of the Cuban economy—the tourism sector—is off limits to ordinary Cubans. There is literally a wall separating the Cuban people from the beaches, where the (mostly Canadian) tourists have the white sand all to themselves. On the other side of the wall, the people have nothing.
There were even separate medical facilities. The clinics for foreigners were absolutely pristine. I did not get to visit a clinic or hospital for the Cuban people, but the conditions were indicated to me by a nurse who asked if we had extra bed sheets to spare, because they were dealing with an outbreak of cholera (a disease that had not been seen in Cuba for over a century).
To clarify some things concerning America’s long-time trade restrictions (or “the embargo”), I pointed out the Obama administration (in the person of Susan Rice) response to one of the routine outbursts from the Cuban delegation at the UN in 2009:
“I must address two significant distortions in the Cuban position. First, my delegation (U.S.) regrets that the delegation from Cuba continues to label inappropriately and incorrectly U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba as an act of genocide … Second, it is erroneous to charge that U.S. sanctions are the cause of deprivation among the Cuban people. The U.S. maintains no restriction on humanitarian aid to Cuba. In fact, the U.S. is a major source of humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people and the largest provider of food to Cuba.”
I asked the question, which I will ask again: “What good will lifting the restrictions do if it is unable to breach the apartheid system the Cuban government has built between itself and the Cuban people?”
Then, earlier this year, when Obama visited Cuba, Mark Levin showed his LevinTV audience an ugly little doll he bought in the 1970s while on a short bus tour in East Berlin. It prompted me to reflect on another experience I had in Cuba:
The landscape of the tropical island is undeniably beautiful, with it’s [sic] palm trees and other plant life. But the landscape was blotted by what looked like slabs of concrete with windows – the lifeless grey buildings that characterize communist architecture.
I made it a point to visit one of these complexes, and through some arranging I was able to accompany someone to see a family who lived in such a building. There were about 6 people living in the small, toilet paper-less (ever wonder what those who live in unfree societies do with their “free” government propaganda newspapers?) apartment, including 2 little girls probably no older than 7. The adults wanted to know what it was like to have freedom, but these girls were curious about something else. They wanted to know from this American guest about their favorite thing in the world – Disney movies.
I found myself, in broken Spanish, trying to explain to these 2 little girls the themes of “Frozen”. It is primarily a story about the power of love and family, but there is more to it than that. It is also about the injustice of having to flee your home and leave everything you have and everyone you love behind because of something beyond your control. These girls will someday learn of how that hard decision was faced by so many of their fellow Cubans who fled into exile, and by the desperate parents of 14,000 children who were secretly airlifted to the United States so that they could live a better life – an event now known as Operation Pedro Pan.
Shortly after I was first published at Conservative Review, I let my frustration get the better of me when discussing liberals’ refusal to take the problems of spending more than you have seriously. Normally I try not to write when I’m in a bad mood, but I didn’t stop myself this time. The result was this comment:
Perhaps statist propaganda can construe the hardships of bankruptcy as a virtue, like the Nicaraguan communist Sandinista “priest” Ernesto Cardenal telling Cubans: “I also am fond of scarcity: I am a monk. I hope you will never have too much abundance.” But in reality, there is nothing good about it. I saw for myself during my 2014 trip to working class areas of Cuba what it looks like not to have enough food or medicine to go around; I brought a Cuban ration card back to the United States with me as a reminder.
Now, however, I would like to add one more experience I had to the record. One of the things I wanted to do while I was in Cuba was visit the Bay of Pigs. For years I’ve had to listen to those brave men of Brigade 2506 be smeared, when in reality Cuba would be a much better place had they succeeded.
So I went, and after visiting the government’s propaganda museum to see their “victory of socialism” version of the event (trust me, the Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami is much more interesting), I went to the beach where the freedom fighters of Brigade 2506 landed, and left a message in the sand. It is the message you see in the photo I took before leaving: LIBRE.