GREED VS. EMBARGO
by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
The recent corporate collapses and scandals in the U.S. business community have exposed the evils of greed when it becomes the basis for decision making. Greed is certainly a bad advisor as it tramples the moral and ethical principles on which America was founded.
Greed and illusory dreams of profits were the foundations of the July 23, 2002 vote, 262 to 167, in the Republican-led House of Representatives in favor of easing the economic embargo against the Castro regime and letting American tourists visit Cuba.
For some time now, Castro has been able to buy goods from the U.S. on a cash-only basis -- no credit. But the legislation passed by the House will allow Castro to buy on credit.
In 1986 he began suspending all payments of his international debt. Debt to governments and debt to businesses. Since he is the only businessman in Cuba, he can do that. As a result, many countries have withdrawn their permission for him to buy on credit. Absolutely nothing has happened to suggest that he has changed his tune an will now begin to take his debts seriously. So, for the U.S. to now begin to sell to his regime on credit it is an abysmal mistake.
Cuba’s Foreign Debt
"Cuba’s Foreign Debt" released on August 19, 2002 by the Cuba Transition Project (distributed by La Voz de Cuba Libre), offers an accounting as of the end of 2001: owed to the European Union, $10.893 billion; to the former Eastern Europe, $2.2 billion; to the former Soviet Union, $25 billion; to England, $196 million; to Japan, $1.7 billion; to China, $400 million; to Argentina, $1.58 billion; to Mexico, $380 million; to Venezuela, $142 million; to Canada, $73 million; to Chile, $20 million and to South Africa, $85 million.
From the same report, "Cuba's foreign debt owed to numerous countries remains unpaid. The Castro regime lacks the resources to even pay interest on these obligations. Several European governments are now refusing to provide further export credit to Cuba. According to a Reuters report on July 6, 2002, ‘the island is notorious for paying its debts late . . . and public and private creditors report that the situation has grown much worse in recent months.’ As The Economist noted in May 2001, ‘France, Italy and South Africa have recently cut off further credit to Cuba, in a bid to claw back some of what they are owed.’"
I am willing to say it out loud. If the U.S. government allows farmers to extend credit to Cuba, and, true to form, Cuba doesn’t pay, the U.S. government will be obligated to save the U.S. farmers who (seemingly) put their trust in the U.S. government by extending the credit. I say "seemingly" because, now that I’ve said it out loud, the U.S. farmers know the dangers of selling to Cuba on credit.
Once the U.S. government pays Castro’s debts for him, then our tax money will be used to support a tyranny. Isn’t there a little moral issue here?
But greed is very powerful. And apparently our businessmen and farmers don’t care about who would eventually be paying, as long as they make their profits. Our politicians, supposedly, must protect the interests of their constituency, who are taxpayers and who will eventually be faced with the bill for the irresponsibility of this small but powerful special interest group.
Soon in Congress and with the help of the well-financed pro-Castro lobby on Capitol Hill, politicians will try to pass, and probably will with flying colors, another similar action in favor of easing the U.S. embargo, giving another victory to the old and now "untouchable" tyrant-for-life of Cuba. That victory will be one more defeat for the Cuban people since it will prolong their suffering.
But there are no moral principles driving our businessmen’s greed. Just look at China, where, thanks to American businessmen, it has become more powerful and threatening to the U.S. than ever and the three decades of "engagement" has not brought the oppressed Chinese people any closer to democracy.
Castro’s ‘Engagement’ With the World
Usually unmentioned during times of "I know, let’s lift the embargo!" the U.S. embargo says nothing about Cuba’s trade with the rest of the world. Has his "engagement" with the rest of the world made him change his political posture, improve human rights or the living conditions for the Cuban people? Obviously not. Any benefit Cuba gains from the engagements are for Castro, not the people.
Has international business engagement brought a change in Castro’s intentions about the future of Cuba? Obviously not, as he continues with his tired, old "Socialism or death!," which Cubans on the island changed to "Socialism is death!"
So, where is the logic in the argument that lifting the U.S. embargo, giving his regime credit and flooding his bankrupt economy with U.S. tourist dollars will encourage him to mend his ways?
The fallacious engagement theory that Castro’s apologists, supporters and lobbyists on Capitol Hill, accompanied by the greedy U.S. business community, have been using to justify their despicable actions, is that it will bring change and improve the living conditions in Cuba. Also the naïve concept that exposing Cubans to American tourists will bring new ideas and will foster a tilt toward democracy, is simply unrealistic.
Cuba is an apartheid society where ordinary Cubans are not allowed in the tourist areas - except as servants and security agents to keep tourists under control and separated from the rest of the population. Ordinary Cubans are penalized for mingling with tourists.
Cubans are painfully aware who has been helped by "engagement". The ventures with foreign companies are all administered by the armed forces and the secret police. The payoff is only for Castro – keeping him in power and repressing the people. Ordinary Cuban citizens are not allowed to enter into partnerships with foreigners.
The Cubans who work in these international businesses are aware that these foreign companies pay salaries in U.S. dollars to Castro and he in turn pays them a very small fraction in worthless Cuban pesos. They are aware that as workers for these foreign companies, they have no bargaining rights. They are aware of the differences between the opportunities of foreigners and those of the ordinary natives – thus their hatred for the resulting apartheid.
This whole process sets up a hatred for the foreign exploiters, because the ordinary Cubans are not only taken advantage of by Castro but by the international business community.
Canadians, Mexicans, Spaniards and other Europeans are vacationing in Castroland and having the audacity to buy vacation places there while Cubans are risking their lives – 85,876 deaths so far - trying to escape from that "foreigners-only paradise."
And apparently the greed extends to U.S. businessmen, swamping the moral issues of the welfare of the expendable little Cubans.
The ‘Politically Correct’ Mantra
Many U.S. businessmen keep trying to join the herd of profiteers by pressuring the Bush administration to change U.S. policy toward Cuba. The efforts of the pro-Castro lobby in the U.S. have been to convince politicians, and the American people - with the full collaboration of the U.S. media and academia - that lifting the embargo against Castro will foster change in Cuba toward democracy.
That has become the "politically correct" mantra, while "politically correctly" maligning, censoring and discrediting the Cuban Americans that oppose the lifting of the U.S. embargo.
This heavily orchestrated campaign has succeeded to thoroughly misinform the American people to a point that they have become insensitive to the Cuban tragedy. And Americans traveling illegally to Cuba through third countries has become "chic." And to encourage this illegality, Castro’s immigration officials do not stamp their U.S. passports.
I often think how ironic it is for the Americans to want to visit a country where 90% of the enslaved population wants to get the hell out of there. The happy-go-lucky vacationers seem to have no problem with being served by the slaves.
American politicians have also fallen victim to the fad, as they have become an staple in Castro’s anti-embargo propaganda ploy. The politician currently garnering favorable publicity by participating in this parade of fools is Minnesota Wrestler-Governor, Jesse Ventura, who plans to be in Havana from September 26-30 and met with Castro, of course.
In his elected position, Gov. Ventura, as well as other visiting U.S. politicians, must know that Cuba is a virulent anti-America terrorist country that for 43 years has been waging a covert war against the U.S. Cuba remains a threat to our national security. Castro’s Cuba is a training ground for terrorists and allied in international terrorism directed against the U.S. Castro’s Cuba is not a friendly nation.
It should be considered un-American and unpatriotic to visit there, much less to lend an economic hand, a platform and an opportunity for the tyrant to trash the U.S. once more. There are a lot of reasons not to visit Cuba.
After 43 years of the most brutal tyranny in Cuba’s history as well as in the Americas, it seems that the drive should be for the continuation of a policy based on moral principles and scruples against a criminal and illegitimate regime that has raped the Cuban people of their right to live with freedom and dignity.
Sadly, the Europeans and others have shown to be totally insensitive to the Cuban tragedy and behave without principles and scruples in their dealings with the Castro regime. But I believe that America is different and we should not descend to those levels. We must not act like them.
"Disinvestment" was the right moral principle for the international business community in the case of South Africa. Why do the opposite for Cuba?
Demanding a unilateral change of policy from the U.S. without demanding that Castro and communism must go from Cuba is hypocritical and a crime against the suffering Cuban people. Lifting the U.S. embargo is not the answer; disinvestment is the moral thing to do.
By exploiting the situation in Cuba because of greed, the U.S. business community becomes a collaborator and partner in Castro’s crimes.
Cubans are crying for an end to their misery and are not going to forget and forgive those who collaborated with their oppressor.
The people who love freedom and democracy in the U.S. should want the same for Cuba. They should urge all those politicians responding to the pressures of the pro-Castro lobby on Capitol Hill and greedy U.S. businessmen yearning for the imaginary profits promised by the propaganda machinery of a bankrupt regime, to stop their immoral drive and instead help by disinvesting in Cuba to help get rid of the last tyranny in the Americas.
Agustín Blázquez, Producer/Director of the documentaries: COVERING CUBA, COVERING CUBA 2: The New Generation & the upcoming COVERING CUBA 3: Elian.
Author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator, with
Jaums Sutton, of the upcoming book by Luis Grave de Peralta
Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra