Thursday, April 24, 2008

Things We Could Do to Help Make Cuba Libre

The Wall Street Journal
April 24, 2008

We do not know if Raul Castro's recent liberalization moves are the beginning, middle or end of the Cuban reform process ("The Meaning of Raul's 'Reforms,'" by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Americas, April 21). We do know, however, that U.S. policy toward Cuba is not helping.

Cubans are openly discussing alternatives to almost 50 years of communism while the U.S. continues to block any possible interchange of people and ideas.

Why not start by lifting the travel ban to Cuba for family members as long as Cuba lifts travel restrictions for its own citizens? The latter is likely to happen anyway, so why doesn't the U.S. join the reform process?

Perhaps we can also negotiate lifting restrictions on family remittances to the island. This will have the desirous effect of making Cubans less dependent on their government and thus more likely to speak up.

Relaxing restrictions on Cuba will provide greater oxygen to those on the island demanding change. It's time to end our failed Cuba policies and help Cubans build a better society.

Ignacio Sosa
Managing Partner
Globalis Investments LLC

Having visited Cuba in 2004 as part of a group bringing medical supplies, I have to agree with José Azel in regards to "leaving the generals and their heirs as the nouveau riche devoid of a democratic culture."

The basic name of the game in Cuba is who has the dollars -- certainly not the people on the street. While I personally never felt threatened or sensed I was being watched, those who were our guides played by the rules and sang the song.

As your article mentions, locals were not allowed in our hotels. Our medical supplies, which I thought would actually be distributed directly to clinics in need, were instead dropped off at a medical supply depot in Havana and doled out to those who had the dollars to pay. One of the clinics we visited, out in the countryside, was in such a state that personally I'd prefer to avoid any medical care. The lab had extremely antiquated and dirty equipment, and the so-called ER was nothing more than a cot and a cart with some everyday medical supplies.

I was told that the major health issues facing many consisted of depression and severe alcoholism -- which certainly wasn't surprising based on what I saw.

An interesting aside was our flight back home, which by the way had to be through Canada. Once the flight was in the air the crew announced a raffle. Each passenger was asked to put a $1 (U.S. or Canadian) plus their boarding pass in a hat passed around by the stewardess. After all was collected, a few names were called and they were the winners of bottles of Cuban rum. The dollars were then shared by all the Cubana Air crew.

I certainly would like to see Cuba become a free country, but I fear that's not going to happen for a very long time. When you remove an individual's dreams and take away any hope for the future, you've literally performed a social lobotomy.

Patti Hepburn
Shorewood, Wis.

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