Friday, June 01, 2007

Regarding "Rethinking Cuba - Taking Off Those Miami Sunglasses May Help Clear Up the Picture"

In respone to Laura Wayne's recently published piece on Cuba, Gary Cunningham writes that "Cuba is a beautiful island with beautiful heritage and people surrounded by a fence of socialism making it the largest prison in the world and people like Laura Wayne help perpetuate this condition." The full text of that response and Laura Wayne's rebutal is printed below:

The article "Rethinking Cuba" written by Laura Wayne was certainly inspirational. It has caused me to ponder the question: What is worse?,Miami sunglasses or the myopia of an ideological agenda. She certainly debunked the claim by C.O.H.A as being nonpartisan.

I'm sure this article is already in print in Gramma for distribution to all Cubans as further proof that the "Great Satan of The North" is the cause of all the ills of the Cuban populace. Therein lies a somewhat amusing irony. Had Laura Wayne written an article critical of the government of Cuba while living there, she would now be facing 15 to 20 years in prison. The utopian socialist system she painted does not tolorate any independent thought outside the circle of approved ideology. I do agree with her, however, on one point that the embargo has been counter-productive. It has been used as a crutch by the dictatorship to remain in power by deflecting any criticisim of it's failed policies, political and economic oppression. Other than that, the embargo is ineffective. I have bought Coca-Cola and several other American products there, seen new Ford trucks, a bus made in Georgia, and can rent the latest released American movies. These products are funneled through other countries. Concerning medicines, Laura Wayne is factualy wrong. Food and medicines are exempt from embargo controls and as far as Cuba having to pay higher prices for medicines in Europe and Asia, wrong again! Being connected to the medical industry, I know medicines can be purchased 40% to 60% cheaper in Europe and Asia than in the United States. ie:Americans purchase billions of dollars in medicines from Canada yearly. Canada by the way, is the largest trading partner of Cuba. She was also correct that the Cuban universities do produce a large crop of good medical doctors. I say crop because Castro uses the doctors as a commodity to loan to other countries in exchange for political equity and further proof that his communist dictatorship is a social success. There is a high defection rate among these doctors because after their two year sabatical they return to a system that guarantees them $ 40 a month in pay. I know several doctors there who moonlight as auto mechanics and musicians in order to feed their families.

Hundreds of millions of American dollars are sent to Cuba each year to friends and families and has been instrumental in keeping many families from starving in this so called social paradise. Outside of Haiti, Cuba has the lowest caloric intake in this hemisphere. Also, a recently implemented policy now forbids the use U.S. currency. The money now has to be taken to a Cuban government bank and exchanged for a newly printed Cuban currency at a loss of 20% as an exchange fee.
Outside of citing several incorrect facts, her omissions of reality are the telling story here. She was so intent on pushing the social progressive agenda she forgot to tell us about the things she can do in an open society that a Cuban cannot do in theirs.
1. Write an aticle critical of the government 2. Enter a hotel or tourist location without working there 3. Use the worldwide internet 4. Own or pocess a book or any written or recored material that is not approved by the communist party.5. Complain publicly about any grievence. 6.Travel freely at any time in country. 7. Travel internationally. 8.Own title to any property . 9. Engage in a personal business of any kind (to name a few).
Cuba is a beautiful island with beautiful heritage and people surrounded by the fence of socialism making it the largest prision in the world and people like Laura Wayne help perpetuate this condition.

Sincerely ,

Gary Cunningham


Dear Gary,

I would like to thank you for pointing out that medical supplies, in fact, have been exempt from the embargo as of 2000 and have revised my article for clarity and accuracy. However, the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of that year has not satisfactorily resolved access to medical supplies. Currently, bureaucratic restrictions continue to lead to delays, cost increases and limited access to certain medications. Are you aware that it can take up to a year (sufficient time for the patient to die) for an American citizen to be granted a license from the U.S. government to ship medical supplies to Cuba? Do not forget that Cuba is forbidden from using its own merchant fleet for such shipments and must pay to make use of vessels from foreign countries. As for importing medicines from Europe or Asia, when you factor in the cost of shipping medicines from these more distant locations, they are far from “40% to 60% cheaper” as you suggest.

I am surprised you would call the embargo ineffective; surely this is not based on the fact that you were able to find American movies and Coke products while you were there. Since I (as a Canadian scholar) have been there as well, let us both agree that these are not exactly the essentials that the international community wishes to see reach the island shores. Of real concern is the fact that spare parts to run farm machines, as well as computer equipment essential to technological innovation and efficiency in hospitals, are still prohibited for sale to Cuba under the “ineffective” embargo. Where it has been futile is in changing the Cuban political system or bettering life on the island. The policies of the U.S. government may be incredibly embarrassing to you, but denying their negative consequences is certainly of no benefit to Cubans for whom the penalties are a daily burdensome reality.

I am not sure why you are so indignant that Cuba now has its own currency. Imagine having to go to a “government bank” to exchange your money while traveling in another country! That certainly is an inconvenience, but it is not one unique to Cuba. Your continued denigration of all things Cuban reveals a shortcoming in objectively evaluating the situation. This is apparent in your denouncement of medical cooperation between Cuba and other nations. The “crop” of Cuban doctors is credited for restoring the eyesight of over 400,000 Venezuelans in return for much needed oil in Cuba. I fail to see the evil side to this operation; doctors who work abroad are allowed to keep a portion of the funds they earn and will be in a position of advantage upon returning to the island.

You cite a few inaccuracies yourself. Cuba does not have the second lowest caloric intake in the hemisphere; in fact, obesity is on the rise in Cuba and is of great concern to health officials there. It is untrue that Cubans are forbidden from using the Internet, as is it false that they may not engage in a personal business. You should look into the casa particulares and private paladares that have helped many Cubans earn additional income. Those running them pay a fixed amount to the government every month to maintain a business permit. Profits earned on top of that are theirs to keep with no limit as to how much can be earned. Having lived in one such casa for three months, I can attest to the income potential that these private businesses introduce.

There are more than enough skeptics willing to bash Cuba from every angle. Is it too much to ask for you to merely tolerate, let alone consider another perspective? For offering constructive observations that differ from the typical exile’s political agenda, I have been labeled a communist, a racist pig, and now, accused by you of perpetuating a prison. I agree that there are human rights issues in Cuba that need to be addressed, but before we can tackle that, change needs to start at home. Until the U.S. can acknowledge the callousness of its Cuba strategy, they stand on shaky ground when pointing to malice across the Florida Straits.


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