The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Press Conference

It will be interesting to see what finally happens this week in both houses of the US Congress as they debate on The Cuba Reconciliation Act ((H.R. 188)) and the Cuba Travel Act ((S.428)). Indeed, perhaps we'll even be able to gauge just how much attitudes and policy towards Cuba and Cubans have changed in the past 111 years, that is, since 1898. Will Congress decide to once again invade and occupy Cuba, as in 1898, but this time with millions of tourists? Will they again decide to support a tyrant, as they regrettably did with Batista? Or will they support the return of the legitimate democracy Cubans had between 1940 and 1952?

Surely some of those who will engage in debate are saving ammunition for the live event but today's Freedom to Travel to Cuba Press Conference (video below) provided clips of the type of spurious arguments we might expect.

One congressman kept repeating that the US should stop 'punishing US citizens'. Punishing US citizens? Of course, while that has not been the intent, it's been the effect. One citizen was prohibited from going bike riding in Cuba. My heart bleeds for her. The poor thing didn't realize there have been over 2 million Cubans exiled in 50 years, tens of thousands estimated to have died at sea trying to escape anything resembling the bike path she wanted to ride, thousands executed with hardly a trial, hundreds in prison for standing up for the same rights the US Bill of Rights happens to protect (let alone the Cuban Constitution trampled upon by back to back tyrants, the first of which was supported by the US while the second, these congressmen wish could be). Surely Joan the bikerider did not watch yesterday as the suddenly generous tyranny (undoubtedly driven by the pending vote by the US Congress) allowed an unprecedented 1 minute of free speech to each of 10 protesters wanting to speak to the tourist crowd surrounded by State Security. Yes, 1 whole minute of the same free speech you have and for the first time in their lifetimes, but not on Cuba's streets. Surely she is not aware that concurrent to this event, 5 other Cuban dissidents were (and remain) under siege in their own house by State Security; or that they aren't permitted to obtain nutrients to continue their liquid fast, begun in February to reclaim their crushed human rights. But perhaps she is aware and the congressmen are too.

How can someone be so perversely selfish to argue that the one being punished is the American who is not allowed to ride her bike in this country which, with US cooperation, has been under the siege of one tyrant since 1952, and without it of another since 1959? What does she and the Congressmen want? That the US begin cooperating with the Castro tyranny just as it did with Batista? It sure didn't work then. Why should it work now?

The cynical charade staged by these US Congressmen didn't end here; it only got worst.

Next we heard about the American punished for traveling to Cuba to distribute bibles. This Joan may remind you of those that claimed that God perhaps willed the Iraq invasion to get rid of those WMDs that were never found. Why didn't she send bibles by international mail like others? Why didn't she try donating them to a US Christian church so they could distribute it through their Cuban affiliate? Did she finally send them (good!) or did she scream? No Fidel, suit yourselves, then no bibles!

Then the pro-Cuba-travel-rights warriors lament over the picture of a Cuban American Iraq veteran who was prohibited from visiting his dying father. Wait. Wasn't it agreed upon last week that Cuban Americans wouldn't be penalized for traveling to Cuba? In addition, couldn't he, since he also holds Cuban citizenship, have gone through Mexico or any other country?

They then continue with the heart breaking story of still another Cuban American, a nostalgic father who wants his US son to visit his country of birth. Surely he has that right but why did he leave? Have any of the reasons changed? In any case,why shouldn't his son be able to go now given the new budget legislation passed last week?

No, no pictures, audio or video of AntĂșnez and 4 dissidents whose home is under siege right now or of political prisoners and protesters were shown. That's enemy propaganda.

Instead they decided to insult the intelligence of US citizens, including Cuban Americans by arguing that US tourists are the ones who are going to bring significant democratic change to Cuba and quickly. What exactly are these tourists going to do? Have a talk with Fidel with a picture of the Statue of Liberty hanging from their necks? Or perhaps all of those bike rides will do it one way or another? Yes, the pain will soon be over for those Cuban protesters and political prisoners. Just wait until the American tourists arrive with their cameras asking for autographs. Too bad the 2 million or so Canadian, Spaniards, European and Latin American tourists didn't think of that first.

The litany could not end without begging for our sympathy for those humanitarian exchange groups. Like the ones in Berkeley perhaps? I recall once attempting to support a free speech protest in Berkeley only to be kicked out by one activist lecturing me that it was 'for progressives only' and another much older one assuring me that free speech was meant only for Marxists. Now, what is it they want to go to Cuba to exchange?

Finally they treated us to their best blow: Castro doesn't want the US to lift the embargo. Nope. The truth of the matter is he doesn't want Americans travelling to Cuba and providing him with $3-10 billion dollars annually. So let's use reverse psychology. Let's call his bluff. Let's give him those billions of dollars and the tourists too. Americans: will we teach him a lesson he'll never forget.

Send this post to your congressman. Standing up for the human rights of Cubans is standing for the rights of all. Don't buy the double standard they are peddling. Do unto others as you would want them to do onto you.

Here's the video. Enjoy if you can.

Tomorrow I'll try to respond to the China objection and perhaps more. Please stay tuned.


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