I am proud of my President, Barack Obama for taking the first step towards mending the gaping wound between our country and our exotic small neighbor Cuba. It is a start, though small in light of all that has happened. It is too little, perhaps too late but it is something. There is a lot of work to be done to end the suffering we have caused for Latin American countries. Here are few of the things we could do immediately.
- End the embargo against Cuba.
- Close the School of Assassins also known as the School of the Americas or renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001. This is a school located in Fort Benning, Georgia. Latin American teachers in this training facility teach counter-insurgency, military intelligent and combat in Spanish to Latin American assassins and mercenaries. And all of it is funded by the United States. Some of its graduates includ the following Latin American dictators Manuel Noriega, Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri Castelli and Roberto Eduardo Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia.
- Set the record straight on the Bay of Pigs or La Batalla de Girón.
- We funded, trained, equipped and sent angry Cuban exiles on a clandestine mission to invade the South of Cuba. These exiles were the same men who supported the violent dictator Fulgencio Batista who violently terrorized his people before being driven out by Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries. The highly trained and armed exile mercenaries landed on a small beach, Playa Girón, erroneously believing they could easily take Cuba back by force if they entered through a small town instead of a big city like Havana. They thought they would gain support of the simple farming folk, also known as campesinos, since mostly they had been forgotten about by their own country before the revolution. However, the opposite happened. They were met with much opposition from the campesinos. These people who had long since been forgotten or relegated to the least importance in their country were now helping the revolutionaries build roads to and from their towns. They were given the opportunity to be educated and to educate others. Women and children were given freedom and responsibility but they were also given recognition and respect. The campesinos were finally involved in their country’s politics. They were actively helping to make their country a better place. They were treated like equals for the first time in perhaps their entire history. And thus, they wanted nothing more than to fight for their new found freedom and respect. The lifelong inequality they had faced was crumbling before them and they were not about to allow the same people who had kept them in such a position for so long return to power. It was not the military assistance from Russia or China that won this battle for Cuba, it was the people who had enough of political and military tyranny. We had no right to be a part of the Bay of Pigs let alone be the masterminds and financiers behind it.
- Repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act which unnecessarily entices Cuban immigrants to risk their own lives to get to the United States. We are building higher, thicker walls between here and Mexico—manning it with more and more armed people ready and willing to shoot—just to keep the illegal immigrants out of our country but we are all but inviting thousands of Cubans to trek the 90 miles of treachorous waters in unsafe floating devices all to spite the Cuban government? It is a political ploy to make Cuba look like the worst place to live. The Cuba of today is NOT the same as the Cuba of 1959 or 1961 or even 10 years ago. Why don’t we give the same treatment to the Haitians or Dominicans who risk their lives cross the sea to find refuge here from real political chaos? Furthermore, the Cuban Adjustment Act assists the ever-increasing human trafficking market by way of its allowing unrestricted access to the ‘poor’ Cubans who venture out into those waters. Most Cubans after the initial lot of exiles some 50 years ago leave not for political reasons but rather for financial ones. Lifting the embargo would do wonders to relieve the economic stresses it has created. (See #1)
We have harassed Cuba in so many ways for too long. It is time to stop, past time.
I can still remember the taxi driver I met in Cienfuegos whose eyes filled with tears at the thought of his brother who died at Playa Girón during the Bay of Pigs which happened almost 48 years ago (April 17-19th, 1961). I remember how despite losing his only brother in this senseless battle, he was extremely gracious and welcoming to me. He invited me to his house to meet his daughter and granddaughter. He gave me a tour of his beautiful home and told me the story of the days right after the revolution. He, like all the Cubans I encountered, were not resentful or bitter or rude but welcoming and hopeful that one day our countries could behave like good neighbors.
This week the suffering of the Cuban people is on my mind and I hope soon the United States will cease to be a continuous economic, emotional and political source of anguish. I believe Obama has a similar goal for our Caribbean neighbor but whether or not it is feasible for him to accomplish even the 3 things above, I simply do not know, but he can try. And a little effort goes a long way! Thanks again Obama for having the courage to do the right thing.