Unsurprisingly, the new business arrangements sometimes include propaganda help, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on April 15: ?Joining the bandwagon of trade with Cuba, Philadelphia port and state agriculture officials are scheduled to fly to Havana next week to sign commitments for up to $10 million in exports to Cuba. ? Cuba, in return, will ask the Pennsylvania delegation to go back home and ?promote? full trade and normalized relations with Cuba -- a request that the delegation leader said he accepted.?
That?s too much for U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.), who has proposed a tax on companies that lobby against the embargo in return for Cuban import rights: "For anybody to do it as a condition of a contract is, in my mind, fundamentally wrong." That should also be too much for the Bush administration, which could show in this realm as in Iraq that commercial interests don?t overrule the traditional American commitment to helping the oppressed gain freedom.
U.S. political leaders should listen to the leaders of genuine faith-based groups in Cuba. I recently spent five days there listening to the views of religious leaders. Not one leader of any church group independent from the government called for an end to the embargo, for ?full trade and normalized relations with Cuba.? Not one asked for more food to be imported, or even more milk or medicine, if the imports would be under governmental control.
The best way to help the oppressed of Cuba is neither a big liberal opening nor a big conservative squeeze (combined with a corporate hug). The compassionate conservative way is to push for openings that will help the poor without bulwarking the Castro regime: The provision of material help should work alongside the future liberation of Cuba, not run counter to that hope. Individual Americans can circumvent the regime's controls by bring independent Cuban church groups up to 120 pounds of milk or medicine, along with books and laptop computers. In my next column, I?ll give specifics on how to do that.