A few months ago, when Fidel handed over many of his titles to his brother Raul, the Cuban regime announced a series of so-called "reforms." For example, Cubans are now allowed to purchase mobile phones and DVD players and computers. And they've been told that they will be able to purchase toasters and other basic appliances in 2010.
If the Cuban regime is serious about improving life for the Cuban people, it will take steps necessary to make these changes meaningful. Now that the Cuban people can be trusted with mobile phones, they should also be trusted to speak freely in public. (Applause.) Now that the Cuban people are allowed to purchase DVD players, they should also be allowed to watch movies and documentaries produced by Cuban artists who are free to express themselves. (Applause.) Now that the Cuban people have open access to computers, they should also have open access to the Internet. (Applause.) And now that the Cuban people will be allowed to have toasters in two years, they should stop needing to worry about whether they will have bread today. (Applause.)
There is another problem with the regime's recent announcements: It is the height of hypocrisy to claim credit for permitting Cubans to own products that virtually none of them can afford. For the regime's actions to have any impact, they must be accompanied by major economic reforms that open up Cuba's inefficient state-run markets, to give families real choices about what they buy, and institute a free enterprise system that allows ordinary people to benefit from their talents and their hard work. Only when Cubans have an economy that makes prosperity possible will these announcements lead to any real improvements in their daily lives.
No word yet on whether noted egotist Barack Obama has interpreted any of these remarks as an attack on him, but McCain went ahead and attacked him explicitly for good measure:
Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba. When asked in a questionnaire about his policy toward Cuba, he answered: “I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene.” Now Senator Obama has shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba’s dictators – there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy. I believe we should give hope to the Cuban people, not to the Castro regime.The Obama campaign responded inadequately:
The director of the U.S. Cuba Democracy Pact is proud to be a hard-liner on this day:
The Obama campaign quickly sent out a response from Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, both supporters with foreign policy experience, who argued the country needed a change from a Bush administration approach that had for much of the past seven years frowned upon dialogue with certain adversaries, though it has more recently shown signs of shifting.
“John McCain needs to explain why continuing to do exactly what George Bush has done will somehow produce a different result,” Mr. Dodd said.
The State Department invites us to stand in solidarity with those who are political prisoners in Cuba:
Garrison concluded: "With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost." It is inarguable that after Fidel Castro took control of Cuba, his tyranny trampled the fundamental human rights of the people of Cuba. Today the Cuban people do not have the benefit of free press that Garrison and Douglass placed at the service of the abolitionist cause. Neither do the Cuban people have the ability to somewhat gather as America's Founding Fathers did to debate the form of government and rally popular support for independence. Yet Cubans share the same goal and desire for freedom and political rights.
Americans of all origins should find it fair and easy to conclude that not only are Cuban Americans uncompromising "hard-liners" on the issues of freedom and full emancipation of Cuba but also that there is no reason to back away from that hard line. It is, after all, a most American tradition.
For that dialogue to be meaningful, he (Thomas Shannon of the State Department) said, "the fear factor really has to be removed from Cuban political discourse, and that one of the most dramatic ways to begin this process would be by freeing political prisoners and for the Cuban regime to make clear that it has enough confidence in itself and enough confidence in the Cuban people that it can begin a dialogue without using the secret police and the security services as a moderator of political discourse."
With that in mind, said Shannon, Cuba Solidarity Day aims "to call for the freedom of political prisoners, to call for full compliance with human rights accords that Cuba has signed," with the most recent accord being U.N. covenants on political and civil rights.