Fidel Castro has finally passed on at the age of 90, but his legacy lives on – the embargo that isolated his island nation for decades. I’ve thought for many years that the embargo on Cuba should be lifted. Yes, I know the reasons many have stated why it should not. Castro has been known for human rights violations, a communist dictatorship with an oppressive regime, thousands of political prisoners, and he had given political asylum to terrorists.
We’ve been holding our position for decades until Cuba changes into a more democratic government and ceases their oppression of the Cuban people. In order for this to occur, the people of Cuba would have to create a grassroots movement to demand that change. The problem, as I see it (as Joshua Stroud in his article in the EDN has so eloquently communicated) is that the Cuban people are stuck in time. How can we expect oppressed people to demand change if they are not exposed to the ideas and freedom we have?
In fact, I believe that this embargo worked in Fidel Castro’s favor. By holding Cubans in a condition of (more or less) a “prison island,” he ensured a firm hold on the population. That hold would have been far more difficult if our relations had been normalized. Over time, we have established relationships with other countries with oppressive governments and justified it for political and economic reasons. Yet we hold on to sanctions for our closest neighbor, Cuba, for decades as if it were a punishment for our defeat at the Bay of Pigs. I suppose we have no economic or political advantage to change the situation. The wealthy still procure cigars in spite of the illegality.
The situation reminds me of the story of the carrot and stick to try to get a mule to move. I can tell you from personal experience that using the stick on a mule’s flank wastes your time and annoys the mule. It only makes him more determined not to move. The carrot dangled in front of his face works far better (as opposed to an apple, sugar cube, etc.). As soon as he reaches for it, move it forward. The temptation will get the best of him, and he will follow.
If we were to allow Cubans to experience our culture and freedoms by allowing American tourists and businessmen to visit, they would soon see the carrot and demand change without our using any sticks.
I hope the recent steps taken toward improving our relationship with Cuba are a sign that we will finally lift the embargo entirely and shine the light of freedom on the Cuban people.
For a taste of Cuba through their country’s artists, enter “Guantanamera | Playing For Change | Song Around The World” in the search bar on YouTube’s website. Over seventy-five Cubans around the world join together to sing “Guantanamera.” The popular song is that country’s most patriotic, especially when using the poem by the Cuban poet José Martí for the lyrics. It is quite inspiring.