Scholars and artists unite against Cuba policy

by E Wayne Ross on April 29, 2006

Progreso Weekly: Scholars and artists unite against Cuba policy

[Editorís Note: What follows is an initial statement of Cuban-American scholars, artists and intellectuals from throughout the U.S. who have come together under one umbrella which will be known as ENCASA to fight against current U.S. policy toward Cuba. To date, more than 45 individuals have already signed on from all corners of the country. They include a steering committee made up of MarÌa Isabel Alfonso and Lillian Manzor (University of Miami); Marta Caminero-Santangelo (University of Kansas); Max Castro (Independent Scholar); MarÌa Cristina GarcÌa (Cornell University); Liz Cerejido, Guillermo Grenier and Lisandro PÈrez (Florida International University); FÈlix Masud-Piloto (DePaul University); RubÈn G. Rumbaut (University of California, Irvine); and Silvia Wilhelm (Executive Director, Puentes Cubanos).]

ENCASA / U.S.-CUBA

Emergency Network of Cuban American Scholars and Artists for Change in U.S.-Cuba Policy

We are a group of Cuban American scholars and artists who have coalesced as a network of U.S. citizens opposed to current U.S. policy toward Cuba. We are committed to promoting reasoned debate in the public arena, to countering the stereotype of a monolithic Cuban-American community, to challenging the disproportionate influence of an unrepresentative sector out of touch with U.S. public opinion, and to help bring about an end to a failed policy that defies all sound principles for conducting foreign affairs.

By any measure, U.S. policy toward Cuba has been singularly unsuccessful for almost half a century. It has been a political and moral failure. The U.S.
embargo inflicts economic hardship on the Cuban people while denying opportunities to American farmers and business. Harsh travel restrictions infringe on the rights of American citizens and contribute to the trauma of separation of Cuban families. Laws intended to isolate Cuba internationally instead have alienated the U.S. from the rest of the world, especially its closest neighbors in this hemisphere, while earning the Cuban government sympathy and solidarity.

Time and again, from the Bay of Pigs to the Helms-Burton law, the policy of regime changeóin place since the Eisenhower administrationóhas backfired.
Increasingly, hard-line U.S. policies have done nothing but reinforce hard-line tendencies on the island. The Bush administration has taken this policy to an even more extreme level by adopting the 2004 Report to the
President: Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rt/cuba/). This singular track record of failure points to the need for a fundamentally different approach toward Cuba.

As U.S. citizens, we call for a new U.S. policy toward Cuba consistent with U.S. principles and ideals. Restrictions which bar U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba, and which are not applied to any other nation in the world, curtail our fundamental freedoms. These restrictions pose an additional and inhumane hardship on Cuban families already suffering from often traumatic separations, as demonstrated by a recent Human Rights Watch report (ìFamilies Torn Apart: The High Cost of U.S. and Cuban Travel Restrictions,î http://hrw.org/reports/2005/cuba1005/).

New regulations on travel by Cuban-Americans to visit their families in Cuba restrict family visits to once every three years, providing no exception for medical and other emergencies. The restrictions also radically and absurdly redefine “family” in a way that excludes cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Such redefinitions are not in line with widely-held understandings of “familyî, especially in the context of Cuban cultural practices, and undermine and disregard the emotional and psychological importance of family ties.

New limitations in the number and dollar value of shipments to family members of such basic necessities as medicines and medical supplies, as well as the elimination of packages containing clothing, toilet paper, soap, and other basic necessities, are cruel and counter to humanitarian principles.
We insist that family values must include the freedom to visit and to send vital necessities to our families.

The tightened restrictions on travel also curtail the freedom of American citizens to pursue programs of cultural and educational exchange in Cuba.
The value of scholarly study about Cuba, as well as the right of U.S.
citizens to pursue such study, is seriously undermined, and the ideal of the free exchange of ideas is profoundly diminished. Further, the possibilities of contacts and exchanges of a religious and humanitarian nature between U.S. citizens and Cubans are seriously restricted. These limitations on the basic freedoms of U.S. citizens are unacceptable.

The Cuban nation has a long and proud record of struggle for self determination and defense of its sovereignty. For more than 500 years, Cubans have rejected and defeated colonialism, military interventions and foreign influences. The policy embraced by the Bush administration and spelled out in the 2004 Commission Report ignores and misreads Cuban history. Moreover, the policy attempts to negate the Cuban peopleís right to self determination and sovereignty by implying that the U.S. should have a major role in determining Cubaís future. Cubaís present and future must be determined by the Cuban people, not by the United States.

Just as we condemn U.S. policy over the last 47 years and the restrictions and violations of basic freedoms and rights in Cuba over the same period, we lament the climate of intolerance that exists in our own community. The only beneficiaries of this culture of intransigence are certain enterprises, politicians, and media personalities who have built careers and fortunes manipulating the pain of our community. Those who practice persecution or who use their money and influence to silence those in the Cuban American community who dissent from a false monolithic consensus undermine democracy and human rights here and in the homeland.

While Cuban American academics and public intellectualsóartists, writers, academics, philosophers, scientists, legal scholars and othersóhave at times played significant roles in efforts to change U.S.-Cuba policy as individuals, to date there has been no concerted participation of this sector of our community in the struggle to end an unjust and irrational approach toward Cuba. In Cuban history, intellectuals repeatedly acted as moral agents and catalysts for change. In the United States today, intellectuals continually come together to speak out on important causes, providing a moral compass to their society.

Drawing from those noble traditions of civic participation in both Cuba and the United Statesóand with a great sense of urgencyówe have organized ourselves to voice our outrage at a policy that is inhumane, unjust, ill-conceived, hypocritical, and contrary to American ideals. For too long, this debate has been dominated by one sector of our community. We are determined that no longer will others in our community speak for us as they continue to insist on taking this country down a misguided path that has served neither the best interests of the United States nor those of the Cuban people.

Copyright 2006© Progreso Weekly, Inc.

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