Now that Cuba has been removed from the doghouse that is the terror-sponsoring country list, maybe it is time to concentrate on what is preventing us from moving full speed ahead in normalizing our relationship with Cuba, while trying, for a change, to have some kind of salutary impact on Cuban society.
I have been invited to panels, seminars and conferences of all kind focused on the “new” OFAC rules, the things U.S. individuals and businesses can now legally do in Cuba, the effect of the removal of Cuba from the aforementioned list, and so on. My answer to that kind of invitation remains the same: as long as the restrictive Helms-Burton, Toricelli and other laws remain in effect, I can only speculate as to what I or a client of mine can safely do without falling into some of the many traps these obscure and poorly drafted laws, rules and regulations create.
So why bother? The first thing we Americans need to do is free ourselves (and Cuba) from this rigmarole of nonsense, and THEN we can intelligently discuss and decide what we want to do regarding Cuba.
The hand brake that seems to be firmly stuck, keeping us in park mode, is the strong will and sentiment — which I respect even in disagreement — of many in the Cuban-American community who refuse to yield to reality, including the collective or national interests of the United States. It is becoming ever more evident that many of my Cuban neighbors in Miami are simply incapable of overcoming the old attitudes, emotions and thinking patterns that keep them living through an endless nightmare (plainly justified in many cases by their terribly painful personal experiences). This leaves no room for adjusting to a new scheme of things, a new process, that will rule the relationship between Cuba and the United States from now on (unless someone in the island makes a new foolish mistake).
The latest link in our long chain of frustrations (with expectations for an imminent “Final Hour of Castro”, with the “betrayal” of other Latin American nations, with the OAS, with the UN, with the Vatican, etc., etc.) seems to be Alan Gross’ avowed purpose of working for a better relationship between Cuba and his country. For the presumptive “leaders” of our exile community — whose arguments often sound like little more than unimaginative talking points illiberally provided to them from a single source or oracle (the latest a comparison between Mr. Gross’ denture and that of the Cuban spies exchanged for him last December) — it is impossible to understand Mr. Gross’ new vocation.
Many of these proud carriers of the anti-Castro banner speak from a staunchly conservative position that includes perceiving humanity as if we all had an exclusively economic nature, which leads them to think Alan can only be acting out of self-interest, as a paid operative, because their model human being cannot be but a “self-interested homo economicus”. They are so blind to reality that they fail to see that their pernicious (and capricious) take on human nature should, of necessity, apply to them too.
If Gross can only be doing what he is doing because of money, what else but money could be behind the persistence of these “leaders” of the Cuban exile community in the United States in keeping their old postures. These barren postures, such as drafting laws that put cruise ships docking in Cuba and airplanes overflying confiscated properties in the island under quarantine, are anchored in the ridiculous pretense that they can be effective when over half a century of trying is proof that they are not.
Most of these anti-Castro lobbyists, politicians, “Cubanologists”, and so many other “experts”, who fill the Miami airwaves, endlessly talking about what is going on in Cuba without having set foot in the island in decades, still lecture at the international relations committees of both Houses of Congress as if their Cuban ancestry was enough for them to see and assess Cuban reality from afar.
It should be noted that Alan Gross made several trips to Cuba before he was jailed there, and he probably knows the real, present-day Cuba and its people a lot better than many of our Cuban patriots in Miami who ardently argue for freedom in an island some of them even profess not to belong to anymore, so different they see it (and its people) from the one they left behind many years ago. They remain adamantly convinced that their own second (or third) hand opinions, based on what they are told by their elders and others, are more valid than those of someone like Gross.
I can understand how painful some of the decisions the U.S. government has made since Dec. 17 must be to many of my fellow Cubans in exile. Some dear friends of mine had a parent put to death by the Cuban revolutionaries many years ago. I cannot but deeply respect their pain, a pain I can hardly ever come close to experience the way they must experience it every day (every hour) of their lives. But I still believe that our collective priority, as Cubans, must be to focus not on the past but on the Cuban baby born in Cuba TODAY, a baby who, as in the case with over 70% of those living in the island, was born after the episodes that are the source of that deep pain many Cubans feel, and cannot be held liable for what happened back then.
Some of those who speak the loudest on behalf of Cuba’s “freedom” proclaim themselves “libertarians”, besides conservatives, and yet they remain adamant in their support of the U.S. blockade or embargo as a way to punish Cuba (a friend and colleague of mine began calling it “blobargo” years ago, so as not to offend anyone and avoid re-engaging in one of the eternal debates between Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits). Even if more than 90% of those living in Cuba want the embargo gone right away, these disciples of Ayn Rand who dread the state’s intervention in the decisions individuals have a right to make, justify — believe it or not — the punishment inflicted for years by the United States on its citizens by preventing them from freely traveling to Cuba if they so desire, and on its businesses by banning U.S. investment and trade with the island.
As so many others in our confusing 21st Century society, these self-proclaimed libertarians want to have it both ways. The impact of these “leaders” of the anti-Castro crusade among us in South Florida is such that Ron Magill, the communications director for Miami Metro Zoo, had to travel to Cuba to see for himself that it was not true that hungry Cubans were eating the animals kept in the Havana Zoo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdLEfYrKoI4
The only avenue left for Cuban exiles who really want to have an impact on the changes happening in Cuba today, is that of injecting ourselves in the process of re-engagement between Cuba and the United States, while we work steadily to FREE CUBA FROM AMERICAN POLITICS. If what it takes is to charter planes to carry our “leaders” to Cuba, then let’s do it, because chances are that many of them will see and feel what Ron Magill so eloquently tells us he saw and felt while visiting the island.
José Manuel Pallí is president of Miami-based World Wide Title. He can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.