It?s time to end our embargo with Cuba


Cuban children playing baseball:Children playing baseball on a street in Havana, Cuba.:McClatchy Tribune

David Loret de Mola

I am a first-generation Cuban-American. My father, Enrique Fausto Loret de Mola, was there to see Fidel Castro take over his home country. He heard the gunfire, the troops of Fulgencio Batista, the dictator of Cuba at the time, fleeing his hometown of Camaguey one night. By morning, Fidel had taken over the area. About two years later in 1961, my father was flown to Florida by the United States government. He was 10 years old. It was part of the Catholic Church’s cooperation with the American government. They called it “Operation Pedro Pan.” Thousands of children were brought to America. It was during a time just before relations between our two countries had taken a turn for the worse – just before America put forth a trade embargo that pushed the Cuban economy to ruins. Originally, the embargo had been a statement made by our government in protest of Cuban cooperation with Soviet Russia. Access to Cuba had remained highly restricted until President Barack Obama came into office. Recently, Obama began allowing Americans to visit the island, provided they have family in the country. At a news conference April 16 in Mexico City, Obama said this ease on travel restrictions was a first step toward restoring good faith between Cuba and America. “A relationship that has been frozen for 50 years is not going to thaw overnight,” Obama said. “Having taken the first step, I think it’s very much in our interest to see if Cuba is also ready to change.” The goal of our government is to change Cuba from being communist into a more democratic nation. We are trying to impose our governmental structure – which, given our economy, clearly has its own problems. And to those who would say the imposition of democracy could only help the country, look at Russia. Even after democracy was put in place, Russia is still suffering. My father worked there in the 1990s, after the Cold War ended. He saw how people had stripped buildings bare of anything metallic and sold the stolen scrap metal to buy food. This is why the embargo is wrong. We are forcing an imperfect government onto a smaller country; a form of government that cannot guarantee prosperity for the country. “I’ve always believed that (the embargo was wrong), since I was young,” he said. “It always kept me at odds with other Cubans who thought it would hasten Fidel’s fall.” But it only has given Fidel and Raul Castro – the current dictator – an excuse for their country’s failing economy. They never have to blame communism for their poor state of affairs.And if we hate the idea of communism enough to throw an entire island of people into destitution, then I have one question. Why are we doing business with China? It’s hypocritical to be against communism, and yet pick-and-choose the communist countries with which we do business.Perhaps we still are bitter about Cuba turning to Soviet Russia during the Cold War. You know, almost 50 years ago. Why do we seem to have so much contempt for this little island? In a lot of ways, Cuba already has exactly what America is pushing toward. Cuban citizens all have a right to health care and education, should they choose to get it. But both of these have taken cuts because the country is running out of money. Fareed Zakaria, columnist for Newsweek and host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN, wrote that our 45-year struggle with Cuba has not even accomplished its basic goal of causing change in Cuba. “Instead, Fidel Castro is now the longest-lived head of government in the world,” Zakaria said. “Every tightening of the Cuban embargo has resulted in further repression and isolation.” I know it is strange for me to be so enamored with a culture I have never experienced, since this is a country I have only seen in documentaries and photographs. And I will admit that I have over-romanticized my father’s homeland.But I know that lifting this embargo would help this country get back some of the wealth it has lost. Traiga libertad a mi Cuba; bring liberty to my Cuba. End this embargo.

David Loret de Mola can be reached at [email protected]