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The Plight of Cuba

Time for a change in U.S. policy toward this troubled island nation.


by S.E. Shepherd
March 24, 2001

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The Plight of Cuba_S.E. Shepherd-Time for a change in U.S. policy toward this troubled island nation. Cuba is probably the oddest country in our hemisphere. Stuck in the 1950’s, with its crumbling buildings and barely running jalopies, Cuba is quite literally the land that time forgot. Fidel Castro is still their leader and Ernest Hemingway is still their adopted hero; probably the only American they freely embrace. The recent spectacle of Elian Gonzalez has brought this island nation once more into our conscious; the question is how long will Cuba survive?

Before Castro’s reign, Cuba was another tropical playground for America’s elite. American companies exploited Cuba’s resources, and a dictator ran Cuba. Castro’s revolution in 1959 was initially welcomed by the Cuban people, and Castro is still seen as a hero in many parts of Central and South America, because he is one of the few leaders of the southern hemisphere that stood up to the big bad imperialist United States. While Cuba’s economy has suffered as a result, Cuba remains a sore spot to those that still think of South America as the United States backyard.

It is time to stop looking at Cuba as an enemy. Seen as a communist threat for decades, Cuba has lost the backing of the former Soviet Union, and is now a country falling into disrepair. Many Americans, especially immigrants from Cuba, would like to see Castro overthrown before the U.S. lifts its embargoes, but Castro is too well entrenched, even in his late seventies. Besides, embargoes rarely work against the leaders of a nation; it is those that are poor and weak in the nation that suffer most. Instead, America should lift its embargoes and build Cuba back up. Not in the imperialistic way of the fifties and before, but through actual fair trade to boost Cuba’s economy. Perhaps when the embargoes are lifted and Cuba’s economy still stalls, then its people will see the true tyranny of Castro.

However, sending in too much American influence too quickly would confirm Castro and Castro supporters’ worst fears. Cuba should not become another island resort like Aruba, and Jamaica, nor should it become a commonwealth like Puerto Rico. To completely “modernize” Cuba would be to throw away some of its special heritage. Yet, to let Cuba continue to rot is a disservice to that country, and the rest of the world as well. Cuba has great potential for tourism, but should never become a tourist attraction.

Cuba is a unique country, proudly standing on its own for many years. It is, to a degree, a living museum, with its shrines to Hemingway, and its streets full with old American automobiles. In many ways, the old cars represent Cuba today, full of past glory, crumbling; yet surviving. The Cuban people have suffered enough. Maybe the U.S. Government will wait until Castro finally steps down, but by then it may be too late. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was finally torn down, hailing the end of the Cold War, and giving former Soviet Bloc countries a chance to rebuild. It is time we ended embargoes and do the same for Cuba.

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