the tables on Jeb
Karen Lee Wald email@example.com
September 2, 2002
Re: Jeb Bush's letter to Jesse Ventura
It would be
so easy to take Governor Jeb Bush's words about Cuba
and turn them around. It might give many Americans pause for thought.
Here's an example:
Bush told Governor Ventura that:
Cuba hurts Cuban workers, dissidents ".
Well, what about OUR workers and
average Americans, dissidents or not?
it has become politically popular for U.S. elected officials to travel to Cuba.
could say instead:
some time now, it has been politically popular to bash Cuba, forbid trade and
travel to that country, and do everything possible to make life difficult for
its citizens, while at the same time gloating over their difficulties and
blaming them on Cuba's socialist form of government. This not only hurts Cubans,
it hurts US citizens as well.
we should never forget that the people of Cuba don't share the same basic
freedoms and rights that the residents of Florida and Minnesota enjoy. The
reason: Fidel Castro denies them the opportunity to exercise the unalienable
rights that we have come to take for granted in America
although we are generally not allowed to go to Cuba to see for ourselves, we
should never forget that the people of the United States don't share the same
basic freedoms and rights that the citizens of Cuba enjoy. The reason, the US
system of government denies them the opportunity to exercise the unalienable
rights that all Cubans have come to take for granted since their 1959
revolution: the right to high quality health care, education at all levels,
guaranteed housing (at a maximum of 10% of your income), an adequate nutritional
level, access to affordable sports and cultural events, and guaranteed
employment (with full pay during lay-offs). Granted, some of the food and
housing are the "no frills" variety; but on the other hand, no one is
left out, and no one is made to feel humiliated by having to apply to a
demeaning "welfare" system to access these rights, since it is
understood that they are paid for by the labor of all working people.
against government policies, fighting for what you believe, or attempting to
change the established order to create a better society will make you an
''independent'' or ''maverick'' in the United States. In Cuba, you become a
''dissenter'' and an ''enemy of the revolution'' and are summarily thrown in
out against US government policies, fighting for what you believe, or attempting
to change the established order to create a better society is likely to get you
labeled as a "terrorist" in today's political climate. So will
belonging to any non-Judeo-Christian religion, having dark skin, long hair,
beard, or wearing a turban. Once thrown in jail, you will have absolutely no
rights, since most of the key elements of our Constitution and its Bill of
Rights were thrown out after September 11, 2001 (just as they were thrown out in
Chile, after September 11, 1973, when the US-supported Pinochet dictatorship
took over, by the way.)
As a strong
supporter of worker rights, you should be aware of the abysmal conditions that
hard-working Cubans must endure. For example, when foreign companies use Cuban
laborers, the companies pay the Castro government in dollars or other hard
currency, but the workers are paid in near-worthless pesos. In effect, Castro
skims off the top and leaves the workers with a tiny fraction of what is
rightfully theirs. He uses the difference to finance his oppressive regime and
ensure its continued existence.
the US has had a long history of workers' struggles, you should be aware of the
abysmal conditions hard-working Americans must still endure; no one can ignore
the hundreds of thousands of workers who are regularly being left jobless as
their companies "down-size" (move to other areas or countries where
salaries are lower and health and retirement benefits non-existent). Even
workers organized in unions are having trouble maintaining their salaries and
benefits, while CEO salaries soar to such levels that their great great
grandchildren would have trouble spending it all....In effect, the CEOs skim off
the top and leave the workers with a tiny fraction of what is rightfully theirs.
They use a portion of their profits to buy elections, making sure that the
elected officials of this country are ones who will maintain this regime that is
so oppressive to working people.
in Cuba, ask about the Varela Project, a petition initiative -- legal under the
Cuban Constitution -- that calls for a referendum on open elections, freedom of
speech, protection from state-sponsored political retribution and the
establishment of free enterprise.
in Washington, ask about the Bill of Rights. It's what the Founding Fathers
tacked onto our Constitution to make sure citizens had certain fundamental
rights (such as free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of worship, the right
to a trial by jury, the right to be presumed innocent until convicted, the right
counsel, the right of habeas corpus....) New generations may grow up without
ever knowing that Americans once enjoyed these rights and took them for granted.
One would think that this government, especially in Florida, would hesitate to
even mention elections, given how the last ones were conducted, but while there,
you might suggest they look at the Cuban model of free elections -- where free
actually means it costs nothing to run, anyone can be nominated, and the victor
is never the one with the biggest financial treasure chest. Where elections are
not multiparty, or single party (as is often mistakenly projected) but
NON-partisan -- no one can run as a member of a party because all elected
officials are expected to serve all of the people. (That's how we elect judges
in many states, by the way, and for the same reason. That they are expected to
be above petty party politics.)
The initiative is led by the
courageous Oswaldo PayŠ SardiŮas, who is being honored by the National
Democratic Institute with its 2002 Democracy Award. The award is scheduled to be
presented to PayŠ in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30. So far, he has not been
granted a visa from the Cuban government to travel to the United States. Ask
every Cuban official you meet, including Castro, when PayŠ can expect to
receive his visa.
Hold on there.
We were just told a few paragraphs ago that political
"dissenters" in Cuba are considered "enemies of the revolution
and summarily thrown in jail". So why is Mr. Paya able to hold press
conferences to advocate overturning his country's system of government? Are we
to understand that denial of an all-expense- paid trip to Washington DC to
receive an award for doing so is a punishment on a par, say, with the torture,
disappearances and summary executions that affected hundreds of thousands of
Latin Americans who suffered under regimes our government never saw fit to
topple or even embargo? (Sadly, our government's turning a blind-eye to such
horrendous abuses is not limited to Latin America, nor did it end at the turn of
[...] The current
business state of affairs in Cuba has been described as ''uneasy, unreliable and
uncertain.'' That should not come as a surprise from a failed economic system
that still considers private business and profits as evil. The result is a
standard of living for Cubans that has gone in just a few decades from one of
the highest in Latin America to one of the lowest.
current business state of affairs in Cuba has been described as ''uneasy,
unreliable and uncertain.'' That should not come as a surprise given the vast
efforts-- supported by US taxpayer dollars -- to destabilize the Castro
government, keep US companies from trading with those on the Island, and
pressure other countries to do the same.
"standard of living" was "one of the highest in Latin
America" if you consider the skewed figures that allow the existence of a
few multi-millionaires to produce an "average" income that ignores the
fact that MOST Cubans were out of work most of the year (once the sugar cane was
cut and milled); that only one out of 20 had a 6th grade education; that most
had no access at all to any kind of health care (there was one rural hospital
with 24 beds prior to 1959), and assorted other inconvenient facts about the
life of most Cubans living under the Batista regime. It's so easy to lie with
Cuba continues to
harbor criminal fugitives and supports international terrorist organizations.
United States continues to harbor criminal fugitives and supports international
terrorist organizations. Forget about all the former Nazis who were secretly
welcomed to our shores after WWII because they had scientific and other skills
our government considered useful in combating the then-perceived threat of
Soviet Communism. Let's even ignore, for the moment, some Central and South
American former military and government leaders who committed atrocities in
their own countries and retired in comfort in Southern Florida. Just look at all
the torturers, murderers and other criminals of the Batista dictatorship who
were welcomed with open arms, no questions asked.
Look at the blind eye with which some elected officials, public servants --even
prosecutors and judges -- view some of the most outspoken advocates of terrorism
as long as they happen to be of Cuban origin and are calling for the downfall of
Fidel Castro. Alpha 66 and other anti-Castro organizations based in Miami have
even held press conferences stating that they would consider any tourist
visiting Cuba "fair game", with no repercussions. Much of Miami
considers the men accused of masterminding and paying for the mid-air explosion
of a Cubana civilian airliner as heroes, and -- as one Miami Herald reporter
once commented "not necessarily because they think they are innocent".
When terrorists armed with guns, mortars, explosives and other destructive
material on their way to Cuba to sow death and destruction have been captured
and prosecuted by some honest Coast Guardsmen and local or federal prosecutors,
judges and juries have gone on record as condoning this form of violence by
freeing them. In other words, terrorism is ok as long as it is against someone
we don't like?
While our military are
protecting us from terrorists, Castro's government claims that the U.S.
operation in Afghanistan has engaged in ''war atrocities.'' This type of
rhetoric normally would be dismissed as absurd if it weren't so offensive to our
Given this double-standard about
terrorism, it is not surprising that much of the world looks skeptically at our
claim that the US military is simply "protecting us from terrorists".
It is also hard for most people outside the US to accept that the killing of
innocent civilians -- such as the ones attending a wedding party that
inconveniently was being held beneath a stray bomb -- does not constitute a
"war atrocity". "Collateral damage" as a term to describe
innocent civilians who die anywhere in the world at the hands of the US
military, was, after all, only recently introduced into the world's vocabulary
by the US military and its apologists. Such rhetoric would normally be dismissed
as absurd by any reasoning human being, if it weren't so painful to all the
survivors. In Cuba there are several thousand such survivors of the
"collateral damage" done by US-based, Cuban-born terrorists who
consider such actions not "absurd" but horrific.
President Bush announced on May 20 his
''Initiative for a New Cuba,'' a series of steps that the United States expects
Castro to implement in return for a more-normalized diplomatic and trade
relationship. While no one expects Castro to cede power, he continues to be
unwilling to make even the most basic changes. We should not participate in his
continued oppression of the Cuban people.
Castro has politely refrained from presenting an "Initiative for a New
United States" that would make it possible to resume normal diplomatic and
trade relations between the neighboring countries. Free and fair elections in
the US might be one, but then, how many people currently in office in the United
States might still be able to hold their positions if rules were put into effect
saying that NO MONEY AT ALL could be spent on elections; that all media must
provide, equally to all candidates, adequate space to put forth their
qualifications, views and programs, and all voters could decide who to elect
just based on this information? Why, if money could not buy elections, someone
might actually get into office who was NOT so arrogant as to believe that the
ruling circles of the United States have the right to tell every other country
in the world who should lead them, and how.
While in Cuba, meet
with dissidents and other human-rights defenders. You will get another view and
insight, directly from those who suffer under Castro's totalitarianism. They
will tell you that lifting the trade embargo and allowing unrestricted travel
will serve only to maintain the status quo and delay the peaceful transition to
democracy and free enterprise that the Cubans have been waiting for and so
traveling around the United States, meet with dissidents who oppose the war,
groups who fight for social and economic justice, and other human rights
defenders. You will get another view and insight, directly from those Americans
who suffer under our present system. They will tell you that lifting the trade
embargo against Cuba and allowing unrestricted travel there might actually not
only bring some extra income to the farm states, but might also give us some
good ideas about what human beings deserve to consider as fundamental human
rights. Things we could apply here. So we could think about a peaceful
transition to REAL, participatory democracy, and a world in which the word
"free" is not so often used to mean just the opposite.