Saturday, July 29, 2006

So near, yet so far

So near, yet so far
Luis Cino

Havana, Cuba. (CubaNet) - I admit it, I shudder every time the U. S.
government announces new measures designed to hasten the arrival of
democracy in Cuba.

Said measures are generally neither practical nor viable, and usually
turn out to be counterproductive. Their only results are a harvest of
the votes of Cuban-American voters, and another excuse for the regime in
Havana to squeeze the noose tighter.

That's the way it's been for half a century. The U. S. blockade, as the
Cuban government calls the trade embargo, still provides the blanket
justification for any excess of repression.

The latest report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is
more of the same. The 80 million dollars destined to bolster internal
dissidents, and a classified annex to the report, have again exacerbated
the dictatorship's paranoia.

But maybe not, and it's all part of the game. The new measures benefit
the regime more than they worry it; they provide new arguments to once
again classify anyone in the opposition as "mercenaries in the service
of Yankee imperialism."

The dictatorship feels threatened, or wants us to believe it does. It's
all the same. In a compulsively repressive regime, the new measures are
harbingers of bad news.

I fear this time there may be something more under the horizon. Just a
little, but enough to trigger a new wave of repression. For the time
being, National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcón made it very clear:
this will put some people in prison for years.

The new repressive wave could be brewing now. This time it would come in
Summer, and not be as spectacular as that of the Black Spring of 2003.
The regime must have learned something about political costs from that

Again, the U. S. government's avowed intention of helping bring about a
democratic change in Cuba could result in more damage than benefits.

The whole affair did not look good from the beginning. The very idea of
creating, in Washington, and under an American coordinator, a commission
to implement a transition to democracy in Cuba, is cause enough for concern.

The dictatorship has used the specter of implicit foreign interference
to rattle the nationalist, patriotic scarecrow. It kindled among the
population the fear of change, employing all means at its disposal, from
speeches to TV animations. To make matters worse, it used the
limitations in travel and remittances to Cuba to portray itself as the
defender of the Cuban family.

The question of funds to aid dissidents has been exploited by the
regime. It has also fostered arguments among the dissidents. Economic
help is necessary, no matter where it comes from. The problem is its
cost. Many opposition leaders have warned that it must come with no
strings attached.

Economic aid should not be the gist of the matter. First of all, because
it really isn't. With or without money, opposition to the government
will not disappear, nor will the regime quit trying to label them

Both the government and its opponents know most of that money will never
find its way to Cuba. It will become mired in impractical projects and
enmeshed in the legal intricacies of the embargo. The dissidents will
remain hostages of Fidel Castro and TV Martí will continue being
invisible in the island.

Plan coordinator Caleb McCarry did not allay the suspicions of many when
he explained that the Plan would not be imposed on Cubans, but rather
would be implemented if a future transitional government were to request
U. S. help. In reply to a persistent journalist, McCarry did not
discount the possibility that this help might include sending U. S. troops.

U. S. aid, if it comes without an agenda or strings attached, will be
very necessary. Nobody doubts that. My only question is, the way things
are going, who will make up the transitional government who will request
U. S. help.

If Washington continues so generously providing excuses to the Cuban
regime for the annihilation of the internal dissidence, by the time the
transition comes around perhaps the dialogue will be with whichever
olive green faction prevails in an eventual civil war.

Fidel Castro is approaching 80, and the powers that be are erecting the
gallows to be used on the dissidents. As the designated heirs choose the
sloppiest, most illegitimate model of succession they can think of, the
U. S. awaits its chance to claim its place at the table. You choose
which nightmare you prefer.

Cuba, even more so than Mexico, remains far from God and too close to
the United States for comfort.

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