Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our shame in Cuba: Dictatorship propped up by support that includes 600,000 Canadian tourists

Our shame in Cuba: Dictatorship propped up by support that includes
600,000 Canadian tourists
Posted By Hoy, Claire
Posted 7 hours ago

A recent headline summed it up neatly: "Canada talks softly on Cuba,
while Bush prefers big stick."

The story that sparked the headline - just a couple of days after
commemoration of the Day of Solidarity with the Cuban people - cited a
comment from Canada's then-Foreign Affairs Minister Maxine Bernier
expressing the fond (and totally unrealistic) hope that the recent
replacement of Fidel Castro as president by his brother Raul will lead
to political and economic changes.

Fat chance.

"Canada continues to monitor developments in Cuba closely," said
Bernier, "and we are concerned about the plight of political prisoners,
especially those suffering from poor health. It is our hope that recent
shifts will open the way for the Cuban people to pursue a process of
political and economic reform."

The story - which cited, by way of contrast, U.S. President George
Bush's description of Cuba as a "tropical gulag" - went on to say that
Bernier's statement also acknowledged Canada's long-standing "links"
with Cuba, dating back several decades.

Actually, they date back to Pierre Trudeau's shameless and very public
catering to Castro, an unrepentant dictatorial tyrant - admired by the
Canadian left because he's so anti-American - and manifests itself in
Canadians consistently leading the world in tourism to the island state.

Last year, for example, more than 600,000 Canadian tourists visited
Cuba, not only attracted by the beautiful beaches - which also exist in
every other Caribbean country - but by the unmatched bargains, the cost
of which are borne by the virtual slave labor provided by the Cuban
state on behalf of our dutiful tourists.

Canadian industries and hotel chains also take advantage of property
formerly owned by American interests, but confiscated by Castro after
the revolution, undaunted by the fact that most of the money they give
to the government to pay for the staff in fact stays with the
government. As for the staff, they, too,0 are forced to survive on slave
wages, while Canadians bask on the beaches and live in hotels that the
locals can't even afford to dream about sharing.

You can be sure if the Castros were right-wing dictators, as opposed to
Communist dictators, Canada's squishy leftists and serial liberals would
be marching in the streets demanding change.

Instead, boosted by widespread anti-Americanism in this country,
Canadians have been among the most complicit in propping up one of the
world's most vile regimes for several decades. Worse, we continue to
celebrate that fact by blathering on about our "links" and our
"solidarity" and, of course, by exploiting cheap labor imposed by the
Castro regime on its own people.

This is a country that still does not allow its own people to organize,
assemble and freely speak their minds; it does not allow anything close
to a free press and it strictly enforces what academia can and cannot
teach its students.


It was just last December that armed Cuban authorities stormed into a
Catholic Church, tear-gassing the worshippers and dragging 18 of them
out in what one Catholic official called "the worst attack against a
church in 45 years."

And Bernier talks about "change." Oh, please.

Just a month ago, under the "new" and "improved" dictatorship of brother
Raul - while thousands of Canadian tourists were lolling on the lovely
beaches - Cuban police attacked, beat up and dragged away some of the
"Ladies in White," a group that for years have been allowed to march
peacefully each Sunday seeking freedom for their loved ones being held
as political prisoners. Their crime? They tried to deliver a petition to
the government asking for the release of political prisoners.

Apologists for the Castros in this country and elsewhere argue that the
ongoing U.S. economic embargo hasn't worked, that only a policy of
engagement will change things for the better there.

Nonsense. The only reason Castro has been able to maintain his iron grip
on Cuba is because his regime has been propped up by the appeasers - of
which Canada, to its shame, leads the league.

Embargoes certainly ended the horrid apartheid regime in South Africa
and Canada, to its credit, was a major player in organizing it.

Not so with Cuba. Instead, this country - and those 600,000 tourists who
exploit Cuba - are the main reason why that country continues to oppress
its own people and deny them the rights and freedoms that Canadians
claim to value.

n Read Claire Hoy every Wednesday in The Sudbury Star.

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