Will the US Change Its Policy on Cuba?

Recent editorials in The New York Times have revived the topic of the unjust and criminal U.S. policy toward Cuba, which makes me remember the countless times I have brought up the issue on radio and television shows in Miami.

In this city in Florida, there were periods when speaking against the aggressive policy of the U.S. toward our country was in fact a dangerous endeavor: There have been instances of murder, attacks, bombings, assaults and witch-hunting.

Today, the situation is dramatically different. Although insults and threats are still prevalent, these do not really go beyond the typical verbal slurs and hysterical cries coming from an ever-diminishing group of lunatics prowling the streets or hosting radio or TV shows.

Miami used to be, and to a great extent still is, the place from where people railed against Cuba while holding a little espresso or a piña colada in one hand and a church’s collection basket in the other. No doubt “Viva Cuba Libre!” — not so much the cocktail as the slogan — always made itself present during such occasions.

I’m probably not wrong in saying that it was Ronald Regan, during his presidential campaign against Jimmy Carter, who started the long procession of presidential candidates who travel to Miami to obtain money and votes by means of anti-Cuban demagogy. Reagan began it all with a Cuban sandwich at a restaurant in Little Havana; more recently, President Obama had a Cuban burger at a food joint in Calle Ocho.

Until very recently, no state or federal-level candidate had spoken against the embargo on Cuba while campaigning. Officials in other states have made somewhat critical statements against the U.S. policy on Cuba, but no one in southern Florida had, until now, dared to make patently disapproving pronouncements.

Today, Charlie Crist, Florida’s former governor and current contender for the same position in November’s elections, has made his opposition against Cuban sanctions openly known. Crist is running for governor as a Democrat, but four years ago, when his position ended, he had ruled the state as a Republican and supported the embargo. The same was true when, following his time as governor, he ran for senator against Marco Rubio. During those elections, Crist had abandoned the Republican Party and ran as an independent.

Thus, in less than four years, Crist went from Republican to independent to Democratic candidate. Back then, he supported the irrational policies of the U.S. toward Cuba; now, he opposes them. At any rate, and putting aside the man’s flip-flopping attitude, we must recognize that he is the first important, seasoned politician who opposes the perpetuation of his country’s absurd, criminal and abusive policies toward its — territorially — smaller neighbor. Thus, looking ahead and forgetting about the past, those who are able to vote — and who love Cuba — should vote for this candidate.

Crist joins a long list of religious, business and media institutions that have, over time, appealed to various U.S. administrations to lift travel restrictions and re-establish commercial and diplomatic ties with Cuba.

It is something that foremost newspapers, church authorities, the chamber of commerce, various state governors, federal congressmen and congresswomen, among others, have asked for. Why have the various administrations not done so? To humiliate or starve the Cuban people? To bring Cuba to its knees? Whatever the reasons, they have accomplished nothing; they have neither managed to bring the country to its knees, nor starved the Cuban people.

With or without The New York Times’ editorials, I believe that, sooner rather than later, such policies will end. Right now, the ball is in Obama’s court. He can either sit down face to face with Cuba’s leaders and eliminate such policies, or he can go down in history as yet another person capable, but ultimately unwilling to do so. For this country’s legacy, for its image, and above all, for my Cuban people, I hope President Obama chooses the first option.

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