Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cubans have faith that change will come

Posted on Friday, 09.16.11
The readers' forum

Cubans have faith that change will come

Re Frank Calzon's Sept. 8 Other Views article Ping-Pong diplomacy
changes little in Cuba and Joe Cardona's Sept 10 piece, Jim Cason's work
in Cuba offered 'refreshing approach': Like Calzon, I remain puzzled as
to why many today continue to refer to the passion and commitment of
Cuban Americans to human rights and justice as a "hardline anti-Castro"
view. These sentiments are not without obvious reasons. I know from
personal experience on the island.

In the fall of 2008, I had the unique opportunity to visit Havana after
the devastating back-to-back hurricanes, Gustav and Ike. I listened to
first-person accounts of the disastrous conditions on the island in the
wake of these storms, all of which explicitly called the Cuban
government out for misinformation campaigns intended to shroud its lack
of action. The heavily hit provinces of Pinar del Rio and Holguin had
seen no substantial assistance, despite reports of foreign aid from
South America, the United States and nations around the world.

Worst of all, the Cuban government was selling donated humanitarian
assistance to already poverty-stricken Cubans, specifically in provinces
where the damage was most catastrophic. Throughout my week in Cuba, the
recurring theme was very clear: The government cares more about
sustaining itself than taking care of its people when they are most in need.

This is but one example of why the exile community in America speaks out
so strongly in favor of policies that restrict the level of monetary
resources the Cuban government has to stay in power. Would you want to
subsidize a corrupt government that takes its cues from the Mafia's
playbook when it receives humanitarian assistance for natural disasters?

Today the regime continues to harass and detain the people calling for
economic and political reforms. Nevertheless, as Cardona points out in
quoting diplomat Jim Cason, Cubans are humble, spirited and courageous.
All of the people with whom I spoke on the island reminded me that,
despite the ongoing repression and lack of concern for the people by
their government, there was still enormous faith and hope that change
will happen sooner or later, and they want to be a part of it.

Now is the critical moment for the Cuban people and their international
network of solidarity to draw attention to the flagrant disregard for
human rights in Cuba and demand change. "Softer" methods simply seem a
lot less prudent when the government continues to show its true colors.

Danny Lamas, New York, N.Y.

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