Saturday, January 23, 2016

Without Free Speech, Cuba Remains Trapped in Totalitarian Unanimity

Without Free Speech, Cuba Remains Trapped in Totalitarian Unanimity
A Simple Compromise Can Satisfy All Sides of the Embargo Debate

"The Hour of Unanimity" is the title of a courageous article in defense
of free speech published by Luis Aguilar Leon in Cuba in 1960. As it
turned out, it was the last defense of free speech permitted in Castro's
Cuba. Two days after the article's publication, the publishing newspaper
was taken over and Professor Aguilar, who had been a classmate of Fidel
Castro, was forced to leave Cuba under threat of execution.

In his prescient piece, Lundi — as his friends called him — reminds us
that the tolerance of ideas is essential to advance lofty goals, and
warns of an impenetrable totalitarian unanimity developing in Cuba. When
unanimity of thought arrives, there are no discrepant voices, no
possibility of critique, or of public refutations.

Lundi forewarns the arrival of an hour of unanimity that will silence
the voices of freedom. He cautions that totalitarian unanimity is worse
than censorship. "Censorship coerces us to silence our own truth;
unanimity forces us to repeat the lies of others."

Shortly after Lundi's warning, the US policy towards Cuba of economic
sanctions was enacted, when President John F. Kennedy issued an
executive order in response to the Cuban government's expropriation
without compensation of American assets. Nearly six decades later, the
issue remains unresolved, and the topic still dominates the rhetoric
surrounding US-Cuba relations.

Today, Cuba's totalitarian unanimity still forbids a free press, and
nothing in the new US-Cuba policy argues for a free press in Cuba. Yet,
the administration is forcefully pursuing an unconditional lifting of
the embargo, and those of us committed to the ideals of freedom are
labeled as intransigent for not supporting the new course of
unconditioned rapprochement with the regime.

The president and his supporters believe that diplomacy and increased
commerce should be the new guiding lights. The new approach to US-Cuba
relations makes it clear that liberty for the Cuban people is no longer
the primary objective or moral compass of the administration. The
natural consequence is the legitimization and, perhaps, perpetuation, of
the Cuban tyranny. Totalitarian unanimity is to remain intact.

Very well, let's see if we can bridge our differences. It appears that
the administration and its supporters are not prepared to ask the Cuban
government to change its ways. They agree with General Castro that Cuba
should not be required to embrace democratic values, and change its
single-party political structure or its centrally planned economic system.

I disagree. Yet both sides concur that Cubans should decide their own
future, and we can agree to support ideas that seek to improve the
well-being of the Cuban people.

We also agree that information is a high-value economic good that
improves our lives at an infinitesimal cost. Information creates value,
and plays a key role in decision-making and economic development.

Information is a marvelous good that is not depleted when used and does
not take anything from any one. Clearly, there is no better way to
improve the well-being of the Cuban people that by improving their
access to information.

So, for the sake of argument, here is a compromise deal sure to improve
the well-being of the Cuban people: offer lifting the embargo in
exchange for a totally independent free press in Cuba, and uncensored
access to the internet.

Notice, General Castro is not being asked to step down, or to change his
chosen political and economic systems. Nothing is required of Cuba. Yet,
millions will be invested in the infrastructure for a free press, and
thousands of new jobs created in accordance with the objectives sought
by the new policy.

What better way than a free press to help Cubans decide their own
future? Under what moral compass can anyone demand tolerance and a free
press in one cardinal point, but fail to demand it in another?

Of course, General Castro would never allow a free press. And I am the
intransigent one?

That is precisely my point, and the question raised by Professor Aguilar
in his historic article: "Why is it necessary that in order to defend
the justice of our cause, we have to make common cause with the
injustices of totalitarian methods?"

It would be much more beautiful and worthy, Lundi wrote, to offer the
example of a people committed to defending its liberty without impairing
the freedom of anyone.

Source: Without Free Speech, Cuba Remains Trapped in Totalitarian
Unanimity -

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