Cuban embargo puts strain on family ties
I lost my most direct link to Cuba nearly a month ago when my grandfather died. We were not close ? I had only met him once. But something bothered me about the event nevertheless.
There was no logical reason I could put my finger on for feeling such strong emotion, for feeling my motivation for doing homework slip away and leaving me little choice but to delve into my photo album and grieve. Over the next three weeks, my grief had turned to anger.
You see, my father never went to Cuba to bury his father. His adopted country said no, you cannot go to Cuba to lay your father to rest; it would support Castro.
A handful of months before the election in 2004, Bush?s administration tightened travel restrictions to Cuba, constricting the family circle ?appropriate? to visit and reducing the number of times Cuban-Americans could visit the island from once a year to once every three years. The conservative-leaning hard-line Cubans of Florida were important to Bush. The votes he gained from this action might have brought him closer to these Cubans, but they have alienated many others.
I?ve been to the point in the U.S. closest to Cuba, which is just 90 miles from our soil at that point. It?s a point marked with a concrete monolith weighing thousands of pounds. When I learned of the restrictions, it was almost as if the same weight was being placed on my shoulders by the federal government. There was one other change in the restrictions, too: no emergency visits.
It didn?t matter if a cousin, sister, nephew or uncle was dying, or if they needed medication only you could get to them. It didn?t matter if they had just died. Uncle Sam was saying no, that Fidel Castro, Cuba?s ?president? and one of the most successful dictators in the history of the world, was an evil man and had to be punished. From the stories passed down through the last two generations of my family, I believe this to be true.
My dad could have done what an estimated 25,000 to 100,000 Cubans a year do and fly there through a third country, violating a poorly-enforced law to see his family, but by the time he would have arrived, the funeral would have been over. I don?t know why he didn?t go anyway.
The intent of the restrictions is to deny hard currency to Castro?s government, but it is obvious that Bush?s rules aren?t working. Legally, you can only send $100 per month to family members in Cuba, but if what other Cubans I know send there is any indication, the amounts are much more. According to Wikipedia, Cubans receive nearly $850 million each year from Cuban-Americans.
These restrictions only create anguish for families who are denied the fundamental right to travel and see their family members. The economic and travel embargo against Cuba does not work. For 46 years, Castro has ruled the island, secure in his power and reveling in the ?success? of his revolution.
Has everything the embargo has done been evil? No, but the United States cannot expect that a few more years of the same strategy will do what the last four decades have failed to do. It is time for our government to stop bullying the country and assault it with the tools of capitalism, cultural influence, and compassion.
One day, after Castro dies, I intend to buy land in Cuba and build a house there with a boat in Miami for a leisurely cruise to my summer getaway. I suspect many other U.S.-born Cuban-Americans will rediscover their roots and bring their families and dollars to the island in the years to come, regardless of whether Uncle Sam gives them permission.
For information on traveling to Cuba, visit the following website: www.afrocubaweb.com/travelcuba.htm
For a first-person account of how even military personnel are kept from visiting family on the island, go to:www.cubacentral.com/todaysnewsdetail.cfm?ID=515