News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama extends an open hand to Cuba

President Obama said during his inaugural, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

Living up to his word, Obama has proposed easing travel restrictions to Cuba. However, while most Cuban exiles in the U.S. may benefit from this action, they will very likely resist any further gestures of normalcy toward Cuba.

Unlike many Cuban exiles, I favor trade and open relations with Cuba. This is not because I support Castro in any way. On the contrary, I think normalizing relations with the U.S. would be the fastest way to end the Castro brothers’ rule of the island.

For decades, Castro has justified his human rights violations and the privations of the Cuban people by claiming the island is under siege by the “ogre” to the north. Every U.S. president has willingly taken on the role … and played right into Castro’s hand.

A wise friend of mine once said, “The quickest way to end communism is with a good cheeseburger.” Once the Cuban people see for themselves how much they are losing under Castro’s tyranny, they will throw him out like last week’s garbage. Right now, the people of Cuba are too hopeless and dejected to overthrow Castro. But give them a bite of a Big Mac and they may soon want more.

I think President Obama is being politically savvy to make the first overtures to Cuba benefit Miami’s exiles. Allowing family visits and increasing the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to their loved ones still in Cuba should lessen the irrational belief by the Miami exiles that the U.S. is somehow helping keep the Castros in power by allowing normal relations. Eventually, though, most Cuban exiles will resist any gestures that appear to recognize the Castro government. I hope President Obama has the political courage to stand up to the Miami exiles and do what is really right for Cuba.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez