Should the World Maintain Sanctions Against the Castro Regime?

By John Suarez

The Cuban Exile continues to support sanctions against the Castro regime, and advocates for its expansion and its entrenchment. Our support of sanctions rests on several pillars: distrust of United States and its Corporate interests, opposition to rewarding a tyrant, the Canadian example, and having some form of leverage against the Castro regime.

Our distrust of the United States government is based in its treatment of other totalitarian despots. During the Bush Administration, Brent Scrowcroft showed the US government's response to the massacre in Beijing in June of 1989 by toasting champagne to those who had butchered students demonstrating for democracy. President Clinton, a candidate at the time, denounced this immoral policy.

Upon becoming President, he has detached human rights and commercial dealings with China completely. Human rights have been placed on the backburner. According to Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, "the Clinton Administration simply collapsed, Chinese officials were given every reason to conclude that for the rest of the world, access to Chinese markets far outweigh concern for the rights of Chinese citizens."

Recently President Bill Clinton invited the Chinese General, who issued the order for the 1989 Tiennanmen Massacre, to tour the US Capitol and receive the honors due a foreign dignitary. One of the members of the general's entourage had just this past year threatened Los Angeles with nuclear annihilation. We cannot have trust in the "principled leadership" of such a government.

When Fidel Castro visited the United Nations he was dined and entertained by America's corporate elite. In addition these business leaders were eager to discuss trade opportunities with Mr. Castro. For example, Wayne Andreas, the chairman of Archer Daniels Midland, said, " I talked to him most of the time about business. He seems to know what he's doing, I'd say. It was like talking to the president of AT&T." Castro was literally embraced by one of the Rockerfellers. These businessmen would exploit Cuban labor, and plunder Cuba's natural resources along with the Canadians, Europeans, and Mexicans who currently in collaboration with the Castro regime pay their workers about $10 a month.

The United States has a history of rewarding Latin American dictators ranging from Castro's predecessor Fulgencio Batista, to Manuel Noriega in Panama. Fulgencio Batista controlled Cuba and was able to terminate the Platt Amendment which had long outraged Cubans as an assault on their sovereignty. This gave Batista a huge propaganda victory which the US never offered Cuba's authentic democratic governments. In Panama, President Carter handed the Panama Canal over to a Military dictator, thus offering a huge propaganda victory which had been denied the previous democratic governments. Now some Americans want to reward yet another tyrant with the lifting of sanctions and the return of the Guantanamo military base to the Castro regime.

Fidel Castro has ruled Cuba with an iron fist for over 37 years. Cuba presently has a penal population totaling 289,000 men, women and children in 241 prisons and concentration camps distributed throughout the island. As far as we can tell, 54,000 people have died for political reasons in Cuba--among them 12,486 executed by firing squads--in the last 37 years. 39,200 women are incarcerated in 27 prisons. 56,500 minors have been confined in 73 prisons. During the last four years, Cuba has been condemned by the Human Rights Commission of the UN. This organization even named a special investigator, ambassador Carl Johan Groth, whom the Cuban government has never permitted to enter the island.

Occasionally an outsider can look beyond the smoke and mirrors and see the Castro regime in action:

In the summer of 1993 Cuban marine patrols, determined to stop refugees from reaching the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, were repeatedly tossing grenades and shooting at fleeing swimmers and recovering some of the bodies with gaff hooks. At least three Cubans had been killed as Cuban patrol boats attacked swimmers within sight of U.S. Navy personnel at Guantanamo. The killings are the latest sign that Cuba is resorting to violent means to stop a torrent of desperate people from fleeing the impoverished island. "This is the most savage kind of behavior I've ever heard of," said Robert Gelbard, deputy assistant secretary of state for Latin America. The United States has no previous record of such activity in Cuba, he added, calling the practice "even worse than what happened at the Berlin Wall."

On July 13, 1994 the Cuban government massacred their own civilians. Seventy-two people were on board and set out for the United States when the tug was surrounded and hit by four newer and bigger Cuban tugboats. The 13 de Marzo sank seven miles north of the Cuban coast and 41 people drowned, 10 of them children. Survivors say the four boats ambushed them as they left Havana Harbor, used their powerful fire fighting water cannon to force most of the escapees inside the tug's hold and then rammed it repeatedly until it sank. ``Evidence clearly shows the sinking of the tugboat 13 de Marzo was not an accident but a premeditated and intentional act,'' said a report by the OAS' Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

On February 24, 1996 the Cuban government purposely shot down two civilian planes over international waters. The planes were conducting a search for Cuban rafters to supply them with water, supplies, and contacting the Coast Guard to rescue them. Four young men died that Saturday afternoon at 3:20pm as Cuban MiGs shot down these aircraft on a humanitarian mission. At the same time in Cuba, the Cuban government continued its crackdown on dissidents seeking to meet together peacefully, and discuss a non-violent transition to democracy and the rule of law.

Finally, when Cuban exiles sought to send humanitarian aide to victims of Hurricane Lili, the Cuban government refused it for political reasons. After Lili pounded Cuba more than 30 tons of aid was collected and flown to the island. It was then held up by the Cuban government. Finally, the Cuban government said it would return one-fourth of the aid, stating that the boxes were marked with ``counter-revolutionary propaganda.'' The words ``Exile'' and ``For Cuba, love conquers all'' were written on some of the boxes.

Canada's record in Cuba is one of exploiting Cuban workers and polluting Cuba's environment while plundering it. At Moa Bay, in Eastern Cuba, Canada's Sheritt Mining Company runs a nickel mine and smelter. Buildings in the area are beginning to show a reddish tint, the result of emissions from the smelter. Cuban mothers warn their kids to keep their shirts on to avoid skin rashes, and untreated discharges into the bay have killed much of marine life.

Sheritt has no labor troubles in Cuba. Sheritt - and other foreign capitalists-don't pick their workers. That is a service provided by the government. Sherritt pays Castro $9,500 a year per worker, and Castro pays the workers the equivalent of $10 a month. None of this is new. It's how the old imperial powers dealt with natives of Latin America and Africa. They concentrate instead on extractive industries such as nickel and petroleum exploration, providing services for foreign tourists, and export-oriented industries that net hard currency for the Castro regime and little for the Cuban people.

The Cuban government has focused all its propaganda efforts and assets on lifting sanctions. They'd like to offer the American business class the same opportunities to exploit and pillage the Cuban people that the Canadians have. Fidel Castro wants hard currency to finance his state security apparatus, and maintain himself in power. Cuban exiles want to see democratic reforms, an amnesty for all political prisoners, and the return of the rule of law to Cuba. In addition, to the Cuban exiles a number of internal opposition groups have supported supported sanctions comparing it with the embargo against South Africa, and as a necessary feature to a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. The Castro regime has passed Law 88 which threatens them with 20 years in prison for expressing such opinions. The question is not " Should sanctions be maintained on the Castro regime," but "Why hasn't the rest of the world placed sanctions on this despotic and murderous regime?"