June 2, 2001
June 2, 2001
The battle of ideas surrounding the Cuban revolution in the United States has not been fully joined. The Cuban freedom movement has lobbyists, congressmen, journalists, and a couple of foundations and centers focused on opinion makers and politicians in the United States. The Castro regime has all that and more. The pro-Castro lobby is outspending the freedom movement 10 to 1, and they have engaged with grassroots left-wing allies at the local level nationally and in the academia.
Last month, members of the Free Cuba Foundation joined together with California Young Americans for Freedom and Free Vietnam Youth and embarked on a lecture tour of the state of California. What we found was that representatives of the Castro regime had already been visiting colleges and community centers throughout the entire state for years. Even young Conservatives who are ideologically anti-communists knew little about Cuba other than they were against what the communists were advocating.
From Orange County in the south to San Francisco in the north of California revolutionary icons were everywhere to be seen. Che Guevara emblazoned on posters and t-shirts. Speaking at the University of California, Davis and translating for ex-political prisoner Eusebio de Jesús Peñalver Mazorra at the University of California, Santa Barbara we realized that in the battle of ideas in many parts of the United States the pro-Castro forces have a monologue even more one sided than Castro's in Cuba.
In Cuba the dissident movement although often imprisoned, driven into exile, tortured, and in some cases murdered by the regime is known and has an impact at the grassroots level, and via Radio Marti on a national level in Cuba. The difference between what takes place in Cuba and what is taking place here is the double tragedy. In Cuba the tragedy is that the regime in power systematically attempts to silence the pro-democracy movement using the power of the police state they have erected. In the United States the tragedy is that Cuban Americans have the right to challenge the regime throughout the country, but have largely confined ourselves to New Jersey and Miami.
The reasons for this abandonment of the United States grassroots campaign are two-fold:
First, pro-democracy groups have been working outside of the United States to gather support in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The vote in Geneva condemning the Castro regime's human rights record is partly a result of this effort, and is of great importance and needs to be continued.
Secondly, the United States has at the level of the Federal government maintained a more or less steadfast policy maintaining sanctions, and denouncing the human rights violations in Cuba. Pro-democracy groups have maintained offices in Washington DC to lobby the US Congress and the Executive branch.
This was a suitable strategy while the Cold War was going on, and Castro was receiving his subsidy from the Soviet Union and exporting revolution throughout Latin America and Africa posing a strategic threat to the United States as an arm of the Soviet empire. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War changed that calculus. The regime since at least the early 1990s has sent young communists to speak on college campuses. They have engaged with elements of the New Left and in recent years have built coalitions with business interests that want to trade with nations like Cuba, Libya, Iraq, and Iran.The pro-Castro coalition in the United States spans the ideological divide, and has even more lobbyists, congressmen, journalists, foundations and politicians at their disposal than does the Cuban freedom movement. In addition, the pro-Castro coalition has been working the grassroots to expand their coalition into areas the freedom movement has not even tapped into on a sustained basis.
The pro-Cuban freedom movement needs to find its friends all across the ideological divide, and needs to break the monologue that the pro-Castro side has maintained in too many parts of the United States. The freedom movement needs to speak truth to power, and live by the very same liberties the movement wants to see in Cuba. The ends do not justify the means. The freedom movement inside of Cuba is based on a non-violent strategy consistent with its end goals. The freedom movement abroad must follow their lead. Violence and human rights violations are the tool of the Castro regime and his coalition.
We live in a world in which the most powerful countries are democracies: USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Taiwan, and South Korea just to name a few. The movement inside of Cuba following the path of Gandhi and King will gain the support of the world with an effective freedom movement abroad echoing their actions and statements while at the same time denouncing the human rights violations of the regime. Ricardo Bofill, one of the founders of the Cuban Committee for human Rights, has spoken and written often about the importance of engaging the regime in the battle of ideas.
Many thought that with the collapse of the Soviet empire that the idea of communism would've fallen onto the ash heap of history they were wrong. The name may have been changed, but the hatred of capitalism, and the defense of left-wing tyrannies continue unabated. We must engage in the battle of ideas to win Cuba's freedom.