There's a very interesting article advocating the end of the embargo against Cuba published in The Japan Times. It's written by Constantine Pleshakov, a freelance journalist working in Moscow, and a former member of the Moscow Academy of Sciences. Lest you think he's a former communist propping up his old buddy fidel, here are a few quotes:
Cuban President Fidel Castro's regime has always ranked among the worst in Latin America. For 45 years Cuban prisons have overflowed with dissidents, minority groups have been blatantly persecuted, famine has swept the countryside, rationing has been commonplace and an ugly gap has existed between the sumptuous lifestyle of the elite and the misery of the people.
He points out that no matter how bad the famine, there is always food for government officials and prison guards. He says sanctions are tricky - if you impose them, the people of the country get even poorer. If you don't impose them, the dictator goes unpunished. He then argues something that I have argued - close contact between people will show the Cubans a better society - and may be able to give them assistance.
In this respect, the Soviet example is very telling. One might argue that the West's presence in the Soviet Union was among the major factors in communism's collapse. American jeans and French movies supplied the people with glimpse of a better lifestyle. Soviet-made jeans looked like gulag uniforms, and people started to understand that there should be a connection between the quality of clothes and the system of government.
Interaction with the West also implied access to things like copy machines -- which were more responsible for the collapse of communism than any action taken by the Pentagon. Of course, in those days there were no portable copiers and only offices could import such machines -- but one could always bribe the person who operated it, and each new copy of "Animal Farm" that hit the clandestine market mattered.
Close ties to Westerners gave the Soviet dissidents support and helped their morale. It also allowed the West to put more spies into place. He uses the recent war with Iraq as an example of what happens when there is a lack of contact between countries.
The U.S. decision to halt interactions with Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s and implement tough sanctions against the regime has had very sad results for American policy. After U.S. President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq, American forces found themselves on terrain that they didn't know politically and culturally, where they had few established allies and where they faced numerous domestic conflicts that they didn't comprehend.
It sounded almost like an invasion of Mars, and it took Americans a year and a half to figure out who would collaborate with them and who would not. And the politicians who have agreed to collaborate with the U.S. do not look terribly reliable.
He says the Iraqis did not greet us a liberators because the sanctions had hurt the average Iraqi so badly.
Pleshakov concludes by saying what I've said many times - a flood of American tourists, journalists (rather than the sole voice of casto's girlfriend Lucia Newman of CNN) and investors will wear away the bearded bastard's regime from the inside.
And in The Miami Herald, Maria Conchita Mendez of Mobile writes of her fear that we are turning over any hope of influence with Cuba to the Chinese. She then goes on to point out:
Free trade with Cuba could generate $50 billion and 900,000 jobs for the United States, according to an economic study by Tim Lynch, director of Florida State University's Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis.
Searching for just who Ms. Mendez is turns up someone of the same name who is Director, Latin American Trade & Development for the Alabama State Port Authority. Not someone wholly disinterested, but perhaps with an educated view.