Reasonable men and women of good will can and do differ over U.S. policy toward Cuba. We are strong dissenters against the status quo and earnestly believe that our country is weakened by inflexibly pursuing policies that have hurt average Cubans and failed to produce results over the last several decades.
But voices of conscience were raised this week about problems with human and political rights on the island, and those voices, which dominated the policy debate, also dominate our reporting today.
President Obama spoke about Cuba for the first time this year when he released a statement expressing deep concerns about the death of hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo and efforts to still dissent that took place on Cuban streets over the last week.
Members of Congress, House and Senate members, Democrats and Republicans, from across the political spectrum, called upon the Cuban government to release U.S. AID contractor Alan Gross, detained for violating Cuban law, who has been imprisoned since early December but not yet charged by Cuban authorities.
There were also demonstrations in Miami commemorating the arrests of political dissidents that took place in Cuba seven years ago that reflected the values and concerns of the Cuban-American community broadly.
Some critics of Cuba used these events to double-down their commitment to freezing the policy in place. This is what they always do; using evidence that the current policy has failed in order to justify prolonging it.
Others – like Senators Dorgan and Kerry – took the debate in a better direction, with Mr. Dorgan arguing for ending the travel ban and Mr. Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposing a harder look at the so-called “democracy promotion programs” that have tainted the recipients of U.S. funds in Cuba, that have seen waste and corruption here in the U.S., and that placed Mr. Gross in jeopardy in the beginning.
Their voices deserve to be heard, too.
This debate is complicated. You need to look no further than the item we also feature about how Cuban Americans are visiting the island in record numbers…or the item about the very conservative governor of Georgia who is eagerly awaiting the chance to sell his state’s farm products on an upcoming trade mission to Cuba…or the story we didn’t want you to miss about the U.S. and Cuba having a conversation about cooperating together in the on-going relief efforts in Haiti.
It is this mix of conscience and courage, of honesty and engagement, of adherence to principle and the search for practical solutions that represents in our judgment the better angels of our country’s nature.
Criticism is easy and at times it is certainly warranted. But the easy path seldom leads to the future.
This week in Cuba news…