Voice for Cuban freedom ring strong, true

On Jan. 1, 1899, 100 years ago, the American flag flew triumphant at Havana’s Morro Castle, signaling the end of 400 years of Spanish domination of Cuba and of Spain as an imperial power.

On that day, a new giant - the United States of America - became a world dominant power. Yet for the past four decades, the United States has appeared helpless as the Cuban nation and its people have suffered the worst tyranny in the hemisphere. During that long struggle, thousands of Cubans have died by firing squads, in prison, in the Florida Strait and in foreign wars on three continents.

Fidel Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba and his attempts to disrupt nations in Latin America, Africa and Europe make the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba not only necessary but morally right. Castro argues that the embargo is the cause of Cuba’s economic misery, but that’s an old and tired canard.

Because of its partnership with the Soviet Union, Cuba received more aid from the Eastern bloc than Western Europe received from the Marshall Plan after World War II. Despite this, the Cuban economy, which in 1959 was one of the most prosperous in the Americas, turned into one of the poorest.

Now the regime of Fidel Castro, looking for alternatives to assure its survival, has begun a poor man’s version of China’s "government capitalism." Yet Cuba’s "government capitalism" has instituted an apartheid system in which Cuba citizens are not able to participate in economic ventures enjoyed by foreign investors in Cuba.

Since 1989, human-rights advocates on the island and abroad have increased their drive for a political opening and the redevelopment of a civil society, which the Castro revolution destroyed.

Yet valiant attempts to re-establish some semblance or civil rights in Cuba have been crushed over and over again by the Castro regime. The most obvious was the shooting down of two airplanes piloted by "Brothers to the Rescue" on Feb. 24, 1996, coinciding with what was to be a meeting in Havana of the Cuban Council. The Cuban Council represented more than 250 organizations of a budding civil society in Cuba. Most of the organizations’ leaders were imprisoned that day.

Still, the thrust for change and the redevelopment of the civil society as a base for a functional democracy in Cuba continues.

During the past 40 years, more than 2 million Cuban exiles have kept alive the professional, cultural and labor organizations that once functioned freely in Cuba. This multifaceted web of organizations is what the Cuban Civil Society represents in exile, and it is the best hope for the reconstruction of Cuba’s society.

The Cuban Civil Society of Central Florida, which we represent, will be a voice for Cuban freedom.

During the past 40 years, more than 2 million Cuban exiles have kept alive the professional, cultural and labor organizations that once functioned freely in Cuba. The Cuban Civil Society of Central Florida will be a voice for Cuban freedom.

We support the right of the Cuban people to determine their own destiny.

We support the right of the Cuban people to freedom of expression.

We support the right of the Cuban workers to be compensated fairly for their work, as are workers in other civilized countries, instead of the 18th-century plantation method utilized by the Cuban regime in partnership with foreign investors.

The slave-like treatment of Cuban workers ignores all international laws. We demand an end to "the embargo," but we’re not talking about ending the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. Instead, "the embargo" that we seek to end is the denial of civil rights by Castro against the Cuban people.

Spain, the land of Cuba’s ancestors, is building an economic partnership with Castro’s tyranny, ignoring the misery and oppression of the Cuban people.

We can’t help but conclude that Spain’s actions are an attempts to secure, at the expense of the Cuban people, the economic benefit Spain believe that it was denied 100 years ago when it had to yield to Cuba at the end of the Spanish-American War. In fact, many people in the world, believe that Spain’s actions are its way of taking revenge against the Americans for the humiliating defeat Spain suffered in Cuba in 1898.

However, Spain must know that those of us who are Cuban eventually will determine our own destiny, joining the world community of free nations and building a democracy based on justice, wee also will long remember who our friends have been in the most difficult moment of the Cuban nation.

We urge the American people who have supported our cause and proved their friendship all these years to reject the recent attempts by big business to bring about a change in the U.S. policy toward Cuba by the Clinton administration.

The lifting of the U.S. embargo of Cuba is the victory most coveted by Castro. It would be America’s moral defeat 100 years after the end of the Spanish - American war.


By Manuel Coto
Alberto S. Bustamante Jr.
and Ernesto González - Chavez

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