Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
An Open Letter to Presidential Candidates on Cuba
Dear President Obama, Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan,
Last year, you, President Obama, took a wise and ethical decision in the best spirit of the democratic tradition when you authorized unrestricted travel to Cuba for Cuban-Americans wishing to visit their family, and by reactivating the Clinton-era “people-to-people” (P2P) license category permitting all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba on licensed group programs intended to facilitate direct educational interchange with Cubans.
You, Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan, have in your recent campaign speeches promised to rescind President Obama’s openings, and have called them “appeasement” of the Castro regime. You, Senator Ryan, were until the recent election campaign an outspoken opponent of the five-decade-old failed U.S. embargo on Cuba; in past weeks you have jumped on the bandwagon of hard-liners who believe that calls to further restrict travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens somehow helps the cause of toppling Cuba’s Communist government.
Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan, those of us who pay close attention to U.S.-Cuba relations were dismayed by your cynical appeals and patronizing platitudes to the hard-line Cuban-American voters—the largest bloc of Republicans in Miami-Dade County—during your recent visits to Florida. That you, Mr. Romney, chose as your venue on August 13, 2012, a Miami venue owned by a convicted felon says much about the ill-considered nature of your alliance with the staunch advocates of embargo politics, and of your promise to rescind the P2P provision and the right of Cuban-Americans to visit their families in Cuba freely.
Your statements, Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan, appear clearly shaped to appease Florida’s Cuban-American representatives Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and Senator Marco Rubio, among other right-wingers who claim that the P2P educational exchange programs are nothing more than pleasure tours of Cuba.
Rather than accept at face value what those who oppose such interchange between U.S. citizens and Cuba citizens claim, I invite you to participate in such a P2P program to see for yourself how participants interact with the Cuban people, exchange thoughts on society and ideology, act as ambassadors for democracy, and are able to support the nascent private sector, such as family restaurants and artists.
Far from the “sightseeing tours” that Sen. Rubio and his cohorts claim, P2P tours, not least, support free enterprise and nascent entrepreneurs in Cuba. I am surprised that you, Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan, oppose that. Is support for free enterprise not a bulwark of the Republican Party platform?
The tours that I lead for National Geographic Expeditions, for example, also include intimate gatherings and interchanges with artists, musicians and other intellectuals—the kinds of individuals who are driving forces of free thought. Why would you seek to prevent this? Is not the defense of free thought and expression another bulwark of the Republican Party platform?, and especially support of free thought and expression in a Communist nation?
We see, then, how your determination to curtail freedom of travel is a blow to democracy and to the very tenets of Republican ideology that you purport to support. Not least, the freedom for U.S. citizens to travel freely anywhere they wish as a fundamental democratic and constitutional right.
Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan, you decry Cuba for the restraints it places on the rights of its citizens to travel freely. Can you not see the hypocrisy in the stance you have taken in calls for curtailing the right of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba? How ironic that a president you claim is “socialist” supports freedom to travel, yet you and your Republican cohorts in Florida, Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan, support the same kinds of restraints that are a hallmark of the socialist nation of Cuba.
Meanwhile, as a national survey in January, 2012, demonstrated, a clear majority of U.S. citizens favor lifting the Cuba travel ban, including 67 percent of Hispanics and—as demonstrated by a Florida International University poll—57 percent of Cuban-Americans.
Mr. Romney and Senator Ryan, are you also aware that 74 percent of Cuban-Americans under the age of 45 support unrestricted travel to Cuba? And that since President Obama opened up family travel for Cuban Americans in January 2011, Cuban Americans have made more 400,000 trips to the island?
It is sad that you have chosen to side with the most radical of Cuban exiles while turning your backs on the hundreds of thousands of Cuban-American voters who support freedom to travel to Cuba and who now form a majority within their community.
I therefore request that you consider the words of Niccolò Machiavelli (The Discourses, Book 2 Ch XXXI):
“We see, then, how vain the faith and promises of men are who are exiles from their own country... such is their extreme desire to return to their homes that they naturally believe many things that are not true, and add many others on purpose; so that, with what they really believe and what they say they believe, they will fill you with hopes to that degree that if you attempt to act upon them you will incur a fruitless expense, or engage in an undertaking that will involve you in ruin... A prince should therefore be slow in undertaking any enterprise upon the representations of exiles, for he will generally gain nothing by it but shame and serious injury.”
Now that you’re ready to travel to Cuba, buy Moon Handbook Cuba
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker