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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Sunday, August 31, 2003


Cuba: moral litmus test

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, August 31, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
by way of Tacitus, is this article on the continuing oppression in Cuba of political dissidents:

Another important Cuban economist that Fidel has sentenced to his gulag is 58-year-old Marta Beatriz Roque. This courageous woman has already done years in the slammer for authoring, with three others, a paper discussing Cuba's economic problems. She is gravely ill with a heart condition and has lost more than 40 pounds.

Oscar Elias Biscet is a devout Christian and a pacifist whose work to teach Cubans about the Universal Human Rights Declaration riles Castro. He was arrested in March and no one has been allowed to see him since April. In a June 1 letter to his family he described his first 37 days in jail: "They took away all my personal belongings including my underwear and led me to a dark and dirty cell with the only ventilation consisting of the soot and petroleum smoke coming from the prison kitchen."

Librado Linares lived in the province of Villa Clara and became a threat to Castro because he had such success in organizing intellectuals and activists. He also led humanitarian efforts like lunch programs for the elderly. He has played an important role in the national dissident movement. He was the first person arrested in March and is in solitary confinement.

Roberto De Miranda is the head of Cuba's Association of Independent Teachers, which seeks to provide education without ideology. He is also "guilty" of involvement in Cuba's grass-roots democracy movement known as the Varela Project. Mr. De Miranda has a very serious heart condition and has suffered at least one heart attack in prison. As with the others, his living conditions are not fit for an animal.

Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, a blind human-rights lawyer and a Christian, has been in prison without trial since March 2001. The regime now accuses him of self-mutilation. In a letter he corrects the record and appeals to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. "In the 16 months I have been confined in this dreadful place, I have suffered the most savage physical and psychological tortures . . . to force me to become a collaborator of the State Security," including, he says, attacks by the common criminal prisoners.

Dean's position on Cuba has evolved, but is still consistent with his unvarying principle, that foreign policy should have a moral component:

I will not divide the world into us versus them. Rather, I will rally the world around fundamental principles of decency, responsibility, freedom, and mutual respect. Our foreign and military policy must be about the notion of America leading the world not America against the world.

In that context, his initial support for lifting the Cuban embargo was based on the assumption that increased flow of American goods would allow increased flow of American values to Cuba - and generate a pressure upon Castro to increase freedom (much as has been occurring in Iran, where the transmitters of our cultural freedoms is largely the Internet and satellite TV).

However, in the wake of Castro's recent crackdowns, it is clear that a hard line is needed in the short term. I personally disagree with Dean and I think that the embargo should be lifted regardless, but I respect the position Dean has adopted because it is not black and white.

Characterizing Dean's stance as a flip-flop, however, is a gross mischaracterization. The underlying principle is the same: fostering liberty in Cuba. And our trade and foreign policy must be used as instruments of that goal. These levers are not monotonic - they can be applied and they can be lessenned, much as the Fed can both raise or lower interest rates as needed to adapt to a changing economy. Being wedded to embargo or wedded to its abolishment is to limit our freedom of action, and ultimately serves domestic political needs rather than foreign policy and the promotion of freedom and our values abroad.

The Cubans in Cuba should not be held hostage to the whims and demands of the Cubans in Miami.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.