Pro-Democracy Programs = Solidarity

Monday, December 28, 2009
On Christmas Day, the Washington Post ran a story entitled, "Pro-democracy program in Cuba questioned after man detained."

According to the article:

"Few dispute that tools such as blogs, Twitter and YouTube are cracking the Cuban government's monopoly on information. But the jailing of the American contractor -- who has not been publicly identified -- has highlighted the risk of trying to slip communications technology into police states."

Which leads to the question:

If "few dispute that tools such as blogs, Twitter and YouTube are cracking the Cuban government's monopoly on information," then why dismantle the very programs that help the Cuban people obtain access to these methods of information?

Apparently, because,

"It has also revived a debate over whether the U.S. democracy program for Cuba, like a similar one in Iran, can backfire by exposing dissidents to charges that they are U.S. puppets.

'It taints them. It is almost a gift to the Castro regime to do that,' said Ted Henken, a sociologist at Baruch College who has studied the growing Cuban 'blogosfera.'"

Really? Is that the best they can come up with?

This sociological thesis overlooks the obvious. First of all, information technology is not being forced upon the Cuban people by these pro-democracy programs. They are simply filling a thirst (or should we say, a direct demand) for information technology by the Cuban people.

From humanitarian aid to information technology, it is U.S. policy to provide as much direct assistance to the Cuban people -- key word is direct -- as possible without the control and manipulation of the Castro regime's totalitarian monopoly.

The alternative would be to ignore this direct demand and condemn the Cuban people to the absolute censorship of the Castro regime -- a policy that would border on complicity.

Furthermore, this thesis fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the regimes in Havana and Tehran.

This was recently explained, as regards Iran, by Abbas Milani of The New Republic:

"Will the United States stand on the side of Iranian democracy now? The worry one hears most often in Washington is that such a stand will backfire; it will bolster the mullahs by annoying the innate nationalism of the Iranian people. But this misunderstands the regime. No matter what the United States does -- even if it maintains a studied silence -- the regime will describe its opponents as U.S. tools."

The fact remains that too many courageous Cubans are consciously risking their lives to speak out on behalf of human rights and democratic reform. Many are sacrificing decades in prison for these principles and beliefs. Therefore, they do not deserve to be patronized by foreign academics, or tourists for that matter. They get enough of that from the Castro regime.

These brave activists deserve nothing less than our solidarity.