Sun-Sentinel: New York Times Wrong to Lobby Against Cuban Embargo

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
By Guillermo I. Martinez in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

New York Times wrong to lobby for lifting Cuba embargo

Ernesto Londoño is the newest member of The New York Times editorial board. He was hired in September and since then he has written six editorials and two blogs on why the United States should re-establish relations with Cuba and lift the embargo.

In more than 50 years as a journalist, I cannot recall a time when a major American newspaper has published that many editorials on a story that outside of South Florida is no longer front-page news.

Editorials are supposed to give guidance, offer advice to readers and public officials. Seldom are they part of a lobbying campaign. Yet this is precisely what The New York Times and Londoño are doing.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C., a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba toward human rights, democracy and the rule of law, said that when Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of The New York Times' opinion pages was asked about the series of editorials and blogs, he admitted they were part of a lobbying campaign.

Carone said Rosenthal had admitted the newspaper wanted "to influence those who craft U.S. policy (in this country) at a time when they were contemplating the possibility of adopting a new policy towards Cuba."

This is not to say The New York Times is accepting money from the Cuban government or from the group of rich Cubans asking for the same thing. I believe Londoño and the newspaper are taking this position because of their convictions.

I respect their right to say their piece, but I reject their logic and the idea that newspaper editorials should be repositories of arguments for a lobbying campaign.

Rosenthal must know things us mere mortals ignore. I am cognizant there has been a group of wealthy Cubans who seek rapprochement with the Cuban regime. Yet I know of no plan or even a rumor that the U.S. government is thinking of changing its Cuba policy.

As long as Bob Menéndez, D-N.J., chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate will not even get the chance to consider modifying the Helms-Burton law that strengthened the embargo against Cuba.

Maybe Londoño and The New York Times Editorial Board believe President Obama would be willing to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. That would be naive. The president already has a major battle on his hands when he enacts immigration reform by executive action, bypassing Congress.

Londoño's arguments are at best exaggerated. He says younger Cuban-Americans favor lifting the embargo. Polls do say that.

What neither the polls nor Londoño can explain is why, if that is the case, all five Cuban-American congressmen and three senators are all opposed to lifting the embargo or re-establishing relations with Cuba. Nor can the polls explain why two Democratic Party candidates in Florida who favored improving relations with Cuba lost their elections in November.

Londoño could not have guessed that the two candidates he mentioned as examples of politicians who wanted better relations with Cuba — Congressman Joe Garcia and former Gov. Charlie Crist — were to lose two weeks ago.

Still, he insists on pushing the issue. He praises the Cuban doctors who travel to Africa to fight Ebola — undeniably a worthy cause. He also speaks in glowing terms of the thousands of Cuban doctors who serve poor countries.

In his latest editorial Londoño says Cuba makes "$8.2 billion from its medical workers overseas. The vast majority, fewer than 46,000, are posted in Latin American and the Caribbean. A few thousand are in 32 African countries."

He added that Cuba pays the doctors who go to Brazil $1,200 per month, much more than the $60 per month the doctors make in Cuba. What he does not say is Brazil pays Cuba $4,430 per month for each doctor. Cuba keeps the difference between what it pays their doctors and what Brazil pays the Castro regime.

To me, that is a form of slavery. How else would one describe a situation where the state keeps almost 75 percent of what a person earns each month?

To Londoño, I am one of the dying breed of Cuban-Americans who still dream that someday Cuba will be free of the totalitarian rule of the Castro brothers, and its people will live in a democracy that will respect human rights and grant its citizens freedom of speech.