By Dr. Javier Garcia-Bengochea in The Florida Times-Union:
Appeasement and moral cowardice will not improve things in Cuba
A recent rebuttal to my guest column on Cuba made four broad points:
■ Cuba has benefited from socialism.
■ Cuba’s dictatorship isn’t objectionably repressive.
■ Latin America supports President Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba.
■ My characterization of that engagement as “disgraceful” was incorrect.
Anyone who’s seen Cuba, including the writer, knows better.
Socialism has destroyed civil society.Cuba’s cities resemble Hiroshima. A “Hitler made the trains run on time” argument is disgraceful. Moreover, statistics from Cuba are entirely unreliable.
For example, what would Cuba’s infant mortality be without the highest abortion rate in the world? Or mandated abortion if there might be a birth defect? Or when Cuban doctors are ordered to “terminate” every sickly newborn — from the womb to a plastic bag — and report them as stillborn?
Cuban women cannot afford conventional contraception, yet there’s negative population growth. Abortion, being free, is Cuba’s contraceptive.
Cuba has been very successful in creating a health care apartheid: one system exclusively for foreigners and communist party elites and the other for the masses. The latter are the filthiest facilities I have seen as a physician.
The Cuban health system is a disaster.
Cuba’s doctors agree. They fight to drive cabs and wait tables to access the valuable second currency, rather than toil for pennies per hour practicing medicine.
When I delivered two lectures at the quadrennial Cuban neurosurgery meeting in Havana in 2013, the audience swarmed me afterward, not just to share anecdotes about my father — Cuba’s premier neurosurgeon — but to beg for help defecting.
Other Cubans don’t share the writer’s (or Obama’s) optimism regarding unconditional American engagement. They are fleeing Cuba in record numbers.
Some Cuba watchers speculate that if the borders opened today, more than half of Cuba’s 11 million people would immediately immigrate to the United States — and virtually everyone under the age of 40.
Due to the influence of the Castros, most of Latin America is leftist.
Having been defeated during the 1980s, communism-Castroism has been resuscitated through the façade of democracy to build authoritarian rule.
The institutions of “representative democracy” as mandated by the Inter-American Democratic Charter signed by every nation in the hemisphere, except Cuba, are under assault by these leaders.
While the United States remains committed to isolate dictatorships in the West, these authoritarian aspirations cannot be achieved. Normalizing relations with and accepting Cuba’s dictatorship lifts this impediment.
Of course they support engagement.
Finally, progressives say that with normalization, Latin American countries will join us to pressure Cuba on human rights. Yet, a multitude of foreign leaders, including Americans, have visited Havana feting the dictatorship while repression of Cuba’s pro-democracy advocates has skyrocketed.
None, especially the pope, has condemned these atrocities.
The Associated Press counts only 70 political prisoners because being truthful would see the AP expelled from Cuba. There were more than 200 political arrests one recent day alone and almost 1,100 in October.
So much for truth to power.
Abandoning the principles of democracy and human rights for appeasement will only cultivate more dictatorships — left and right.
Cuba’s repressive apartheid now has the imprimatur of an American president. Imagine Abraham Lincoln saying, “We will help the slaves by ending the isolation of their masters and engaging them economically.” Neither can I.
Admittedly, my use of the word “disgraceful” was inaccurate. As the Cuban expression of outrage goes, “No tiene nombre!”
“This has no name!”
Javier Garcia-Bengochea is a neurosurgeon at Baptist Health. He is among 5,913 claimants certified by the Treasury Department as owed damages from the Castro regime for the illegal confiscation of their property in Cuba.
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