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Republicans need to get over Cuba

In Rajiv Gopie on January 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm

“Cuba will be free” the top Republicans candidates stated in a Florida debate, crystallising the unhealthy obsession that the GOP has with the small Caribbean nation. As they tried to woo Florida’s sizeable Cuban population the candidates spoke in narratives that were decades behind the current state of Cuba. Seeking to play on family ties and the nostalgia of older Cuban migrants they spoke of Cuba as some sort of oppressive North Korean-style regime ruled by tyrants and a place where all the evils under the sun gathered.

It would be folly to think that these witty men are not aware of the real situation in Cuba but instead are using old wounds to gain cheap political points amongst a sizeable but shrinking demographic. Cuba may not have the free enterprise and trappings of America or Europe but it also does not have the poverty of the Southern US states nor the vast income inequality. It does not have the millions without health care and access to basic services like the USA nor does it have the rising xenophobia of Europe. Instead the unfairly suppressed island has worked towards a society without poverty and homeless children, a place where healthcare of phenomenal quality is free and so too is education.

Cuba is far from perfect and I disagree with many of its policies; its imprisonment of political dissidents, its suppression of free speech and its opposition to free actor choice, but it is far from the Orwellian nightmare that the GOP is narrating. The changing tide in the island since the retirement of Fidel Castro points to a more open future. The EU has recognised these changes and is seeking to build bridges with the island. The USA needs to get over its obsession with Cuba. This piece may target the Republicans but the Democrats are just as guilty of exploiting old rhetoric to win over the Cuban vote in Florida.

The old Cuba and its old guard will be washed away by the waves of progress, we already see the daughter of Raul Castro openly advocating for gay equality, a group that was demonised and hated by Fidel (who later apologised for the mistreatment of GLBT people during and after the revolution), and overtures by the regime to open up the island to investment etc. and grant amnesty to political prisoners. If Cuba can change why can’t the US? Will the course be the continued opening of old wounds and the fostering of hate and sorrow or will it be about engagement and reconciliation? Will the USA continue its proud tradition of reaching out and helping the promotion of democracy or will it deny its own nature for cheap political points?

(The author is no communist but would like to one day live in a fair world.)

-Rajiv Gopie

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