Published on Monday, August 3, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
US Activists Challenge Obama on
by JoJo Farrell
During last year's presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he was willing to sit down with Cuban leaders without preconditions. Hopes were high for the change that Obama had promised during his campaign for the White House. Obama, however, has been slow to implement any significant policy shift towards Cuba since taking office, raising concerns among those eager to see a new relationship with the island nation. This week two groups of Americans, over 250 people in all, are traveling to
Diego Iniguez-Lopez is a Cuban American who voted for Obama. "I expected him to rescind the excesses of the Bush policies immediately. I applaud the small steps we have seen but he hasn't gone far enough to address the embargo and how it affects the Cuban people and our ability to travel there." Iniguez-Lopez will travel with the Venceremos ("We Shall Overcome") Brigade which, along with Pastors for Peace, will spend two weeks in
Both groups traveling to
Both groups return on August 3rd and cross the
This is not to say there has been no movement. The Summit of the Americas meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago in April provided a stage for Obama to announce a slight shift in policy, lifting Bush-era restrictions that prevented Cuban Americans from sending money to relatives and limited their travel to once every three years. It seems that Obama is moving back to the type of relationship that existed under Bill Clinton. In the past two months the Obama administration has issued a call to resume immigration talks cut off by George. W. Bush in 2004.
But even those limited steps at the
It is not just conservatives who are dissatisfied. "This isn't enough", said Tshaka Barrows, a juvenile justice organizer from
"The current policy is still about 80% Bush," said Philip Peters, a
Peters argued more than a new beginning is needed. "The nuclear option would be to end the embargo now. The political equation would change overnight. The Cuban government would be forced to accept responsibility for problems they face."
A large part of the problem is an inability by the
Cuban independence was severely circumscribed from the start. Cubans who led the independence movement were banned from ceremonies marking
Critics of the policy argue it has been inhumane, ineffective and counterproductive for the eleven presidents who have upheld it. They say it is it has served as rallying cry for the government to blame its own ills on. It is inhumane because the Cuban people are being punished for the alleged ills of their government; they suffer from critical shortages of essential goods from the
In 1996 the embargo was strengthened by the Helms-Burton Act which extended its remit to foreign business. Penalties can be imposed on other countries that trade with Cuban industries linked to expropriations of former
As of yet, other than minor shifts in policy, the Obama administration has held to the outdated policy towards Cuba that limits changes until Cuba adheres to democratic elections, releases political prisoners and grants freedom of press. While all that may sound reasonable, the reality is a little more complex.
Then there is the issue of terrorism. The most famous incident was the bombing of a Cubana airliner on October 6, 1976 that killed 73 people. When the Carter administration briefly lifted the restrictions on travel in 1979, Carlos Muniz, president of a
Neither side's hands can be called totally clean, but that has never stopped the
JoJo Farrell is the
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs