Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Castro Bashes Obama

Los historicos along Calle Ocho here in Miami will be happy to hear that Fidel Castro — who apparently is still alive, contrary to my colleague who swears he’s dead — doesn’t like Barack Obama any more than he likes George W. Bush or any of the other ten presidents he’s seen.

Former President Fidel Castro says Sen. Barack Obama’s plan to maintain Washington’s trade embargo against Cuba will cause hunger and suffering on the island.

In a column published Monday by government-run newspapers, Castro said Obama was “the most-advanced candidate in the presidential race,” but noted that he has not dared to call for altering U.S. policy toward Cuba.

“Obama’s speech can be translated as a formula for hunger for the country,” Castro wrote, referring to Obama’s remarks last week to the influential Cuban American National Foundation in Miami.

Obama said he would maintain the nearly fifty-year-old trade sanctions against Cuba as leverage to push for democratic change on the island. But he also vowed to ease restrictions on Cuban Americans traveling to Cuba and sending money to relatives.

He repeated his willingness to meet with Raul Castro, who in February succeeded his elder brother Fidel to become the nation’s first new leader in 49 years.

Castro said Obama’s proposals for letting well-off Cuban Americans help poorer relatives on the island amounted to “propaganda for consumerism and a way of life that is unsustainable.”

He complained that Obama’s description of Cuba as “undemocratic” and “lacking in respect for liberty and human rights” was the same argument previous U.S. administrations “have used to justify their crimes against our homeland.”

I actually think that the Castros are just fine with having either Obama or McCain as president as long as the embargo stays in place so they can use it as the excuse for their regime’s brutality and failures. As long as they can blame someone else, they’re happy, and the United States has played along for nearly fifty years, basically enabling them in this gambit. Virtually every other country in the hemisphere, including Canada, conducts trade with Cuba, as does just about every other country on the planet (with the exception of Israel). So blaming their woes on the U.S. is just their way of keeping the “revolution” alive. If the embargo was lifted, they know they would be unable to hold back the wave of McDonald’s, Wal Marts, and NAPA Auto Parts stores.

Frankly, I’m disappointed that Sen. Obama felt he had to come down here and echo the Cold War platitudes just to placate the old hardliners that still have visions of rolling back into Havana in their 1959 Buicks with pipe dreams of reclaiming their property and their lives and going back to the way things used to be. As long as he’s going around the country promising hope and change, he might as well offer it to the people in Cuba instead of pandering to a small group of exiles who hope that things won’t change. Having a double standard for dictatorships — China, Vietnam, and a lot of our best trading customers (not to mention our lenders) are just as allergic to democracy as Cuba — is just more of the same.