Cuba is still a dictatorship
by Jorge Ramos
January 13, 2016 2:47 p.m.
Sometimes those of us who live outside Cuba forget that the country
remains a dictatorship. But for the 11 million people living on the
island, forgetting is impossible—they live the consequences every day.
But the thaw between Washington and Havana that began last year has
dramatically shifted the conversation in the U.S. For instance, when
covering Cuba these days, the media no longer focuses on the lack of
freedoms, economic shortages or human-rights violations. Rather, the
news is dominated by the reopening of the American embassy, the growing
number of tourists visiting Cuba and a potential end to the decadeslong
U.S.-imposed embargo. Some daring commentators even envision that the
American-controlled facilities at Guantanamo might one day soon be
handed back to the Cubans.
However, the Castro dictatorship still holds power. Almost 10 years ago,
after decades in charge, Fidel Castro hand-picked his brother Raul to
succeed him (Fidel will be 90 in August; Raul is 84). The Castros reign
over a country where there are no pluralistic elections or a free press,
and where dozens of political prisoners remain locked up for speaking
out against the government. Essentially, the regime still rules with fear.
But don’t just take my word for it. Ask any of the thousands of Cubans
who continue to flee the island any way they can.
Many are traveling to Ecuador, then trying to cross Central America by
land in order to make it to the U.S., which has led to regional
immigration troubles. Some 8,000 Cubans are currently stranded in Costa
Rica, unable to get transit visas to Nicaragua because Nicaragua has
“closed its border and stopped the traffic that was going on normally,
albeit run by traffickers, for many years” Luis Guillermo Solis, the
president of Costa Rica, told me in a recent interview.
Other Cuban migrants risk a perilous ocean journey on small boats in
order to reach Florida. On Christmas morning last month, about 15 Cuban
migrants showed up in the parking lot of a drugstore in the Florida
Keys, still soaking wet from their journey.
The ultimate goal of many Cuban migrants is to reach the U.S. no matter
what because policies here generally allow them to stay and become
residents after a year. According to government figures, more than
40,000 Cubans came to the U.S. last year. Cynical critics will say that
the reason for this influx of migrants is fear that thawing relations
between the U.S. and Cuba will mean that Cuban immigrants won’t receive
special status much longer. But the cynics are wrong. The real fault
lies with the Castro dictatorship that forces them to flee.
That the U.S. accords Cubans a privileged status has long been a sore
spot for many Mexicans and Central Americans. Undocumented immigrants
from those countries are in constant danger of being detained and
deported. Cubans don’t face such a threat. However, I do think that we
should continue to protect Cuban refugees who arrive in the U.S.—at
least until the Castro dictatorship disappears. We should always protect
victims from any dictatorship.
As for the Cuban-Americans who vehemently oppose the Obama
administration’s current initiatives with the Castro regime, I
understand their apprehension. I wouldn’t want to shake hands with
someone who took away my house or my job, who killed or imprisoned a
family member, or forced me to flee my country. But I suspect that
behind this diplomatic rapprochement lies a hidden goal.
President Obama is not naïve—he can’t come out and say that the purpose
of his policies toward Cuba is to remove the Castros. But Cuba will
change, and once the democratic winds begin to circulate there again,
I’m sure that we will know many more details about the closed-door
meetings in Washington where the country’s fate was discussed.
In the end, only Cubans can change Cuba. But they should realize that
they’re not alone. The Internet is on its way to reaching every corner
of the island, despite government restrictions and a price that remains
prohibitively high for the average Cuban. But Cubans know that change is
happening elsewhere—notably in Guatemala, Argentina and Venezuela. And
Cuba is next on the list.
Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s
new television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news
anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in
Florida, Ramos is the author of nine best-selling books, most recently,
“A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”
Source: Jorge Ramos: Cuba is still a dictatorship | Fusion –