The Plank

Fidel'n Friends

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The Nation has a symposium on the future of Cuba. One of the contributors is Ramon Sanchez-Parodi, former head of the Cuban Interests Section (the unofficial Cuban embassy in the United States) and now chief of the "Department of International Relations at Cuba's Customs Agency." But don't worry, The Nation assures us, this government apparatchik "expresses his opinions here in a nonofficial capacity." And what are those opinions?

What Cuba wants in its relations with the United States is simple and
straightforward: the requisite respect for our independence as a nation, our territorial integrity and the sovereign will of the Cuban people to decide on their own political, economic and social system... But it would require the United States to cease a number of hostile activities in which it is currently engaged: to stop encouraging, financing and organizing the so-called "dissidents" on the island and to put a stop to those in the exile community who continue to plan terrorist actions against Cuba.

Leave it to The Nation, that stalwart fount of "unconventional wisdom since 1865," to offer a platform to a dictatorship's toady.

The magazine's panel of experts chimes in with support for this man and his disreputable opinions. "I agree with Ramon," says American University's dean of the School of Public Affairs, William LeoGrande. "What Cuba wants from the United States today is what Cuba has wanted from the United States since January 1, 1959--a relationship of equality based on respect for Cuba's national sovereignty and independence, not a restoration of Washington's neocolonial dominance." Another member fondly remembers Che Guevara, whom Alvaro Vargas Llosa expertly described
as a "killing machine" in these pages.

None of this is to say that the Cuban embargo is a good idea (I think it is not), but one of the most vexing aspects of the debate is the extent to which people vilify the Miami exiles. What are their nefarious motives? The exiles (many of whom escaped from actual Cuban gulags) merely disagree about the best way to liberalize their country both politically and economically (the former goal is something about which The Nation panel seems at best indifferent; the latter, dismissive).

It is irrefutable that Fidel Castro wrought more destruction and human misery in Cuba than the once-great enemy of the international left, Augusto Pinochet (awful as he was), inflicted on Chile. But don't expect to hear this from The Nation.

--James Kirchick

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