A Letter to the Cuban Three

November 8th, 2010 · 10 Comments

The following letter from Matthew Stieglitz is addressed to the Cuban Three, a play on words of the Cuban Five (five Cubans convicted of espionage against the United States). In this instance, the Cuban Three are those politicians who Stieglitz feels have become the three most powerful Cuban-Americans in the United States: Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator-elect Marco Rubio of Florida.

To the Cuban Three:

As members of the United States Congress, you are the three most powerful Cuban-Americans in the country. As such, I write to make a humble request of an elected official from my state (Senator Menendez) and two other officials who have the power to be change agents. To Senator-elect Marco Rubio, felicidades on your recent election victory. Please have the courage to end the US-Cuba embargo. To Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, felicidades on your pending rise to Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Please have the courage to end the US-Cuba embargo. And to Senator Robert Menendez, felicidades on not having been recalled from office by the Tea Party. Please have the courage to end the US-Cuba embargo.

As the last remnant of the Cold War, el bloqueo has prevented family reunification for decades, including my own. Its quest to remove Fidel Castro from power and bring democracy to Cuba has not only failed, but it has served as a rallying cry for a government that refuses to look itself in the mirror. One need look no further than the propaganda that lines every street corner and fills every billboard on the island to know we’re painted as scapegoats. Keeping the embargo allows the Cuban government to blame its ills on the United States, never reflecting on its own policy failures. And it is this inability to reflect inwardly that inspires this letter, as our own community is guilty of the same failure.

We reside in the most powerful country in the world, playing chicken with a dictator who won’t blink. He has proven this time and again, and yet we continue to support an ineffective policy that does more harm than good. We have formed one of the most powerful ethnic lobbies in this country, and use our clout to support a policy that in fifty years has done nothing more than fuel the fire of a narcissist. In so doing, our community’s leaders have chastised those who refuse to toe the company line, labeling anyone who challenges the status quo a traitor while suppressing their views. This does not exactly scream democracy or freedom of speech, the very pillars that our country rests upon that we criticize Castro for destroying. As politicians, you know the recent polls show the shifts in favor of normalizing relations with the island among Cubans of my generation. We choose to be progressive while risking discord with our own families, and even you. Regardless of whether our views are accepted or not, we have the courage to look inward. Thus, as we approach the fifty-first anniversary of economic sanctions against the island, I implore you three to look inward!

For years, we have blamed the Castro government for not addressing its own shortcomings. During that time, the well-funded and well-organized Cuban-American lobby has lined the coffers of politicians with money to continue the embargo until Castro dies. While there are fewer years ahead than there are behind in the Castro regime, this strategy has failed. We have failed. At the heart of this failure is our inability to move beyond the fact that we could not remove Castro from office. It is our community’s black eye, and one that won’t be removed for generations. But as the three most powerful Cuban-Americans in the country, you have the ability to push forward legislation that would end the embargo and end our failure. All I ask is that you have the courage to do so.

In closing, I would be remiss not to mention that I supported the embargo as a young child, because that was all I knew. As I have grown older, seen a lack of progress and traveled to the island myself, I have witnessed firsthand where the Castro government comes up short and how they escape total accountability. For that reason, I ask that you have the courage to move beyond Cold War politics and consider a progressive policy change. Only then can the people of Cuba truly see how their government wrongs them, and only then can we take steps to improve the quality of life for our struggling families trapped on the island. Each of you is on record as rejecting my view, but I hope you have the courage to change.


Matthew Stieglitz

Photo Credit: Matthew Stieglitz, photo of the US Interests Section in Havana, Cuba

Matthew Stieglitz received his BA in Communications from the University of Delaware. He is currently a 2011 Master of Public Administration candidate at Cornell University concentrating in Government, Politics, & Policy Studies. After receiving his MPA, Matthew will attend law school in order to merge his public affairs background with a legal education to most effectively advocate for Latinos.

Tags: Cuba · Economics · Fidel Castro · Foreign Policy · Government Accountability · Ileana Ros-Lehtinen · Latin American Foreign Policy · Marco Rubio · Sen. Robert Menendez

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Thomas // Nov 8, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    As long as the political/ corporate elites during/ after the bay of pigs are still around, they will see to it that the political gatekeepers of the Cuban American community, who are indebted to them, will continue to sound the pro embargo propaganda…

  • 2 BenderBendingGonzalez // Nov 8, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Matthew, welcome to the blog. Your piece is very insightful, I am in no way shape or form an expert on Cuban foreign relations, but I can’t help but agree with your article.

    In my opinion the Cuban embargo is the poster child of failed US foreign policy because Cuba is no longer a threat. Not since the fall of the Soviet Union. You can’t put a price on the human spirit, and the unification of families and the social welfare and economic improvements that would come from lifting the embargo would be priceless.


  • 3 Tweets that mention A Letter to the Cuban Three -- // Nov 9, 2010 at 3:52 am

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  • 4 Carlos // Nov 9, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Feliz cumpleanos, Matthew!

    Que lastima,

  • 5 Olga // Nov 9, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Matthew, your comments on the Cuba embargo hits home with me. You are so right, we need to challenge the Cuban government and have them take accountability for their actions and the suffering they have brought the Cuban people. I also grew up thinking the embargo was necessary in order to get the Cuban government to change. But that was all I knew as well. I have also grown older, seen a lack of progress and traveled to the island myself. I have also witnessed firsthand where the Castro government comes up short and the ones who are truly hurting are the Cuban people. Yes, the human spirit is slowly diminishing and families are suffering with little to live for. It is priceless to measure the magnitude the economic improvements will have on the island with the lifting of the embargo.

    Bravo Matthew!

  • 6 Nicole M. // Nov 9, 2010 at 10:01 am


    I couldn’t have put it in better words myself. Great piece on the shortcomings of the Cuban government to take responsibility for their actions. There’s always more than 1 side to a story; hopefully the Cuban 3 can contribute another.

    Nicole M.

  • 7 Seneca // Nov 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Kudos Matt! You have the brains to understand the issue fully, the passion to have a heartfelt appreciation of the challenge and the political bravery to raise your voice…and certainly you possess a coveted elegance in wordsmithing! Welcome!

  • 8 J // Nov 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Matt, everything that you mentioned is on target, I can’t even come up with one reason that the Cuban 3 could reject your view. Lifting the embargo not only will give the families in Cuba more to live for, it will also increase the tourism in Cuba and the economy. If the Cuban 3 can’t help you do anything about the embargo, I know you will keep fighting to end the embargo and one day it will happen. I have faith in you and everything you do is great! I can’t wait to read the rest of your posts. Besitos, J

  • 9 Chicano future tense // Nov 9, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I applaud Matthew Stieglitz for urging high ranking US Cubano elected officials to drop the embargo.

    The US government should take the embargo off of Cuba.
    As a matter of fact, I would hope that they remove it entirely-economic,financial,humanitarian.

    Furthermore, the US needs to assure Cuba they will respect it’s soverignty -not interfere in Cuba’s affairs,infiltrate , or carry out CIA coup plots or assasination attempts.

    Having said that, I highly doubt mr Steiglitz’s letter will be given any serious consideration by right-wing reactionary Cubanos in government.
    I suspect his letter will most likely be tossed into the “round file.

    But never the less, the symbolic significance of his gesture is in my opinion very much worth the effort.

    I ask though you really expect these Cubano right wing politicians to be receptive of a removal of the embargo?

    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ,a top republican, publicly advocated the assasination of a foreign leader-

    “I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro …” she announced.
    Add to that ..US CIA and Cubano exiles have attempted and failed to assasinate Castro over 600 times!

    US Cubano politicians-Unfortunately, many of them have been of the right wing variety who too easily have allied themselves with some of the most racist reactionary elements of the far right Republican and Tea Party.Theirr most recent addition, Marco Rubio being representative of right-wing Tea Party loving Cubanos.

    A few observations-
    The author of the article almost exclusively insinuates in a very cleverly presumptive fashion-he points his finger at Cuba and it’s revolution while not once mentioning the role of US imperialism as the source of provocation of the revolution.

    Hate or love the Cuban revolution,Fidel Castro,Che Guevara,most rational and fair minded people will recognize the historical aggressive and imperialistic role of the USA trying to to make Cuba it’s private little island casino and bordello run by mafia loving dictators such as F.Batista and his right wing extremist american pals as well as his gumbas in the Italian mob.

    After the revolution Batista and his pack of bandidos immediately fled Cuba for Miami – they stole over 500 million dollars(1959 dollars) from the Cuban people,almost bankrupting the economy.

    I think it just that stolen money be returned to the Cuban people with interest starting in 1959.

    As a matter of fact, it would be fair not only for the US to drop the embargo,but also give back the stolen Guantanamo area of Cuba ..which has since been converted by the US military into a rendition and torture center.

    IMHO, the tone of Mr Steiglitz’s argument expressed in his article is somewhat presumptious and hypocritical in his characterzation of Cuba, it’s revolution and problems.

    He cleverly omits the culpability of the historic US imperialist role in Latin America in general and in Cuba specifically.

    Many Latinos are aware that the USA has a long racist ,oppresive,exploitative history in Latin America.

    Mainfest Destiny,the Monroe Doctrine and other such imperialist doctrines served as a basis of-a racist justification used to keep Latin America under it’s thumb..captive,controlled and exploited for US business and corporations.

    Such agressive imperialist policies in Latin America are enough to fill volumes of history:
    Intervention,police actions,coups,assasinations,embargos.. etc etc..

    Mexico,Chile,Cuba,Nicaragua,El Salvador central and caribbean america-all historical victims of US invasion,intervention,embargos..( some of these actions continuing down to present times.)

    The greatest sin which the Cuban revolution,in the eyes of US imperialism,committed was not so much to have become communist.But rather of becoming a Latin american country which could become a symbol example..of independence to other Latin American countries desiring to chart their own independent course economically,socially and politically.Self-determination.

    US hypocisy-It has supported and put into power many brutal vicious dictators all over the world (as long as they served their interests).

    US hypocrisy-It dropped embargos of China and in fact made massive investments, business and corporate dealings with Mao’s Communist “Red” China beginning in the early 1970’s.The US will go along with communist countries as long as there is money in it for them.

    But not with brown and black Latin America.No.because brown and black Latin american countries are considered de facto US plantations,inferiors,territories,backyards-exclusive domains for US exploitation and oppresion.

    The US hates Cuba because it’s stubborn independence has served as a dangerous symbol of indepenedence-an example to the rest of Latin America of a nation determiing their own self-determination -not to be raped and exploited by american business and corporations.

    I, as mr Stiglitz support removing the Cuban embargo.
    But,I have the feeling that perhaps some our motives may be quite different.

  • 10 End the Embargo on Cuba! « Chicano future tense // Nov 9, 2010 at 6:20 pm

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