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.
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.