Cuba needs aid, even 50 years later

Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor

More than 50 years later the U.S. embargo against Cuba is still in place and Cuba hasn’t changed at all.

The embargo began on Oct. 19, 1960. Contrary to popular belief the embargo was not put in place to stop communist regimes. It was in reaction to Cuba not wanting to do business with the U.S.

It was a glorified silent treatment. Once Cuba became a communist country, the U.S. used the blockade to seem like the U.S. was taking a strong stance against the Cuban dictatorship.

The problem is since the embargo was never intended to change the government in Cuba it still hasn’t. At this point the embargo isn’t going to change anything, but since the U.S. put so much meaning on the embargo lifting it now would be detrimental.

There is some history here that is important to understand. Cuba was ruled by Flugencio Batista up until 1958. During his reign he made the outward appearance of Cuba look good for the rest of the world. The upper class was profiting at intense rates and tourism was at an all-time high. However that is not the whole story. Blocks away from the flashy beachfront hotels you could find slums with terrible living conditions for the poor. People barely had enough food to eat or room to live. They were exploited and no one could do anything about it.

That is, until Fidel Castro came along. Fidel along with his brother Raul and Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara trained in guerrilla warfare and eventually overthrew the Batista regime. They were lauded as national heroes in Cuba. Once Castro took power he made moves to help people. He made things cheaper for the poor, he forgave debts, he redistributed land and preached democracy.

Power is an interesting thing. Castro had every intention of doing right by his homeland, but when he tasted the power of being the leader of the country and having people stand behind him he got addicted to it. This is eventually what led to Castro being one of the worst dictators the world has ever seen. He has been in power for 55 years and during that time he has taken back everything he gave the people and made things worse than they were when he originally took over the country.

The oppression in Cuba is scary even for a communist dictator. The problem is that Castro is so smart and he is an extremely charismatic leader. He gives speeches that would excite anyone. Imprisonment, torture and even murder are common practices of the military and police force. The country is poor and the system is designed to keep the poor down. It is estimated that 1/5 of the Cuban population has defected to the U.S. The only choices they have are run to another country or turn to illegal means to get out of the situation they are born into.

When the embargo was put in place Castro was in the process of rehabilitating the country. He hadn’t begun to oppress people and the country wasn’t even a communist state yet. The embargo was a reaction to negotiations with Cuba the U.S. didn’t like. So now 54 years later is the embargo helping in any way? No probably not, but the U.S. is in a lose-lose situation. If the U.S. ends the embargo we will be giving financial stability to the Castro regime that has been in power this whole time. It will appear as nothing more than a move to regain access to cheap sugar and really good cigars. If the U.S. doesn’t take action then it is much easier to ignore the human rights violations occurring in Cuba.

The Cuban people who are suffering don’t need some economic stalemate that leads to inaction. They need help getting out from under the oppressive blanket Castro has cast over the country. You can argue whether the U.S. needs to get involved in the Cuban business, but the U.S. has always been a country that helped other nations in need. The U.S. came to the aid of the Iraqi people when they were in a similar situation with Saddam Hussein.

I don’t know what action needs to be taken. I don’t have the answers to this equation. What I do know is that the Cuban people are suffering. I also know that the 56 percent of American that told the Atlantic Council poll that they wanted the embargo ended, they probably don’t know all the facts about the situation either. It is very easy to sit here in the U.S. with all of our freedoms and say that the embargo should be lifted, but that’s not where this issue ends. Action needs to be taken to help the Cuban people.

Ignorance is an easy crutch in this situation. Once a light is shined on the injustices in Cuba that ignorance is stripped away. Action needs to be taken and not just so we can get those delicious cigars back in our country. The Cuban people need help.