14ymedio, Madrid, 13 December 2022 — Cuban physician Antonio Guedes, founder of the Liberal Union, told 14ymedio on Tuesday that the controversy generated by the presentation in Miami of the book Cuban Privilege (Cambridge University Press, 2022), by the American sociologist Susan Eckstein, was a natural response of the community of Cuban residents in the United States.
“In the face of an issue of this nature, within an exile community that has suffered so much and still suffers, it is normal and even necessary to offer answers, let’s say sociological, as long as they are peaceful,” Guedes said from Madrid.
Cuban Privilege, a study of the migration policies of the United States toward Cuba since 1959, poses — supported by archives and state documents — that Cuban immigrants have enjoyed multiple political, social and economic benefits from which other groups of migrants have been deprived under the same conditions.
Both the postulates of the book and Eckstein’s favorable vision of the Cuban regime motivated, during the presentation of the book last Friday at the International University of Florida (FIU), a protest that was held in the vicinity of the campus.
On the university campus, where the academic debate between Eckstein and Cuban politician Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat took place, several of the attendees shouted slogans of “Down with communism!” “Free Cuba!” and “Homeland and life!” in addition to expressing their annoyance with the opinions in Cuban Privilege during the question-and-answer period.
Guedes is familiar with the work of Eckstein, who is the author of several books on Cuba, among them, the also controversial Back from the Future: Cuba under Castro. “She has always been one of the many left-wing academics who, from American universities, have done and do horrible damage to the exile,” he says. In addition, Eckstein has demonstrated several times her “benevolence toward the communist dictatorship, from the apparent bourgeois equidistance.”
Regarding the presentation of the book at FIU, the doctor welcomed the fact that Eckstein found “a high-level response that demonstrates the false premises and gaps in her book,” such as the one offered by Gutiérrez-Boronat, who put in context several of the statements that the professor put “lightly.”
However, Guedes says, it is logical that a book like Cuban Privilege will awaken the anger of the Cuban-American community. The reaction is comparable to that in other contexts where people have experienced dictatorships and totalitarianism.
“What would happen in Israel if a book had been presented that remotely questioned the Holocaust?” the doctor asks. “What would have happened in Chile, if positive Pinochet things were considered? Or in today’s Spain, governed by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and Podemos, about Franco? Or perhaps in today’s American universities, a presentation against abortion rights or gender ideology?”
However, it is also necessary to qualify. According to Guedes, there has been a “use, abuse and fraud” of the Cuban Adjustment Act for at least two decades. “If someone arrives at the U.S. border and requests that a law be applied to him conceived for persecuted people — or at least people discriminated against or marginalized for political, religious reasons, etc., and not for those who emigrate for economic reasons — and then after a year and a day they return to the ’house’ of their repressor, without apparent fear, as a mula [mule], a tremendous inconsistency is committed,” he says.
This is frequent and unjustified, although it is true that many Cubans had to leave Cuba when their properties were confiscated or nationalized. In that sense, the expropriation process executed by Castro was closely linked to the political sphere and, therefore, was a reason for reception in the United States. But this is not a frequent case, and the only reason to invoke the Cuban Adjustment Act should be “intimately linked to the lack of freedom.”
“All that is an incoherence, a fraud and a bad example for other groups and societies,” Guedes insists. “It is one thing to be exiled and another to be an immigrant, to improve life or for issues like wars and cataclysms.”
This does not mean, the doctor assures, that the Cuban Adjustment Act should be eliminated. “But it should be modified and made clear to those who take advantage of it that they cannot happily return to where the jailer is supposed to be,” he says.
Eckstein dedicates not a few pages of her book to the “false argument” of political persecution. But if Guedes and the academic agree on anything, it’s on the fact that the migration mechanisms must be applied correctly. “In this way, not only is the spirit of the act being complied with and fraud greatly diminished,” says the doctor, “but a message (an example) is also sent to the rest of the world and, incidentally doesn’t help support the repressive machinery, which is the cause of Cuban exile and emigration.”
There is much more to discuss about Cuban Privilege, such as Eckstein’s silence about the contributions of the Cuban community to American culture and even to the urban development of cities like Miami, or the “repressive nature of Cuban communism.”
There are also good reasons for revising the Cuban Adjustment Act, but “it should not be suppressed,” Guedes says. It should be modified or applied well, “because the causes for migration persist with the communist dictatorship.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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