Welcome to the Past / Ernesto Morales Licea

If somehow I managed the unthinkable — five minutes with president Barack Obama — I think I would use the time to convey a clear message: “Do not veto the provision that restricts travel and remittances to Cuba, Mr. President.”

I don’t know if I would say to him what I have to my friends and family in Cuba, and which in my year in the United States I’ve never stopped repeating, with impertinent insistence, that to alienate Cubans on and off the island from each other is more than an injustice, it is a serious mistake.

But I would advise the President not to veto, in the case of Cuba, the budget bill that will be approved or rejected by Congress on the 16th, where the Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart cleverly slipped in a return to the Cuban travel and remittances policies from the time of George W. Bush.

Why? Because just as every people has the leader it deserves, each sector of a democracy has the measures it deserves, promulgated by the legislators it elects and deserves.

And while Obama’s veto would avoid the catastrophe of severing the ties between exiles and Cuba’s nascent civil society, and would prevent more than a little suffering among mothers who would not be able to see their children more than once every three years, I don’t believe it should be Obama, an American born in Hawaii, who should protect us from whomever we Cubans ourselves elect, or allow others to elect, and who eventually adopt laws against us.

Only those who cannot exercise their right to vote because they do not possess citizenship in this country are excluded (temporarily) from the blame. The rest of those in South Florida have signed on so that those with positions like those of Mario Diaz Balart seem representative of this community, and those who prefer to go shopping on election day will receive what they appear to have asked for, whether or not they exercised their rights.

The truly unfortunate are the almost two million Cubans living in the United States today, and the 1.2 million living in South Florida, an ever smaller percentage of whom sustain these alienating postures and restrictions that in more than half a century have not hurt so much as a hair on the head of the Castro brothers.

But it so happens that the true majority now has its hands tied because of one of two reasons: either legal impossibility or apathy toward the exercise of its rights, incorrigibly inherited from its days on an Island where the word “elections” has no mental resonance.

So who is left? Those who because of stubbornness, ignorance, lack of re-programming or opportunism insist on supporting a clearly failed policy, based more on the absence of ideas than on the dialectic of thought and societies.

That explains why it is not imperative to have an intelligent and bold platform in the south of Florida in order to have a rising political career; if you repeat the same chants, the same anti-Castro formulas, the same methods that have proved ineffective decade after decade, you’re more than halfway along the path to success.

It doesn’t matter that every day the facts prove that without the people who travel to the Island the cellphones don’t bring themselves and, in consequence, the images of repression cannot be shown to the world. It doesn’t matter that those like me who are newcomers shout ourselves hoarse saying that every Cuban who receives financial support outside the State is a much more independent and honest citizen than those who depend on the government to fill their stomachs. It’s not important to remember the basis on which this great country is founded: respect for diversity and individual decisions.

Therefore I, who advocate for all those who want to visit their family and friends being able to do so whenever they and their wallets decide (not the amendment of some congressman born in Fort Lauderdale, lucky for him), would applaud the president’s veto in the name of the consequences it would avoid, but if the man elected to decide the fate of this nation asked my humble opinion, I would repeat the same sentence: “Don’t veto the clause that restricts travel and remittances to Cuba.”

As long as there is no accountability and good sense on the part of Cubans in the exercise of their rights; as long as there is no awareness of what it means to elect those who promote policies respectable in their quest for freedom but that should be dismissed as outdated, there will be draconian laws governing the destiny of this community, and we say: welcome to the past.

I don’t believe it should be the president of the United States who, like a wise adult, makes the right decision in the name of the children. Rights come with responsibility, they are not received as an indulgence.

(Originally in Martí Noticias)

December 14 2011