[Marxism] Barack Obama, Academics and Religious Leaders of the US Reject Sanctions

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 27 23:09:49 MDT 2007

(Gabriel Molina is the Editor of Granma International.)

27 Aug 2007 03:04 pm

Barack Obama, Academics 
and Religious Leaders 
of the US Reject Sanctions 
By Gabriel Molina

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama set himself apart from
the traditional declarations against the Cuban Revolution in American
electoral campaigns, marking a programmatic difference with the
historic majority of the major candidates.

A few years earlier, the Dade County Democratic Party, which Miami
belongs to, agreed to oppose the government against traveling to
Cuba, just like almost 500 US academics creators of the Emergent
Coalition to Defend Educational Trips (ECDET). They have joined
Christian American churches that recently demanded from Members of
Congress a vote to suppress the measures that President Bush has
taken to block visits and sending remittances.

Academics compare these restrictions to the ones dictated by Nazis in
Germany towards Jewish professors and they state similar arguments to
those from Christian leaders, both Catholic and Protestants, who met
with or sent letter to Members of Congress a few days ago to pressure
them to approve bill that would eliminate restrictions to travel to

Obama is scheduled to speak in Miami this Saturday. His statement was
discussed by Cuban foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque on Wednesday,
August 22, who said that he expresses the feelings of the majority in
the USA, since these draconian measures adopted by President Bush’s
administration violate the constitutional rights of Americans and
represent an anachronism and a “barbarian act”, according to a report
from AM. In 2003 the Senate and the House of Representatives in
Washington approved a bill that annulled the effect of those
sanctions, but it was eliminated with procedural maneuvers by a
minority led by Cuban-American legislators such as the Díaz Balart

The Democratic candidate, who is on second place in the public
preferences, criticized, through a spokesperson, the “strategic and
humanitarian” mistake by George W. Bush, by approving those actions.
In an op-ed in The Miami Herald, Obama said that the connections with
the Cuban families are “the best tool to help take the principle of
democratic roots to the island”.

Since 1959, the first candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon,
turned the Cuban “case” in a domestic policy issue. “Fidel Castro is
part of Bolivar’s legacy. We should have given the young and
energetic rebel a warmer welcome after his triumph”, admitted Kennedy
when he was still a Senator. But later he became involved in
opportunistic positions against Castro during his electoral campaign,
calling Nixon’s position towards the Revolution as weak.

In March of 1959, Nixon played the main role, as Eisenhower’s vice
president, in that “not warm at all welcoming” to the victorious hero
[Fidel]. Since that wasn’t enough he focused from that day on trying
to bring down the new revolutionary leader.

Unfortunately, the electoral attitude cost Kennedy his life, when as
President he tried to change his country. In the last months of 1963,
the extreme right, the complex military industry and the Pentagon,
decided that the CIA, the Mafia and the Cuban gangsters –the same
that had become Kennedy’s allies to kill Castro- should conduct the
scandalous murder. Later, they did the same with his brother Robert,
who was also determined to modify the establishment.

Since then, the main presidential candidates have assumed and
“anti-Castro” position, to prove they are more hawks than doves. The
only exception was, James Carter, who won the elections, unlike the
others, by keeping in his plans the issue of normalizing relations
with Cuba. But for different reasons, he didn’t go beyond taking them
to the level of creating the Section of Cuban Interests.

Obama underlined this Monday, August 20, according to press wires,
that if he gets to the White House, “he will lighten the restrictions
imposed by Washington over the Island so that Cubans residents of the
United States can visit their family or send them money”.

The chairman of the local party, Joe Garcia, has said now that
Obama’s words “reached the heart of the community. The Senator has
understood that most Cuban-Americans are convinced of the value of
the trips for freedom and democracy. He has shown courage and a
commitment to change a rhetoric that has been moving here by all
politicians for the last 50 years”, said the politician from Miami.

Garcia was one of the directors of the Cuban American National
Foundation that has adopted a moderate political position since the
dead of their Chairman Jorge Mas Canosa and since the failure with
the case of the child Elian [Gonzalez]. That moderation is rejected
by a group mostly comprised of old batistianos, who created that the
Cuban Liberty Council, of which most of the Miami mafia was a
militant that supports all kinds of measures against Cuba.

None of the other candidates has made a statement in these terms.
Although both Obama and Hillary Clinton voted in 2005 to end the
travel restrictions and money to Cuba that had been implemented by
Bush in 2004, last May, Clinton declared that she does not support
right now lifting the travel restrictions.

However, the irrational, illegal and almost desperate measures
implemented by Bush, have contributed a lot to rescue the image of
Cuba in the US. In fact there’s a line of thought in the country that
has gone as far as approving amendments to change a policy that they
consider a failure. But they have crashed against the influence of
the Mafia that claims to have put Bush ahead in Florida and thus, in
the national [elections].

The academics of the ECDET will appeal the recent decision in a court
in Washington, DC, that dismissed their legal arguments against the
prohibitions implemented by the Treasury.

The ECDET considers those measures adopted by the government in 2004
as unconstitutional. But the federal court decided less than a month
ago, on July 30, to support the motion of Bush’s government that
denies the validity of ECDET’s arguments over the restrictions
imposed by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), to
prevent American professors and students to take or teach classes in

The ECDET is the second coalition of academics that is organized to
fight against the measures that president Bush declared towards Cuba.
In 2004, in an open letter signed by more than 100 prominent Cuban
American academics, writers and artists –eleven of them from New
York—was published as paid advertising in the Miami Herald.

The document called the US policy towards Cuba as a “moral and
political failure that has lasted almost half a century” and
announced the formation of a national organization to prove that
there is not a monolithical position among Cuban Americans, but
rather, the same small group that is consulted and interviewed all
the time even when the community has many different positions.

Doctor Lillian Manzor, an associate professor of Latino and Latin
American literature, one of the academics that signed the letter,
said that the group had formed an organization called Emergency
Network of Cuban American Scholars and Artists for Change in
U.S.-Cuba Policy (ENCASA/US-CUBA), to repeal a US policy that is more
than 50 years old and that has as the central piece an embargo that
has been legendary for its cruelty towards the Cuban people.


But in another tightening of the restrictions, the US government
deauthorized then more than 25 travel agencies, suspended at least
six licenses to travel for religious reasons, and issued a strong
regulation for all operations related to the island. The irrational
measures limited the visits to the island by Cuban Americans to one
every three years, without even admitting exceptions for illness or
death. Bush also declared that only the children and parents are
considered relatives. He doesn’t believe in cousins, nieces, nephews
or [travel] for religious or academic purposes.

The ECDET also considers a violation of the academic freedom the
absurd regulations about who can or cannot teach classes, who can
take them, the duration of the classes or where they are taught.
According to those regulations from the OFAC, adjunct professors
cannot teach classes [in Cuba]; degree candidates are allowed to
attend only those universities where the degrees are taught; they
cannot last more than 10 weeks and they cannot be taken in Cuba until
all these conditions are fulfilled.

“We don’t see a rational reason to prevent adjunct professors from
teaching a class. Wayne Wmith [sic] for example, is an adjunct
professor, he has never had the intention of being a full time
professor, but he has taught at John Hopkins University for more than
20 years, he is one of the top experts on Cuban issues in the
country, and year after year he has taught special, short-term
courses about Cuba. But since 2004, he and other short-term faculty
have been prevented from doing so the group expressed in their

“Among other points that should be revised and are appealed is the
fact that OFAC has not presented any evidence –as required by the
Administrative Procedural Law- that it has conducted an independent
evaluation of the need to restrict US academic programs in Cuba.
Instead, like the agency admits, the OFAC was ‘directed’ by the White
House to impose these sanctions and it did exactly as ordered.

The most recent prosecution has been the 182,750 dollar fine to
Travelocity for booking trips to Cuba. This has been the first
sanction of its kind from the Department of the Treasury to an
Internet travel agency.

In summary, it’s difficult for a politician in the US to stray away
from the path marked by the electoral interests that have been
created. Because doing it not only means to distance himself from the
extreme right represented by Bush, it also means risking losing
Florida that has been decisive in the presidential elections. But the
environment created by Iraq helps. It’s so unpatriotic to take this
type of democracy to Cuba, as it is to take it to Iraq. And it’s also
truth that “those with audacity will get to Heaven”.


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