by Jacob G. Hornberger
While U.S. officials are decrying the Egyptian military dictatorship’s criminal prosecution of U.S.-government-funded NGOs for supposedly spreading “freedom and democracy” without a government-required license, now would be a good time to revisit Cuba’s criminal conviction of Alan Gross.
Gross, an American citizen, was caught bringing satellite phones, laptops, smartphones, hard drives, and networking equipment into Cuba without the license that Cuban law requires. He was convicted by Cuban officials and is now serving a 15-year sentence
Gross was serving as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a federal agency “that provides economic, development, and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States.”
In the past, the agency has also been used as a front for the CIA, which itself has a long, notorious history with Cuba, stretching back to its infamous “covert” military invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in an unsuccessful regime-change operation.
Of course, both Gross and the feds are denying that he was working as an agent of the U.S. government when he was caught violating Cuban law. But as most everyone knows, such denials are meaningless, given that U.S. officials, especially CIA agents, would lie about what they were doing anyway.
The real point is this: What business does the U.S. government have interfering with Cuba’s internal affairs? Of course, USAID and other U.S. officials would respond, “Oh, it’s just that we love freedom and democracy and remain appalled over the fact that freedom and democracy don’t exist in Cuba. We just love the Cuban people so much that we’re doing our best to bring them freedom and democracy.”
Consider the brutal economic embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against Cuba for some 50 years. By now, U.S. officials cannot claim ignorance of how much suffering the embargo has caused the Cuban people.
In the beginning, U.S. officials said the same thing they always say when they’re imposing sanctions on foreign regimes — that they have no intent to target the citizenry but only the dictator. But after decades of experience with sanctions, everyone knows that the dictator gets along fine notwithstanding the sanctions. It’s the citizenry who pay the price. In fact, as both Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro learned, the U.S. sanctions against their countries actually helped them to centralize their power.
Like the sanctions in Iraq, which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, the sanctions on Cuba have had one and only one goal: regime change, whereby the Castro brothers are ousted from power and replaced with a regime that is subservient to the U.S. Empire. That’s in fact what all the aggression by the CIA and the Pentagon has been all about since the Cuban revolution, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, sabotage and terrorism within Cuba, and assassination attempts against Castro. The goal has always been to replace the Castros with another Fulgencio Batista, the brutal dictator who was oppressing the Cuban people with the full support of the U.S. government until Castro succeeded in sending him packing to the United States.
What are sanctions if not a direct violation of economic freedom — not only of the Cuban people, who are denied economic intercourse with Americans, but also the economic liberty of the American people, who are prohibited from traveling to Cuba and spending their money there?
That’s what all too many Americans fail to confront — that their very own government will put them into jail and fine them for spending their money in Cuba without a U.S.-government-issued license. Yes, the same type of license that the Cuban government required Gross to secure before he could distribute his computer equipment! Isn’t that ironic?
If U.S. officials were really interested in the economic well-being of the Cuban people and if they were genuinely interested in spreading freedom and democracy there, they would immediately lift their cruel and inhumane embargo that has contributed so much the suffering of the Cuban people.
Imagine thousands of American tourists flooding into Cuba, talking, trading, and interacting with the Cuban people. Imagine how many computers and communications equipment could be smuggled into the country by private citizens. Imagine how many ideas on liberty could be discussed with Cubans. Imagine the same with respect to Cuban tourists flooding into the United States.
That’s how you bring freedom and democracy to a foreign country — not with covert, nefarious government schemes that mimic the methods of the communists but instead with freedom and free markets — that is, by liberating the American people to travel and trade with the Cuban people and the rest of the people of the world.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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