The 15th Ibero-American Summit, held in Salamanca, Spain, some days ago, was characterized by its empty declarations against poverty, its support of aid to the victims of natural disasters and, of course, its excellent banquets.
Theres nothing new in this outcome, which is repeated with regularity year after year, while large numbers of journalists gather in search of some interesting news item that might go beyond the ritual words and the traditional photographs.
This time, as many times in the past, the only real news was provided on the topic by Cuba, where the most prolonged dictatorship in the world still holds sway.
The Cuban delegation achieved two diplomatic results that might well leave it satisfied. The first was a declaration against terrorism that alluded indirectly to the case of Luis Posada Carriles, the purported author of a terrorist attack that occurred almost three decades ago.
The representatives of the Cuban government want Posada, who was acquitted in two trials to which the Venezuelans subjected him, to be tried again in Venezuela now that President Hugo Chávezs judicial system guarantees them an implacable sentence for an act that, according to law, has already been tried and thoroughly dealt with.
But that wasnt the greatest triumph of Fidel Castros followers. Their main success was a call to the United States to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade it has imposed against the island.
Anyone who knows the correct meaning of the word blockade knows that it is an act of war that impedes the arrival and departure of any means of transportation to and from a specific country. According to this elementary definition, then, the only blockade that exists in Cuba is the one imposed by its own government upon citizens who wish to leave the island in order to take advantage of a basic freedom that should not be denied to anyone.
The repression is so merciless that the desperate Cubans who dare to violate this blockade can even be sentenced to death, as happened less than two years ago to three citizens who attempted to seize a ferryboat to escape from the Cuban paradise.
What the Americans have imposed upon the Caribbean nationand upon themselves, of courseis an embargo on trade and movement that severely limits all kinds of exchange between the two countries. While it is true that Cuba has borne that embargo (maybe useless or counterproductive) for a long time, the truthas big as a cathedralis that Cuba is perfectly free to trade with the rest of the entire world, as it doubtless does.
To call a simple unilateral embargo a blockade is to distort the meaning of the word, to politically dramatize a situation that, while disturbing, in no way prevents Cuba from developing its economy by whatever means it considers most convenient.
The Cuban government has been shrewd enough to take advantage of this circumstance, denouncing the embargo as the main cause of the abysmal backwardness and poverty in which Cubas inhabitants live. A few weeks ago, for example, Deputy Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Padilla showed the press an estimate that said Cuba had lost the fabulous sum of $82 billion because it couldnt trade with the United States in the past 40 years. He therefore described the embargo as a true act of genocide.
It seems peculiar, to say the least, that a high official of the Castro regime should thus bewail the lack of commercial exchanges with his country. Doesnt Mr. Rodríguez realize that, by denouncing these losses, he is confirming the fact that trade is a beneficial act for both parties and that every exchange brings profit to those who accomplish it?
The Castro regime prohibits free trade among the islands citizens; it forbids people to engage in the economic activities that they may find most convenient; it does not allow its citizens to travel abroad and imposes rigorous prohibitions to any exchange, in the name of a socialism that brings only misery and backwardness to those who, strictly speaking, should be considered prisoners of the regime.
If trade brings so much benefit, why not allow Cubans to trade freely among themselves?
For the presidents and representatives of the countries at the Ibero-American Summit to denounce the U.S. embargo but remain silent before the brutal blockade that Fidel Castro imposes upon the Cubans themselves is a sad manifestation of servility and an ominous reminder of the fragility of our democracies.
There is much hypocrisy in all this. Perhaps there is even the desire to pacify the tyrant of the Caribbean to keep him from intervening, as he usually does, in the internal affairs of other countries, fomenting turmoil that could destabilize some governments.
The truth is that these declarations, meaningless though they may be to some, are a heavy burden that in no way helps to strengthen our democracies or to prevent thatas in Bolivia, Nicaragua or Venezuelathey again become populist or leftist dictatorships.
|Carlos Sabino is an adjunct fellow with The Independent Institute, and a visiting professor and researcher at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín Foundation in Guatemala.|