Cuba Libre & The July 11th Uprising
You may have heard about Cuban American protests in the streets of Miami, but what’s happening in Cuba itself, where protest often carries stiff punishment from the communist dictatorship? It’s hard to find accurate coverage given the information embargo imposed by the Castro regime. Ian Vasquez returned to the show to explain what the events of the July 11th uprising symbolize in a country whose people have lived in fear of persecution and torture for decades.
Ian is Vice President for international studies at the Cato Institute and director of its Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He is a foreign policy correspondent for CNBC, NBC, C-SPAN, CNN, Telemundo, Canadian Television, NPR, and Voice of America. He is also the co-author of the Human Freedom Index — a subtopic for this Sunday’s show — the editor of Global Fortune: The Stumble and Rise of World Capitalism, and the coeditor of Perpetuating Poverty: The World Bank, the IMF, and the Developing World.
Vasquez finds that technology and the arts are creating new possibilities for exposing the miserable results of the Cuban “experiment” with socialism, which could only be sustained for so long by repression and intimidation. The rallying cries for freedom have grown louder and louder since Cubans got a taste of freedom from the outside world.
Bob Zadek 00:17
On July 11, somewhat spontaneously, 90 miles from our southern border, there was the beginning of what is starting to be called an uprising on the island nation of Cuba. This has never happened before in that highly repressed society — that communist nation, so close to our borders that has been another petri dish for a top-down controlled economy.
Cuba shuns private property. It has a repressive government and prevents self-determination by its citizens. Many observers felt the uprising was a long time in coming. On the other hand, it seemed impossible because of Cuba’s skill at suppressing information. Cuba was happy to keep its population isolated from the rest of the world and under tight control using the usual tools, including fear.
The United States has an irrational policy towards Cuba. When I study policy issues, I drill down to ask, “Why do we have that policy?”
Whether we’re talking about staying at home under COVID, or why we have the policy that we have vis-à-vis Cuba?
Most Americans are unaware of what exactly our policy is. We know something about an embargo. I felt it was time to revisit our relationship to Cuba and what’s going on because of the events of July 11.
I’m happy to welcome back to the show Ian Vasquez — the Vice President for International Studies at Cato, my favorite free market think-tank. Without Cato, I would feel myself quite adrift in the world. Ian is the head of the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He also is the co-author of the Human Freedom Index.
Ian, welcome to the show this morning.
Ian Vasquez 05:12
Thanks very much. Thanks for inviting me again.
The Embargo: Bad Policy & Excuse for the Failure of Communism
Bob Zadek 05:17
Introduce us to the relationship between the United States and Cuba. Are we at war with them? How did we get there?
Ian Vasquez 05:58
Cuba is a communist country. It turned communist soon after Fidel Castro took over in 1959. At the time, we were at the height of the Cold War. The policy that began almost immediately was to impose an embargo on that country. It’s an embargo that has been sustained to this date, essentially, with some changes along the way. Basically, it’s a prohibition on exports and imports, investment, and travel in that country. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has gone through a lot of hardships because of simply the collapse of socialism, which in its very nature is unsustainable. There had been very slight reforms in Cuba that had been reversed.
It was during the Obama administration that there was some relaxation of the embargo. People could start traveling. Americans, I should say, started traveling to the island, and so on. When Trump came to power, we were back to basically where we’ve been for most of the past six decades, which is an embargo on Cuba. Nevertheless, the United States does allow for the sale of some items to Cuba, so that over the past several years trade between US and Cuba has not been minimal. It’s been in the area of $200 to 300 million, sometimes up to $700 million or more. Yet, that has not seemed to make a difference to the lives of people in Cuba. It’s not a wise policy.
But the real problem is Cuban communism, and whether there’s an embargo or not, that’s what is inflicting the great pain that people were protesting against and in favor of freedom on July 11.
Bob Zadek 08:24
Putting the best spin you can on the answer to my question, why should the United States as a country care what the economic structure is of a trading partner? Cuba is a communist country. It doesn’t represent in and of itself an existential threat to us. I’m not asking you to defend the policy, because intellectually you couldn’t. Why does the United States feel it’s in our best interest to impose that embargo, which harms profoundly the citizens of Cuba? What is the best case for the embargo? Why is it that successive administrations just somewhat mindlessly just embraced that policy without examining why we’re doing it?
Ian Vasquez 09:39
First of all, the original rationale for imposing the embargo way back when was a national security rationale. The Soviets were being very influential in Cuba. It posed a national security threat. There was the Cuban Missile Crisis and so on. If there ever was an actual security threat, that ended with the end of the Soviet Union and the massive support that it gave to Cuba. I don’t think that the security threat is credible, but policies in Washington, and not just foreign policy but all kinds of policies, have a way of living way past their usefulness because all around them there’s a lot of interests, not the least, some of the Cuban Americans that are in Florida, which has a heavy influence on Washington’s policies.
The argument that is made today in favor of maintaining the embargo — and we should note that the embargo has been totally ineffective — is to try to change policies on the island, and to dislodge a regime that is threatened. None of that has helped Cuba. None of that has happened. In fact, if you look at the record of sanctions all around the world, they have had a very poor record, and Cuba is no exception — especially if they’re unilateral type sanctions, not the whole world participating, with just one or two people or a few countries, in this case, the United States and Cuba. Cuba trades with the rest of the world freely.
The current argument is that were we to loosen the embargo and start trading with them, that would bring in precious investment and trade and money to support the regime. It is a communist dictatorship so you will essentially be doing a lot of business with the regime, and especially the army there, which runs the tourism industry and runs all the important businesses there. That’s the fear that the pro-embargo people point to.
My view is that there are two things that could happen:
The most important would be an increase in travel from Americans. I think that that’s a fairly positive influence because there’s a pretty large, informal economy — you can call it a shadow economy or black market economy in Cuba with ordinary Cubans trying to make a living there outside of the reach of the state by providing services and selling things to Americans. Americans tend to be more generous when they travel than European or other visitors. I think that that would help to expand the role of the informal economy, and help ordinary Cubans create wealth on their own and become less dependent on the state. They’re pretty dependent on the state now, which is a positive thing.
On the other hand, it is true that the Cuban state would probably get more resources. I don’t think that it would be much more, frankly, because it’s a communist country after all. They have the worst economic policies in the world. It’s not the kind of economy that people look at and say, “I’m pouring a lot of money and investing there,” because you can’t. Lifting the embargo would not make much of a difference in terms of the economy in Cuba. The economy in Cuba is damned as long as they don’t actually implement reforms. The embargo has not been effective at promoting reforms.
In my view, what is the main harm that the embargo has caused is that it is pointed to by the regime and regime supporters in Cuba and all around the world to say the reason that Cubans are suffering — that the main reason is because of the Cuban embargo. I think that it causes some pain, but the main reason is communism itself. Lifting it would help clarify that situation because I don’t think that it would create a huge difference. It’s not what is going to usher in freedom in Cuba. I think that it would be helpful on the margin. This is why I think that it could be helpful in creating greater spaces of freedom within Cuba. It would be especially helpful to take away this argument that people in the supporters of the Cuban regime used by saying, “Really, it’s the United States’ fault. It’s always the United States’ fault.”
Get rid of that and you’ll see that it’s not the United States.
Bob Zadek 14:56
If the goal of our foreign policy is the well being of the citizens of Cuba, opening up the embargo would for sure benefit their lives, and give them more of an opportunity to earn money in the black market economy. Perhaps giving the pro-embargo argument the benefit of the doubt, it might provide an economic benefit as well to the cruel political leaders in Cuba. But who cares if we are benefiting everybody else in Cuba along the way? That is at least an approach to the decision on the embargo.
The Tools of Repression: Spies, Secret Arrests, Isolation & Social Control
Bob Zadek 16:23
So here we are. We are at economic war with a nation that is no threat to us whatsoever. Cuba is quite a repressive country. The leadership of Cuba has proven to be very skillful at suppressing dissent. Pre-July 11, how was the Cuban dictatorship so able to keep the population repressed? What were the tools they used up until July 11? The tools are still there, but why was there so little uprising before July 11? What tools did they use to keep the population under control?
Ian Vasquez 17:28
That’s an important question because up until July 11, you really didn’t see this kind of protest. That has allowed the Cuban regime to say for all these decades, “You see we don’t have unrest in our country.”
That allegedly shows that people like the communist system, and it gave a certain amount of legitimacy to the regime and among people on the left and its advocates. Yet, there was and there continues to be a vast system of social control, in which the Cuban state has spies and organizations that seek to prevent protests and problems from erupting and act on them before anything happens. At the local level, there are community organizations or neighborhood committees that report to the state anything that they think is suspicious. There are secret police. There are police that are in plainclothes. There are normal police. There are also security agents. There are other repressive layers — party spies in every organization that is allowed by the state, and only organizations that are allowed by the state, or their businesses, or artists, communities or whatever, are permitted.
“All of that changed on July 11. The protests were able to break through the system of social control, catching the dictatorship by complete surprise.”
In those organizations there are always Cuban state apparatchiks and spies who report to the people anything suspicious, and the state acts brutally in a preventive way on it. They’ll take somebody away for just suggesting a criticism or if they find out that somebody is planning to do something, writing something, or doing something publicly, they’ll throw him in jail. This will be done in a way that isn’t public. They will take them away at night or one at a time. It isn’t done on any massive scale. You don’t typically see the military on the streets in Cuba, like you do in a lot of other dictatorships. That is the way until now that the Cuban regime has been able to maintain this facade of having a peaceful community that supposedly likes communism. It’s been just that. They have instilled, up until now, fear in people and isolated them basically because they never know if the person they’re talking to is an agent of the state, or what might happen to them even if they want to come out and make a public protest, they could be pretty sure that they’re going to get whacked just that. It’s not going to succeed.
All of that changed on July 11. The protests were able to break through the system of social control, catching the dictatorship by complete surprise.
What Makes the July 11th Uprising Special
Bob Zadek 20:52
What happened on July 11? We have loads of us who occasionally watch what is called the evening news. It probably doesn’t exist anymore, but I’ll refer to it. Those of us who watch the news from time to time are accustomed to seeing reports around the world of uprising or protests. There was the Arab Spring. There are occasional protests and they get our attention for about 30 or 45 seconds on the news, and off we go to the next event on the news. This was, to your mind, and to those who observe Cuba, special. This was not just another isolated outburst in a repressive society, which happened on a given day or an evening, and then it went away. This was special. This is getting a lot more attention than other similar protests. What makes this special? What is there about Cuba and about this protest that is worthy of attention?
Ian Vasquez 22:17
I think that’s right. It’s important to highlight just how truly unprecedented this was in communist Cuba because it was the first time that protests of this happened in Cuba on a massive scale. Nationwide, at least 60 cities and towns all across the country in a simultaneous way — this was a spontaneous protest. This had never happened before. The protesters, again, all across the country were very clear about what they were protesting. They were chanting, “Down with dictatorship and freedom. Libertad. Libertad. Libertad.”
This had never happened before. It reflected something new in Cuban society that I think had been happening over the past year or so. It is exactly that social change that caught the dictatorship by surprise. That is, the Cubans lost their fear. They lost their fear of going up against the regime. They stopped being afraid of openly and publicly defying the dictatorship. It’s because of that, Cuba today is a different country than it was before. Every Cuban could now see that they weren’t alone, they weren’t crazy in thinking that this is the reprehensible regime and that there is widespread sentiment on the island that they don’t have to be afraid of the regime. They came out and protested.
“That is, the Cubans lost their fear.”
There had to be something that changed that allowed this to happen, that allowed this collective action problem. The problem is that everybody might feel the same way, but everybody’s afraid to be the first person to come out and protest because they’ll get killed or jailed or whatever.
What really made the difference is the spread of the internet in Cuba in the last several years, which created social media connectivity among the Cubans in a way that hadn’t been allowed in real life in Cuba. You don’t have freedom of association, you don’t have freedom of expression, you don’t have all of that stuff. That started to happen on the internet through Facebook and Twitter and other social networks. In the past year, that started to play a role in telling other Cubans, “This is what we think, this is what’s happening in this city today and so on.”
The protests that occurred on July 11 began in a small town not very far away from Havana. They were spontaneous, but people all across the country started seeing what was happening. In town after town, they all started coming out. This would not have been possible without the spread of the internet, which the regime began to allow a few years ago and was really a key development in order to facilitate this and break through that preventive system of social control that up till now, Cuba has had. It’s been a tremendous blow to the regime because it showed all Cubans and all over the world that in fact, this regime completely lacks legitimacy. People are not at all happy with what’s going on there. It’s not just the fact that Cuba is going through an extremely terrible economic time. This is not just the protest and in favor of better health care, in favor of improving services. This is a fight for freedom. That is the message has come out loud and clear for all the world.
“What really made the difference is the spread of the internet in Cuba in the last several years, which created social media connectivity among the Cubans in a way that hadn’t been allowed in real life in Cuba.”
Social Media & the Taste of Freedom
Bob Zadek 26:22
What I’m struck by, what I found myself thinking about, as you were explaining the role of social media, specifically, the internet more broadly is, I recall learning that when, of all things, the printing press was first created and started to spread, there was among those in power, specifically the church but others in power opposition to the printing press because the sharing of thoughts, the sharing of communication, the control of information was even in the Middle Ages, felt by those in power to be crucial to retaining control. We go back to the printing press, which was empowering in its day and age. It’s the same dynamic.
In our news today, in our country, there is an enormous discussion of censorship. We are talking about Facebook censoring — about the constitutional impact of Facebook censoring, the government wanting to control what is available, indirectly using social media as their tool. What we are seeing is how information itself, merely having one human tell another human what somebody is thinking, is something that will always operate to increase freedom, and as a tool to bring down repressive societies. It is a constant from the early Middle Ages through and including 2021. What a lesson it teaches us about the power of something as benign as information. It was just information being accessible from the brain of one human to another that is one of the factors behind the uprising. Is that an overstatement? Is that a fair statement?
Ian Vasquez 28:56
No, that’s a fair statement. There’s just no question that without the internet this just simply would not have happened. Remember that the Cuban regime has been successful at isolating Cubans from each other, keeping them from expressing themselves, and basically repressing their expression in their thoughts so that people cannot truly know the extent of what other people think and so on. That’s what the Internet has done in Cuba in the past several years, it has vastly increased this, and we’re talking about an island where this control and censorship and isolation has been in place now for six decades. It isn’t something that some regime just came in and started implementing and people got upset. This is the taste of freedom that Cubans have not had on the island for decades.
That also makes it notable. You’re right that going all the way back to Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation, once the printing press was there, you could start all sorts of revolutions. There are turbulent times but more information and greater freedom of expression is really a basis of progress and the free society.
Anatomy of an Unfree Country: Scarcity, Blackouts and Un-wellbeing
Bob Zadek 30:24
July 11 was just a day, but the unhappiness, as you have explained, was fomenting for quite a long time. The Cuban economy was, to use a technical economic concept, quite a mess. Tell us a bit about what had been happening to the Cuban economy that made this uprising succeed as much as it did and so fertile. After all, Cuba has somehow survived for about six decades since Castro. How did it survive up to now? Gives us a bit of an insight because it’s so well from the work you have done on the Human Freedom Index. Tell us what the Cuban economy is. How did it operate? What was happening and why July 11 of 2021?
Ian Vasquez 31:27
The Cuban economy has been one of the most repressive in the world. It is a communist nation. The state owns everything and is in control of almost everything. It has been that way since early on in the 1960s. During the Cold War, the Cuban regime received massive subsidies from the Soviet Union. That’s how it was able to stay afloat — because this is a poor Island, and with the federal policies it really wasn’t creating much wealth. It was receiving billions of dollars in subsidies from the Soviet Union. That allowed it to stay afloat up until the early 90s when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Then Cuba went through a very severe economic crisis, which they call the special period in which the economy collapsed by at least 35%. During that period, actually, the last episode of protest occurred in 1994, called the Maleconazo, but it was much smaller. There was no internet. People were living through extreme hardships, and they came out in Havana on the street and protested, but it was a smaller group. That was put down and they moved on.
By the end of the 1990s, socialist Venezuela started to fill the role that the Soviet Union played, and it started providing massive subsidies because of its petroleum stake to Cuba. Basically, Venezuela rescued Cuba from going down the tubes. It played that role up until some years ago, when socialist Venezuela collapsed through its own socialism, just like all socialist countries do. Therefore the subsidies to Cuba ended. That put Cuba into another tailspin and into another deepening crisis, which is what’s happening in Cuba right now.
The Cuban economy, at least if you look at a lot of indicators, is probably worse than it has been at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It certainly is not better than it was in 1989. That says a lot because that was three decades ago without any progress. The crisis it’s going through, which has been aggravated by the pandemic, has meant that there are scarcities of basic goods, including food and water. Blackouts are regular. People aren’t getting enough to eat.
If you could look for an immediate spark for the protest, this is what it was. It’s not just that people want more electricity, it’s that they want freedom. They know that this is the fundamental problem there. At the same time, over the past several years, as things have gotten worse, repression has increased the kind of oppression that Cubans have always seen. If they suspect somebody of causing trouble or having a meeting in their house that they shouldn’t have, they’d beat him up or they would take him to jail, hold him there for a few months, that kind of thing. That has increased in the past several years. Basically every indicator of human wellbeing in Cuba has decreased dramatically just because of the repressive nature of the regime in a bankrupt communist state.
“It’s not just that people want more electricity, it’s that they want freedom.”
Cuba’s history is very much the case of what Margaret Thatcher once said about socialism. “The problem with socialism is that they eventually run out of other people’s money.” That’s what’s happened in Cuba. Cuba has always lived off of the wealth of some outside force. Now there isn’t any prospect of anybody stepping into the role that Venezuela played, the role that the USSR used to play. That is the spark that led to the protests.
“The problem with socialism is that they eventually run out of other people’s money.”
I should also mention that, in terms of the internet, in the past year, there have been a couple of episodes that have involved Cuban artists that had been jailed, which had been discussed on the internet and gotten a lot of attention throughout Cuba because of social media networks. There’s a new generation of social media dissidents, and artists that are really building on the shoulders of the political dissidents that have always existed in Cuba, and that have done admirable work that has always been put down. Now you have a new generation of dissidents that are more varied.
The artists such as the San Isidro movement [have played a role]. In November of last year, these guys were protesting the repression. Then the regime came in and arrested them. They protested on Facebook and Twitter. The next day, 300 people showed up at the Ministry of Culture in Cuba to protest the government arresting them. That in itself was unprecedented. We would never have seen that before.
It was when that happened last year that I wrote an article in December of last year called “Losing Fear in Cuba,” in which I was indicating what some of us had been noticing and that there was this social change that was happening in Cuba. It looked to be significant. People are losing fear. The interaction of artists, the world of arts and culture with the internet and social media influencers there, was leading to this change in Cuba, which could be significant.
Between then and July 11, there was a viral music video that was created by Cuban musicians in Cuba and Cuban musicians outside of Cuba called “Fatherland and Life,” which became viral. It was a protest against the regime. The regime has always used the line “Fatherland or Death” as a form of saying, you better defend socialism, like socialism is the best. They played on those words, and they had an anti-regime song that they created, which was quite good by well known Cuban artists in Cuba, which became viral called “Fatherland and Life.” Once again, you had social media playing a role in undermining the legitimacy of the regime. Months later, we saw the July 11 protests.
Policy > Poverty: How Cuba Could Become Hong Kong
Bob Zadek 38:57
I have a lump in my throat. My heart is beating a little faster because I’m about to disagree with a Cato scholar on something you said a second ago. Bear with me, Ian, here it goes. In discussing Cuba, you said it is a poor country. It is that concept, it is a poor country, that I will gently take issue with. Here it goes. Hong Kong is a poor Island. Japan is probably, by whatever measure you want, a poor place. That is there are no natural resources. There is no source of export dollars other than the hard work of the people themselves. I don’t really agree that Cuba per se is, as a matter of geography, a poor place. It is neither poor nor wealthy. It just is. What makes it poor is the repressive society — the economic system itself.
I once observed on a show of mine that freedom and free markets are the ultimate natural resource. If a country has a free market, it needs nothing else. You build it and they will come. I don’t really think that one can describe any place as being per se poor, so long as it has humans on it. Humans will find a way to prosper if they are given the freedom to do so. That’s as tough as I’m going to get on you on this show. I disagree with that concept.
Ian Vasquez 41:00
I don’t think we have a disagreement about the concept of whether a society can be rich or not, depending on the institutions and policies they implement. I totally agree. If Hong Kong would have adopted communist policies, it wouldn’t be a rich place today. It would be a poor place today, like Cuba is. That was my point. The reason that Cubans have so little, that is they are materially poor, is because they had been prevented from creating wealth and from exercising their freedoms. There’s nothing that would hold them back if they were to have a free society because Cuba could become a Hong Kong if they adopted the right policies and institutions, but they adopted exactly the opposite and that has impoverished Cubans. I think that was the point that I was trying to make.
A Warning About Fear-Based Policies
Bob Zadek 41:59
I agree. I wasn’t trying to publicly humiliate you. Don’t take that as a shot across the bow. Another concept, which is very important, I don’t want to just comment on in passing, not as a diversion. You mentioned, and your piece that you wrote at the end of last year, that the Cubans have lost their fear, and that was empowering to them. The flip side of that is that fear is a very very effective tool of a repressive or any government in keeping the population that they control. Churches use it. Any organization that seeks to dominate will, if they can, make the population they want to dominate fearful, so that the institution which is promoting itself appears to be the savior and the protector. When I have done shows on COVID over the past 18 months, I pointed out and my guests have pointed out, that it was always the government putting us in fear of COVID, of transmission, of whatever. It first makes the population fearful, then you have them where you want them.
Once again, in discussing Cuba, it has a chance to prove and to explain these global truisms, like the power of fear in repressing and keeping control of those you want to have under you if you’re in power. Fear is so profoundly effective as a tool of a repressive society. I’m not suggesting that our government is repressive. After all, our government does seek to exercise control and it would prefer that the population be obedient. The way to make them obedient is to make them fearful. I always like to remind my listeners to always be alert for the use of fear because it is one of the most effective tools of government against the population. Your piece about fear was very insightful. It said a lot about Cuba and a lot about the relationship of governments and populations in general.
Ian Vasquez 44:57
I think that this fear factor is something that the government and the regime in Cuba is still trying to play off of. I wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression that the Cuban regime, because it has all the guns and the repressive apparatus, still has the upper hand in Cuba, but it’s lost something with these protests. You’re right when you say, the regime can try to instill fear and be the one that says, don’t worry, I’m the one that’s going to make it good. The Cuban regime has always done that, but now with these massive protests, it is still trying to do that, and its story is falling flat.
For example, when all these people across the country came out and protested, the regime’s response was, “This is a United States operation. They’re all CIA agents. We have nothing to do with it. We just have to respond with force and revolutionary zeal and patriotism.” That’s not credible. Even if somebody were to believe that (and nobody does) it wouldn’t speak very well of the regime because it would mean that they think their defenses were completely broken by the United States. They have always claimed to be intelligent and everything else. Their story, that aspect of imposing fear on the population, has fallen flat.
Now, all that they’re left with is sheer brutality and repression. That is the only fear that they’re instilling in the population right now. They can’t even suggest, unless they start going towards reforms and changes, that they have the solutions because they actually don’t have the solutions. They don’t have a way out of actual reforms on the island. The only thing that they’re doing so far is brutal repression. That is also effective, but it’s only one dimension of the fear that you were talking about.
Long Live the Decentralized Revolution
Bob Zadek 47:10
Often these uprisings have a Fidel Castro — one charismatic person at the top, who’s effective at stirring things up and motivating others. What struck me is this was very populist and widespread. It wasn’t that dynamic, which gives it infinitely more credibility and power. These are not people who have been persuaded to rise up. This was smoldering inside of them, like Chernobyl. It just exploded. It just needed a spark. That distinguishes this uprising from others, which come from a leader who has been active. This is widespread, and therefore harder to suppress. It’s not a question of cutting the head off the Hydra, and no more heads will grow back.
Ian Vasquez 48:21
I was just going to add the other difference too is that Fidel Castro is not around. He died several years ago. His brother inherited the power. Then last year, Raul Castro resigned from the head of government and the head of the party. The person in charge now is a guy by the name of Diaz-Canel, who is not at all charismatic. People don’t trust him. He’s seen as a bureaucrat. That too has made a difference in the way that the government has been able to respond to this.
Bob Zadek 49:00
If anything, what should the United States do in terms of its policies towards Cuba right now today? What do you think is the likely outcome of this uprising? Will the government in Cuba be successful in suppressing it as it has in the past? What would you recommend with your strongly pro-freedom self determination free market approach? What would be a better US foreign policy towards Cuba?
Ian Vasquez 49:41
I’ve been a critic of the embargo for many years. I think that should have been lifted a long time ago. It would have been better to have it been lifted before this uprising occurred. Politically, it’s going to be harder for Biden to lift it now because it’s gonna be portrayed as some kind of submission to the regime or something like that. I think we should lift it in any event, if only to show that it’s not what is causing the widespread problems in Cuba. For those who fear that somehow this is going to rescue a socialist economy from its own ills, we’ll see that it actually won’t, and it might provide some benefits on the island. I would say that would be one thing.
The other thing is we’ve become extremely restrictive with Cubans fleeing communism. It used to be that the United States represented itself as a beacon of freedom. During the Cold War, at least, we used to welcome people who were fleeing communist countries. That was certainly the case with Cuba as well. The United States has received hundreds of thousands of Cubans, more than a million here now. Over the years, beginning in the 1990s, the policy started to be more restrictive with Cubans. It used to be when they were fleeing in little boats and rafts, the Coast Guard would get them to bring them to the United States, then that changed in the 1990.
Bob Zadek 51:12
I’m gonna have to interrupt just because I want to close and remind the audience that I am speaking to Ian Vasquez. Ian is the Vice President for International Studies at Cato. He’s the director of the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. Please check out the Cato website that Ian co-authors, The Human Freedom Index. It is fact-filled. It will put a spring in your step and show how good the world is doing contrary to what you might read in what is known as mainstream media.
If you have enjoyed this show and podcast, please share your thoughts wherever your podcast is published. I welcome all comments and all feedback. Any number of stars are welcome. I like to know that you are out there. Thank you so much to all my friends out there and thank you to Ian and to the Cato Institute.
Ian Vasquez 51:12