Who could have told the patriarch Fidel Castro that in the autumn of his years he would find an ally to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act, and not among his starched-brain little spokespeople in the leftist corners of the world, but among Miami’s ranks of the ultra-right-wing itself? If he had the strength for it, the commander would be jumping up and down.
As always, for the old fox of Caribbean politics, everything goes well: after he’d spent years railing against a law that favored those fleeing the socialist paradise, an unlikely helper was born; when his mouth had already gone bone dry denouncing the benefits and freedoms for those who — whether from political persecution or empty stomachs — fled to the northern neighbor; just then, along comes a reinforcement, camouflaged in the skin of the enemy.
Of course: when someone beats on their children at home, the least he wants is to find help in the house next door.
It’s idle to wonder if the Republican David Rivera thought of this when drawing up his proposal to restrict the movement of thousands of emigrants to America. First, judging by the unfortunate wording of the document, the Cuban-American congressman didn’t devote too many neurons to it. Second, this is clear because if he did think, he’d have said to himself, “What matters is not to propose something serious and valid to my knife-between-the-teeth voters, better to satisfy them with a recalcitrant amendment, and let the elections come.”
Sad but true: even though every day the landscape of the exile changes, as it loses the heat of blind fanaticism — justified or not, but, in the end, fanaticism; despite that the massive demonstrations that gave off a primordial hatred have been restricted to six poor devils who entertain the local community; and despite the fact that more and more young Cubans are tired of playing the game of estrangement that comes to both the satraps of the island and sledgehammer-carriers in Miami: despite all this the times are yet to come when political restraint governs the destiny of South Florida.
Legislators such as David Rivera still represent the Cuban exile, something not overly promising.
Why? Because the clear intention to fan the flames of separatism, the effort to please a section of Miami that long ago lost all contact with the Island, and no longer has a mother to visit, a son to incite; the cunning arguments used by Republicans legislators like him and Mario Diaz-Balart to prevent Cubans from deciding how often they visit their country and how to help it, borders on the grotesque. And, at least for me, Democrat by thought and conviction, it makes me not a little ashamed.
First, no one would have the naiveté to assume that Rivera doesn’t know the Adjustment Act. That’s the ABCs. Rivera, then, is well aware that this law in reality did not come about to protect political refugees, though according to him it did. It was created simply to adjust the immigration status of the 258,317 Cubans living in the United States in 1965, who could not return to their country and, ergo, had to be legalized.
From this it follows that to lead the discussion on the law from the premise of, “I gave you this in exchange for that, and if you don’t comply with that I’ll take back what I gave you,” is another way of saying, “I legally adjusted your condition in the United States, provided you do not return to your country; if you do return to your country before I deign to let you, I will withdraw the adjustment.” This can only be understood as a clever manipulation, the thinking of a lender — a usurer — which is so far from the sense of a nation founded on respect for the individual.
Secondly: Let’s examine some televised statements by the representative Rivera. They will serve to exemplify in the future what we would define as cynicism, pure and harsh. Asked what he thought of the hundreds of thousands of exiles whom this would affect with regards to visiting a sick relative, to whom it is difficult to give two weeks of relief from the nostalgia, the congressman said, more or less: “My commitment is to the 11 million Cubans who are suffering in the island. “
Background. David Rivera was born in New York, he has never stepped foot in Cuba, and he says to the hundreds of thousands of us who have our loved ones there, that he cares about them more than we ourselves do.
But the worst part of this legislative legerdemain, the most unfortunate of the escalations that Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio began earlier this year and that Mario Diaz-Balart continued, is that incarnated now with redoubled energy by David Rivera, with regard to limiting in one way or another what Cubans decide to do with their money and their vacations; this is what provokes the emigrants themselves: a catastrophic division, an eternal spiral of attacks, slurs, verbal assaults, which have nothing to do with the exercise of democracy, and a lot to do with the totalitarian tactics they say they are fighting against.
Every day I doubt less that this thinking has any interest in evolving. He likes himself. He stares at his navel and says “Never forget,” feeling he has exhales a maxim to be carved in stone.
This, fortunately, is a retrograde faction that every day is more alone. Let’s see:
1. This is not a current that is in tune with Cuban dissidents in their vast majority. With very rare exceptions, the bulk of the opposition within the island approves of the emigrants traveling when they want, and helping their family however they want. If you think otherwise, seek out the statements of Dagoberto Valdes, Yoani Sanchez, Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Paya, the brave priest Jose Conrado, and almost everyone who has something to say.
2. This is not in tune with the released dissidents now living in Spain or the United States. I have talked in one way or another with most of them: all arch their eyebrows when they see that on this side there are some who try to emulate the Cuban establishment in terms of restrictions on freedom.
3. This is not in tune with the most brilliant and respected artists and intellectuals of the exile itself: neither Willy Chirino, nor Carlos Alberto Montaner, nor Donato Poveda, nor Enrique Patterson, nor Amaury Gutierrez nor Emilio Ichikawa, nor a long list of men of thought and notable works, to defend the distance from the Cubans “over there,” as elementary logic of those who advocate the end of a history full of distances, and above all: for the defense of freedom in its most fundamental form.
4. And finally, even worse: it is deeply divorced from the generation of Cubans — among whom I include myself — who, whether they like it or not, whether they can choke it down or not, by the laws of biology, will be responsible for the future of Cuba. It is as divorced from the young Cubans who live in Miami today, as it is those who inhabit the Island. Also in this, the right-wing extremism in exile shakes hands with Cuba’s totalitarian extremism: it does not respect those who will outlive them.
So every day I distrust more, not only the morality and purity of intent of these alleged libertarians, but their analytical skills. Their intellectual acuity.
You cannot rate very highly the analytical skills of “analysts” who say, for example: “No money for Cuban families: it is money that ends up in the hands of the regime,” and then fiercely support economic aid to the opponents on the Island. The question for those hundred million dollars: in what stores do the opponents on the island buy their food, their meat, their clothes? At Macy’s, Publix, Wal Mart? Or in the same stores my family shops in, i.e.: the stores of the regime?
It is worth thinking urgently about a law that would adjust certain brains.
I believe that at least the 324,000 Cubans living in the United States who traveled to the island in 2010, will be thinking about this very basic Republican idea when it comes time to cast their votes for Congress. In my elementary logic, with respect to my own interests, it seems to me a terrible deal.
August 22 2011