Margarita Alarcón Perea
Some people are just impossible to please. Take for instance the recent changes in Cuba. In the past five years there has been considerable growth in the private sector with shops, restaurants, hostels, barber shops and beauty parlors, home grown businesses have been sprouting up everywhere, complying with State regulations and with people’s needs. Recently, new legislation will enable Cubans to run private, previously state owned, cooperatives. Cuban nationals may sell their homes and cars and buy new or old ones. Private property is once again being considered something that comes of decent hard work and values and not something that automatically places you within the ranks of Carl Icahn.
The latest dramatic change to shake the ground in Cuba and outside the island has been the elimination of the exit permit. No longer do Cubans need to go through hours and days of paperwork in order to leave the island. What is more important is that the conditions allowing a Cuban to travel have also changed dramatically. Only those individuals with criminal records, under aged without permission from both parents or legal guardians, and individuals involved in high ranking state security positions must go through a revision process. The rest, are free to fly like the wind. This has also given Cubans living abroad since before this amendment to the law the ability to return to the island and visit, something which had unfortunately been prohibited before. Thanks to this, one of Cuba’s foremost baseball stars, Jose Ariel Contreras, who has since his defection played for the NY Yankees and the Chicago White Sox, has returned to visit his ailing mother and has been caught throwing a curve ball or two on national Cuban grounds.
Most analysts coincide that all of these changes are due to the difference in the way Fidel and Raúl Castro conduct government. Some will argue that the corner stone of this difference lays in the fact that Raúl Castro keeps taking baby steps towards appeasement inside the island and out. Carefully checking and revising all the things that have been going south for the past 50 years, and making them better.
In the end, the most important conciliatory step is always taken to conciliate with Washington and its current tenant over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and let’s face it, if Cuba wants Obama to lift the embargo and cut bread with the island, it has to give him something he can argue with.
Now, here’s the a bit that has me in knots. Over a decade ago, a large group of members of Congress known as the Black Caucus, came down to Havana. They met with Fidel Castro and one of the things they spoke about was Fidel’s offer to educate students from rural and disadvantaged communities and graduate them as physicians free of charge as long as upon graduation they would return to practice medicine in their communities. The Black Caucus went back to the US with this offering. It wasn’t until Reverend Lucious Walker and IFCO took things under their wing that the program got off the ground and the reality is that to date there have been over 80 graduates from all across the United States and as of today, over 100 are completing their medical training.
Cuba has been “exporting” its solidarity to Latin America, Asia, the South Pacific AND the United States. Free of charge, in the way of true solidarity and in a field that may well be the Achilles’ heal of any administration in the US.
So, there you have it, proof a long time in the making that Cuba is not exporting revolution or even socialist values, it’s exporting training and education and health care. Right? Well, some just don’t see it that way. Some just can’t take it when Cuba takes steps towards rational behaviour regarding its own citizens and issues that pertain to the way its own government and country should work to better relations with its closest neighbour.
Some prefer to do this:
– Anti-Castro bill would ban medical licenses for American doctors trained in Cuba / Miami Herald
By Tolu Olorunnipa January 29, 2013
Two South Florida lawmakers are pushing for a law that would stop American doctors who studied in Cuba from receiving medical licenses in Florida. Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., and Sen. Rene Garcia, both Hialeah Republicans, filed bills last week, seeking to clamp down on U.S. medical students who go to Cuba for training. ―U.S students who turn a blind eye to basic human and civil rights abuses in Cuba do not possess the moral clarity to serve patients in Florida‖ said Diaz in a statement. ―The Fidel Castro medical scholarship program is purely a propaganda tool. Hopefully this legislation will stop American citizens from participating in Cuba‘s medical apartheid system.‖
The Cuban government offers a free medical training program that has drawn in thousands of students from around the world, including many from the United States. If the bill pushed by Diaz and Garcia passes, any American student who goes to Cuba for training will not be able to get a medical license to practice in Florida. The ban would not apply to those who trained in Cuba prior to coming to the U.S. According to Diaz‘s press release it would only apply to ―those who willingly go to Cuba to be used as propaganda tools by the Cuban government.‖
Last year, Garcia pushed a bill that would prevent local governments from contracting with firms that had Cuban branches. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, but also said it could not be enforced, sparking backlash in the Cuban exile community in Miami. The measure led to a federal lawsuit and is tied up in court.
There you have it. Cuba takes one (or more) steps forward and some in the US Congress put a vise-like grip on the White House and the people of the US. The irony in the statement by Rep. Manny Diaz and Sen. Rene Garcia is of course that if you are a Cuban, trained by the same exact medical system as the one being offered to the US students in Cuba, and you decide to defect to the United States, you are not only welcome, but life is made super simple for you. Cubans who defect from say, Venezuela, where they are working as doctors, if they decide to defect to the US, get a year of subsidized housing and a stipend in order to study for their boards. They are also given a choice of places to practice in the U.S. and all of this on the US taxpayers dime! Who knows?! If you’re Cuban, you probably don’t even have to take the boards in Florida! The “brain drain” out of Cuba is allowed; training US citizens is not, how’s that for a humdinger!
Freedom of travel, private property, free enterprise, Alan Gross for the Cuban Five aren’t really the problem. No matter what Cuba does, there will always be someone or someone’s out there across the Florida Straits, finding an excuse, albeit, a boomerang one, to make it impossible for some within the US government, to ever have the chance to openly and honestly, accept the hand being offered them.