To suggest that an increase in the flow of contacts and resources to the Cuban people is a “concession” to the Castro brothers plays directly into the hands of the most unyielding forces within the Cuban government. As WLRN’s Tim Padgettnoted last month, «Incredibly, [hardliners] somehow convinced themselves that denying Cuba’s fledgling entrepreneurs more seed money, cell phones and sage advice – that keeping them in the micro-economic Middle Ages – is the best way to change Cuba.» It isn’t.The “concessions” talking point might be a cute sound bite, but it’s wrong. For decades, the American people have been force-fed the baseless notion that any reform of Cuba policy, no matter how practical, is tantamount to rewarding the regime for its iron grip over the island.
In fact, easing the embargo to support the island’s nascent entrepreneurial class puts more pressure on the Cuban regime to respect human rights because they have a stronger independent private sector and civil society with which to contend. And if the argument from hardliners is that we should not support entrepreneurs because there can be no private sector without rights, then that would mean we couldn’t support dissidents either. We must do both.
Dissidents are battling to create a better and more inclusive future where their families and fellow Cubans can be free. They do so in simple but powerful ways – a peaceful street protest, a petition tens of thousands strong, a blog post, an independent media outlet. The same logic applies to self-employed entrepreneurs, and to every single Cuban seeking to increase their independence from the state, whether they are a hairdresser, a computer programmer, or a taxi driver.