April 14, 2009
Cuba's BailoutBy Humberto Fontova
On April 13th President Obama lifted all restrictions on travel and remittances by family members to their kin in Cuba. Most Cuba-watchers see this as the first step towards a rapid dismantling of what little is left of the so-called "Cuban embargo."
Here's a few things you're not hearing from the MSM regarding travel and remittances to Cuba. Until fairly recently, the Castro regime (classified by the U.S. State Department as a state-sponsor-of terrorism, and classified by the liberal media as a victim of a "cruel U.S. embargo") was in fact enjoying a (conservatively estimated) $1 billion a year lifeline straight from the U.S., which also serves as Cuba's biggest food-supplier and 5th biggest commercial partner. The $1 billion plus bundle came in the form of cash remittances to Cuba from some of Castro's former subjects and from the spending by these former subjects upon their frequent visits to their homeland. This $1 billion in remittances approached China's monetary infusion into Cuba.
This preposterous state of affairs finally provoked the Bush administration in 2004 to limit Cuban-American visits to Cuba to one visit every three years and their remittances to $300 a quarter. This amount, by the way, came to roughly five times the typical Cuban's salary.
"So what's wrong with visiting your homeland and families and helping them through their troubles?" many will ask. Nothing -- unless you claim the status of a political refugee from that totalitarian homeland on your INS application, take advantage of America's traditional generosity toward such refugees and then turn around and behave exactly like the immigrant applicants to the U.S. you rudely shoved aside while jumping in front of them in line.
A constant gripe among other Latin Americans who seek U.S. residency is the obnoxious (as they see it) Cuban habit of shoving them aside and jumping in front of the line. This results from the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act that allows Cubans to apply for U.S. political asylum and thus legal residency, and thus citizenship, much faster and more easily than the process for the duskier huddled masses from other points south.
The traditional distinction, of course, was that Cubans (who much preferred living in Cuba previously; indeed in 1958, more Americans lived in Cuba than Cubans in the U.S.) were now fleeing an U.S. enemy/totalitarian regime that prohibited them re-entry.
Their status upon reaching U.S. shores actually had little to do with so-called "political pandering to the powerful Cuban-exile lobby," and everything to do with something called the Refugee Relief Act signed into law by President Eisenhower in August 1953 to assist Iron Curtain refugees.
Then came Castro's Stalinist regime in 1959 and the Florida straits became a barrier far deadlier than the Iron Curtain. Multiple times more Cubans died trying to breach it than Germans attempting to breach the Berlin Wall. Essentially the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 simply codified the 1953 Refugee Relief Act for victims of tropical Stalinism.
In the '50s and '60s Czechs, Hungarians, Russians and East Germans admitted into the U.S. did not immediately clamor to visit the communist nations they just fled, and lavish them with dollars. In fact, the very notion was offensive and insulting to these genuine refugees. In the '60s and '70s and '80s Cubans acted identically, if often more emotionally. Many dropped to the ground and kissed U.S. soil the instant they touched it, often in tears. Pictures and reels of the Mariel Boatlift and incidents before abound in such scenes -- scenes that epitomize the motivation of the political refugees America has always welcomed. Those who planned returns to Cuba planned it with carbines and grenades in hand, until they learned (often gape-jawed) that -- despite what they had heard daily from Castro's media -- the U.S. government, in fact, arrests any American resident who attempts to give the Castro regime a taste of its own medicine.
"Sorry," said former President Bush's policy in 2004 (as advised by Cuban-American Republican legislators.) "But if you're going back and forth to that country with the full blessing of that country's regime and spending thousands of dollars per trip, you're not a political refugee from that regime by any stretch of the definition."
It's been long suspected by genuine Cuban refugees that many of these "family remittances," by recent Cuban "refugees" that Bush curtailed and that Obama now permits, do not originate from the traditional "sweat of your brow" labors of traditional political refugees.
An FBI investigation in South Florida this summer, for instance, turned up a Medicare Fraud scandal totaling $142 million. The Benitez brothers, Carlos, Jose and Luis, who arrived in Miami in 1995 from Cuba, are accused of being responsible for $84 million of this swindle. "Thirty-three of the 36 fugitives whose names have been released by authorities are Cuban immigrants," reported the Miami Herald, "most of whom came to the United States during the past 15 years. Half of these (including the Benitez brothers) have fled back to Cuba to escape prosecution, using their Cuban passports."
Do "refugees" hold and treasure passports from the Stalinist regime that oppressed them until they escaped it and found refuge? Does a Stalinist regime welcome back its professed enemies and shield them from justice sought by the nation that offered their professed enemies "refuge"? Will Obama's new liberalization of travel to Cuba help curtail this criminalty?
Now president Obama has decreed that Cuban "immigrants" are actually much more equal to other immigrants. They'll enjoy identical travel and remittance privileges -- along with their exclusive and traditional fast-track to citizenship.
No "racist Republican" while "pandering" to Cuban-Americans has ever enacted anything so patently unfair and offensive (and not only to other "Hispanics") as Obama's new decree. If you're a political refugee, then act like one. Don't turn around and unduly enrich the very regime you claim to detest and that sponsors terrorism. This is all that Republicans asked of the ethnic bloc who traditionally gives them 70-80 per cent of their votes.
But Obama has granted (some) Cuban-Americans a veritable banquet of cake along with its eating, while the rest of the "Hispanic" rabble are allowed entry into the banquet hall only to clear the tables, wash the dishes, and mop the bathroom.
Leave it to the MSM to continue scribbling and gabbing about "Republicans pandering to Cuban-Americans." Just maybe this traditional Republican "pandering to Cuban-Americans" simply boils down to more obviously sharing their anti-totalitarian convictions and typically middle-class social and economic concerns.