After more than forty years of embargo and numerous failedassassination attempts, it seems George W. Bush has decided on anew method for usurping the power of Fidel Castro: playing rightinto his hands. In response to new restrictions enacted by the Bushadministration, starting Monday the Castro government willeliminate the use of Yankee dollars in Cuba. The Bushadministration looks at Castro’s decision as a victory – proofthat, under U.S. pressure, Castro is finally starting to buckle.Castro sees it as a victory, too – another opportunity to reinforcehis power in the face of imperialist threats. But for the people ofCuba, this is just one more obstacle complicating their alreadydifficult struggle to survive.
In 1993, as the collapse of the communist bloc began to take itstoll on the already struggling Cuban economy, Fidel Castro passedlegislation allowing the free circulation of the U.S. dollar. Thisallowed Cuban-Americans to send remittance to Cuban families andfriends that, for many people, was the only thing standing betweenthem and starvation.
This free economic love was of course under the panty-waistadministration of Bill Clinton, who sat idly by and just let ithappen without the slightest concern for the moral implications ofletting those emaciated commies spend our greenbacks on whateverthey wanted. I mean, sure, there were imposed limits on what couldbe sent to Cuba, but estimates still put U.S. remittances to Cubahovering well above $200 million mark annually. The majority ofthese not being sent via the mail or wire, but being carried overby Cuban-Americans visiting family on the island.
Thank God that with George Bush in office, this pinko freespending came to an end. In June, Congress passed new legislationto limit remittances to immediate family members and reduce, bymore than half, the amount of money that could be carried onto theisland by visiting Cuban Americans. The legislation also cut thenumber of trips allowed by Cuban Americans from once a year to onceevery three years, essentially halting the conveyance of moneythrough travel.
According to the administration, the harsher embargos weredesigned to expedite the transition away from communist rule inCuba. Apparently, the fastest way to bring the transition was tostarve all Cubans to death, which in a way makes perfect sense. Nomore Cubans, no more commies in Cuba.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said, in response to thenew Cuban policy, “We see it as a confiscatory measure thatdemonstrates that President Bush’s policy is working. It’ssqueezing the regime and causing them to take extreme measures thatunderscore its own inherent weaknesses.”
Not one to be swayed by the overall welfare of the citizensunder his rule, Fidel Castro’s reaction to what he calls the”mafia-like” new policies is to reinstate the ban on the use of theU.S. dollar in Cuba. Now, Cubans have to exchange money wired tothem by relatives in the U.S. for what is called a convertiblepeso, which is printed and valid only in Cuba and comes with a tenpercent conversion charge. This means that the $300 allowedremittance quarterly becomes $270 before it can be spent – anexcellent solution to “mafia like” policies and one sure to inspireloyalty among Cuban citizens.
The fact of the matter is that the U.S. policies are notsqueezing the regime at all; they’re squeezing the people. Bush’sattempts at strangling Castro has put the majority of U.S. currencyentering the country into his hands, with a ten percent surchargeto boot. He’s given Castro an opportunity not only to reinforce hispower, but to pad his pockets, as well.
The thing I absolutely love about obstinate political ideologuesis their uncanny ability to forget that within the countries theyare dedicated to ruling there are millions of people who aresuffering. While Bush and Fidel celebrate their pissing contest,millions of Cubans will simply have to endure. At least it’ssomething they’re used to.
Dylan Tanner can be reached at [email protected]