Once again, the U.S. government’s 112-year obsession with controlling Cuba rears its ugly head. This time, it involves the arrest by Cuban authorities of an American subcontractor who works for a company named “Development Alternatives, Inc.” According to the New York Times, (see here and here) “the company won an American government contract last year to help USAID ’support the rule of law and human rights, political competition and consensus building’ in Cuba.”
It’s not clear yet whether the man is a CIA agent or whether Development Alternatives, Inc. is a CIA front company, but it’s entirely possible. After all, it does seem somewhat strange that the U.S. government continues to refuse to disclose the guy’s identity. Moreover, as William Blum points out in his excellent book, “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,” USAID has maintained “a close working relationship with the CIA, and Agency officers often operated abroad under USAID cover.”
Why can’t U.S. officials simply leave Cuba alone? What is it about this small island that has set the U.S. Empire on its never-ending goal of regime change in the hopes of installing a pro-U.S. puppet on the island? Isn’t it enough to be maintaining military bases all over the world, not to mention the occupation of two sovereign and independent countries? Apparently not.
Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida stated, “It should come as no surprise that the Cuban regime would lock up an American for distributing communications equipment.”
Oh, come on, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. You know darned well that the U.S. regime would do precisely the same thing that the Cuban regime has done. Any private American who travels to Cuba without the permission of the U.S. government and spends money there faces arrest, fine, and incarceration by the U.S. government upon his return to the United States, whether he distributes cell phones, food, clothing, or simply visits the island as a tourist.
This is what all too many Americans block out of their minds about the brutal embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against the Cuban people for decades — that while its adverse economic consequences fall most heavily on the Cuban people, its restrictions on economic liberty fall most heavily on the American people.
Think about it: The Cuban regime arrests Americans for distributing cell phones without permission. The U.S. regime arrests Americans for traveling and spending their own money without permission.
What’s the difference in principle? And what’s the point of fighting Cuban restrictions on freedom by enacting U.S. restrictions on freedom? Wouldn’t it be better to fight for freedom with freedom?
Ironically, with its cell-phone escapade in Cuba, the U.S. government implicitly makes one of the arguments that libertarians have long made for lifting the Cuban embargo. Without the embargo, American tourists and businessmen would be flooding the island and interacting with the Cuban people, both personally and for business. That combination of personal interaction and economic exchange would inevitably strengthen the private sector as a counterweight to the government sector.
Sure, the Cuban authorities could still restrict the activities of private visitors but it would be much more difficult for them to monitor and control. And the entire matter would be depoliticized given that it would be private people, not government-sponsored agents, engaged in both commercial and noncommercial activity.
The U.S. government’s interventionist antics have done enough damage to the Cuban and American people. It’s time for U.S. officials to butt out of Cuban affairs and free the American people to travel, trade, and interact with the Cuban people.