Do Cuban dissidents support the US embargo?

Over the years...

I believe that even the overwhelming majority of Cuban officials understand it as well and that the top leadership is sufficiently pragmatic to move with the times. Unfortunately, American policy impedes the transformation we seek....The vast majority of us on the island who oppose the Government believe that a dialogue and a relaxation of tensions between the United States and Cuba would better facilitate a transformation. Unfortunately, the Helms-Burton Act, which among other things mandates sanctions against foreign companies that do business in Cuba, makes it very difficult for the United States to take part in such a dialogue.
Elizardo Sanchez, written statement , April 1997

The United States of America, as a first urgent step, should lift the Embargo on Cuba, with respect to medicines and food, without conditions, and initiate a process to quickly eliminate the Embargo and the laws known as 'Torricelli' and 'Helms Burton.'
Oswaldo Paya, “Teinde tu Mano a Cuba,” Revista Hispano Cubana HC, 1999

Most of the dissident groups and leaders in Cuba do not support the economic sanctions imposed unilaterally by the government of the United States over the government of Cuba.
Elizardo Sanchez
interviewed, May 2000

I'm against the embargo. I would like that the embargo will be lifted.
Marta Beatriz Roque
 interviewed July 2001

We do not support any kind of foreign pressure from abroad as a factor for change in Cuba.
Oswaldo Paya interviewed January 3, 2003

As Cubans we do not accept that another country or group of countries impose its rules on the lives of our people, neither with unjust pressure nor economic isolation, be they embargos, sanctions or other types of measures.
Oswaldo Paya,
written statement, July 26, 2007

[The US embargo] must be lifted without conditions because it is not the solution.
Oswaldo Paya interviewed, April 2009


No Moral Basis

Where do the dissidents–in whose names the embargo has been said to be inflicted on the Cuban people–actually stand on the issue of the embargo itself? As the above quotes and others on this page show, the majority of dissidents on the island are steadfastly opposed to the embargo!  Whatever opinion you may have of them, without their support, there cannot be even a pretence of any moral basis for this cruel embargo.

Following are excerpts from several mainstream articles over a period of five years indicating that Cuban dissidents favour an immediate and unconditional lifting of the embargo. 

First, we have the following excerpt from The Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1999. This ground-breaking article covered critical aspects of Illinois Governor Ryan's trip to Cuba at that time. It is noteworthy in that it shows that not only are prominent Cuban dissidents calling for an immediate and unconditional lifting of the U.S. embargo, but that they are also deeply suspicious of the motives of the Miami exile community promoting the embargo.

...The governor met several hours Monday morning with the group of Cuban independent journalists and human-rights officials behind the tall iron gates of the U.S. Interest Section chief's home in Havana. The dissidents later thanked Ryan "for sending a clear message of support" in the closed meeting.

"I saw a man very interested in opening new doors," said Manuel David Corrio, an opposition journalist, who called the visit "a big success for the Cuban people."

"Ryan's visit is something positive," added Elizardo Sanchez, a top Cuban human-rights activist. "He and the delegation are working in the most convenient direction to further the interests of both countries.

"We still have a Cold War mentality between these countries, and the Cold War is over," Sanchez complained. "The great majority of people in Cuba and in the United States want normal relations."

The dissidents said they emphasized to Ryan that ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and bringing a flood of American visitors and trade ships to the island is the surest way to relieve the plight of Cuba's people.

That message came as a surprise to Ryan and his delegation. They had planned the meeting with opposition leaders to appease Cuban-Americans who want to continue U.S. economic sanctions and who fear Ryan's visit will help legitimize Castro's regime.

While Ryan did hear about human-rights violations during the meeting, it was the pleas for ending the long U.S. embargo against Cuba--what Castro also wants-- that clearly made an impression on the governor.

The dissidents argued that by ending the embargo the U.S. would deprive Castro of his chief scapegoat for the island's many economic ills. "All the bad things here are blamed on Washington, that there are no jobs, no shoes, no food, no medicines. But the embargo isn't the cause of the problem," Sanchez said. "The cause is the weakness of the totalitarian system."

Miami's longtime Cuban exiles base their continued support of the embargo" on their own self-interest," Corrio said. With hopes of regaining large land and property holdings lost to Cuba's revolution, the exiles have "very clear, obvious economic interests" and are not focused on what is best for the island, he charged. He called large-scale travel and trade between the two countries the best way to bring change and improve Cuba's human-rights situation....

This is consistent with the New York Times article by Elizardo Sanchez--one of the most prominent and widely quoted dissidents on the island. Almost three years prior to Ryan's visit, Sanchez wrote:

Unfortunately, American policy impedes the transformation we [Cuban dissidents] seek. Efforts to pressure and isolate Cuba simply give the leaders a pretext to continue their repression and allow them to divert attention from their failures.

Although a questionable analysis, this it is clearly a call to remove all sanctions, not just certain portions of Helms-Burton as some embargo boosters would have it. Sanchez continues:

The vast majority of us on the island who oppose the Government believe that a dialogue and a relaxation of tensions between the United States and Cuba would better facilitate a transformation. Unfortunately, the Helms-Burton Act, which among other things mandates sanctions against foreign companies that do business in Cuba, makes it very difficult for the United States to take part in such a dialogue.

He concludes:

The basic responsibility for Cuba's future rests with the Cubans themselves.

We must begin reforms that offer hope to all. But less rigidity on the part of the United States would do a lot to help that change begin.

Three years later (May 9, 2000), the Catholic World News reported:

 Elizardo Sanchez, announced yesterday that he has sent a letter to several US congressmen requesting an end to the US embargo of the Communist country.

Sanchez, a Catholic leader whose organization is regarded as illegal by the Cuban government, sent a letter telling US congressmen that "every effort toward the full normalization of bilateral relationship will bring improvement."

Sanchez recalled Pope John Paul II's plea to end the embargo made during his 1998 visit to Cuba, and said that "most of the dissident groups and leaders in Cuba do not support the economic sanctions imposed unilaterally by the government of the United States over the government of Cuba."

The Miami Herald in Cuban Human-Rights Activist Takes Center Stage, November 18, 1999, reported:

He [Sanchez] acknowledged in 1996 that his opposition to the U.S. embargo of Cuba made him a minority among dissidents, but he now says that a majority have become convinced that the U.S. sanction are an impediment to reforms.

From two other prominent dissidents on the island:

I'm against the embargo. I would like that the embargo will be lifted.
Marta Beatriz Roque, PBS Online, July, 2001

The U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, in all its expressions, goes against the will and the needs of Cubans, and for that reason it should end.  So if it is a question of solidarity, that solidarity cannot lead to measures that increase the difficulties of the population.
Oswaldo Paya, Lexington Institute, August 2001

The United States of America, as a first urgent step, should lift the Embargo on Cuba, with respect to medicines and food, without conditions, and initiate a process to quickly eliminate the Embargo and the laws known as 'Torricelli' and 'Helms Burton.'
Oswaldo Paya, “Teinde tu Mano a Cuba,” Revista Hispano Cubana HC, 1999

Although I disagree with nearly all of the sentiments expressed by Doug Bandow of the conservative, Washington-based Cato Institute, in his article "U.S. embargo helps keep Castro in power," (The Japan Times, March 17, 2002) he too reiterates the fact that Cuban dissidents favour the unconditional lifting of the US embargo:

With human rights activists and independent journalists spreading across the island, American trade, investment and travel would pose an even greater challenge to Castro's government. For this reason Sanchez and most other dissidents advocate lifting sanctions.

Of course, he admits, in the short term money brought to Cuba that ends up in Castro's hands "will be used for repression." Nevertheless, "it would be more fruitful over the long term if people from democratic states came to Cuba."

In fact, because of the inevitably destabilizing influence of American engagement, Sanchez suggests "that the Cuban government really doesn't want the embargo to be lifted." Some U.S. officials privately share Sanchez's view.

Peter Philips, also of the Cato Institute, reported a year earlier:

Cuba's leading human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez calls it "an odd way to demonstrate support for human rights." Cuba's Catholic bishops call it "cruel." And in the hundreds of interviews I have conducted across the island, I have never met a Cuban citizen who supports it.

From a statement by US Congressman, Estaban E. Torres, to the Hearing on US Economic and Trade Policy Toward Cuba, dated May 7, 1998:

My colleagues, recently a Congressional delegation visited Cuba. In advance of their trip, they asked two stanch embargo defenders, who are Members of Congress, to provide them with a list of the names of Cubans who were in opposition to the Castro government and with whom they could meet to discuss the embargo. In Cuba, they contacted the persons on this list, and had them invited to meet with them at our U.S. Interest Section. At this meeting, one of the Members of Congress -- who had voted for Helms - Burton asked for a "yes or no" answer to the question: "Do you support the U.S. embargo against Cuba?" Every one of these Cubans, opponents of the Castro government, said "no," they strongly opposed the embargo. Not one supported the embargo. One of this group of human rights activists, independent journalists and religious representatives summed up the overwhelming opinion of the Cuban people: this person told the Congressmen: "Only a masochist would support the embargo".

My friends, why is it that the embargo supporters will not tell you this simple fact: Castro's opposition in Cuba overwhelmingly oppose our embargo. The Cuban people as a whole dream for the day when it will be lifted.

More recently (May, 2002), leading Cuban dissidents characterized US President Bush's hard-line on the embargo as anachronistic Cold War rhetoric.  Contrasting this with former US President Jimmy Carter's call that month for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the embargo, prominent Cuban dissident, Elizardo Sanchez, was quoted by The Guardian newspaper (UK)  saying, "Carter's speech reflected the point of view of the great silent majority in both countries who want better relations." The Guardian article concluded:

Others who oppose Castro have also attacked the embargo as doing little to bring down Castro but much to cause poverty and hardship. More and more - particularly as the US increases its trade links with China - the embargo appears to have little function but to appease a vindictive Cuban-American lobby.

A recent statement (May, 2004) by the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops was unequivocal in its condemnation of the US embargo.

We [the Catholic bishops] denounce this unjust blockade situation, which contributes to add unnecessary suffering and to render more difficult the quest for development. We appeal, therefore, to the conscience of those who are able to resolve it, so they may take decisive and effective action intended to put an end to this measure....

We deem it unacceptable that the future of Cuba be designed on the basis of exclusions, much less interventions conceived by a foreign government.

Not only have they condemned the embargo on humanitarian grounds, as you would expect, but they also reject the entire, underlying premise of the embargo -- the US had no moral right to attempt to impose its system on the Cuban people in the first place.

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