Arguing with idiots about #Cuba

Due to the Obama Administration’s renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba, Cuba is back in the news.

As usual, there is an alarming amount of misinformation — and stupidity — circulating that has me looking like this at my desk:

fassbender gif

and wanting to do this:

Let’s address some of the most common arguments heard in favor of relations — vs the truth.

“The embargo hasn’t worked in five decades — don’t you think it’s time to try something new???”


A fair enough point. But let’s look at this with the right information. The fact is saying the embargo “hasn’t worked” is inaccurate, since its sole goal was never to topple the regime: the embargo has been successful in (1) helping to stop Cuba from spreading its ideology and its terror elsewhere in the world, and (2) preventing the Cuban regime from using Americans’ cash to fund repression (unless, of course, you’re cool with funding repression).

At the very least, it has served a punitive goal and sends a moral statement that Americans won’t do business with, well, monsters.

Remember, embargoes’ aims can be:

1) punitive;

2) to make a moral statement;

3) containment of the nation;


4) coercive (i.e., used as leverage to gain certain concessions and perhaps even regime change).

Sure, the embargo hasn’t accomplished the last but it’s accomplished the first three (worth noting: containment — not toppling the regime — was the original aim).

And, with the USSR gone, and its Cuban-sugar-daddy replacement, Venezuela, barely hanging on… Cuba is in dire straits. Now is the time when the 4th potential outcome (toppling the regime) could work — and thus precisely NOT the time to yank the embargo. Shouldn’t we at least try to gain some concessions (in the form of fundamental human rights) before lifting it? Why lift it and get nothing in return? Why give away the milk for free when you’ve held out for five decades?

At its very core, the anti-embargo argument boils down to a common error: “Because of A ‘failing’ to have its intended effect (A = embargo) and B existing (B = a totalitarian regime), that must mean B is caused or helped up by A. So if we eliminate A, then B would disappear.” It is a textbook example of a logical fallacy.

“But we do business with other repressive regimes.” 

Hm, I’m aware.

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 9.04.59 PM


a) The “America might as well trade with Cuba because we do with X, Y, Z” is simply hogwash. Do eight wrongs make a right? Also:

– Is a single ONE of those nations in the Western Hemisphere? No. (Hard truth: we do care more about what happens in, say, England, than in Tibet. Sorry.)

– Do we have strong cultural and historical ties with any of those nations, dating back over 200 years? No.

– Did any of those nations confiscate over $1 billion dollars in US property at the time, done by the very same regime/family in power now? No.

b) More importantly, though, we’re bound by reality. Are some of our oil-supplier partners not exactly good guys? Sure. But our economic realities prevent us from ignoring that market. Ditto with China. Cuba, however, we can realistically shun.

c) Speaking of China (which anti-embargo proponents love to bring up, thinking it’s their pièce de résistance), China is not a fully Communist model in its economic approach. Unlike Cuba, a surprising amount of private enterprise and ownership is allowed. And, a surprising amount of the wages paid to factory workers, for instance, end up in the workers’ pockets. Meanwhile, Cuba has been busy passing legislation this year (no doubt in anticipation of the Obama-deal) dictating the government will keep over 90% of a worker’s wages derived from a foreign company. In any event, thanks to this business, the Chinese government is now the most well-funded tyrannical regime in history. Is that something we want to do again? Just askin’…

“The embargo is the reason Cubans are suffering.”


Allow me a minute to pick my jaw up off the floor.

One need only consider that Cuba trades with countless other nations. Why has that not made a difference? Why is Cuba, once a nation whose own currency was stronger, at one point, than even the US dollar, still in abject poverty ever since the Revolution?

Gosh, if only there were a socialist, similar nation in Latin America with whom we traded but whose people cannot even find toilet paper…. to illustrate my point? Ah, there is! Venezuela! You see, kids, the problem isn’t an embargo — the problem is the economic system of socialist/Communist nations. If it weren’t, then Venezuela should be thriving – but it isn’t. Riddle me that.

“Let’s flood Cuba with iPhones! Democracy will flourish!”

This plan doesn’t exactly sound foolproof…. and seems to rely on warm-and-fuzzy notions of positive thinking.

The idea goes something like this: “If Cubans get a whiff of capitalism, and a whiff of American fabulousness, bonding over cigars and mojitos, they will overthrow those cranky Commie leaders and capitalism/democracy will flourish!”

Sounds sweet, albeit corny. If it had a snowball’s chance in hell of working, I’d dig it. Only problem is: hmm, that already happens and there hasn’t been a change. Western tourists from Democratic nations (e.g., Canadians, Italians, Brits) already flood Cuba every year. Their presence has made no difference. In fact, Americans themselves already flood Cuba every year (Cuban exiles visiting family). Our products? Yeah, they’ve seen those, too (check the figures on Cuban remittances of products — everything from TV’s to clothes).

So, if proponents are going to tout the “lift the embargo because the existing policy hasn’t changed things” line, the same could be said of this. The existing reality of interaction with democratic tourists and capitalistic products has done nothing to change the status quo in Cuba. Next time someone says: “But the embargo hasn’t worked in 50 years, time for a change!”, ask them: “Well, Western tourists’ influence in the past 50 years hasn’t worked either… but that you haven’t given up on?”

Now, you might ask, why hasn’t interaction with tourists and capitalism-believers/products worked? Simple: It’s pretty hard to change things when there are government spies on every neighborhood block and when the regime rules, and stomps dissent, with an iron fist. How would Billy and Bobby visiting from Arkansas change things? How would Cubans seeing the latest shiny products change things? It wouldn’t.

“If only we had free trade….”

Please stop right there. You can’t have free trade with people who aren’t free! We’d be trading with the regime – NOT with the Cuban people. Why is this so hard for others to grasp?

“I’ve visited Cuba and, OMG, it was ah-mah-zing.”


Your experience at a government-approved Varadero Beach hotel — or a government approved hostel in Havana run by a government-approved family — isn’t an insight into real life in Cuba … but I’ll sit here and hear all about your “ah-mah-zing” trip to Cuba, biting my lip and marveling at your cluelessness.

The person will then go on to imply that their visit to Cuba makes him/her more of an expert than you.


And, every now and then, you’ll get that one shady guy who’s been to Cuba “a few times,” and whose eyes light up about how “awesome” it was, making you wonder about that underaged-sex-trade-tourism thang…


“Why don’t you WANT to go?”

As director Phil Lord noted last year, in an amazing Open Letter to Jay-Z, for one, “I cringe when Americans visit Cuba for a fun island vacation. For one thing it’s illegal (which nobody seems to care about)….”


And, as Lord adds, “more importantly, it’s either ignorant of or calloused to the struggles of Cubans on the island.” Indeed. Why would I want to go, to see Cuban suffering and know my money is going towards their repression? Not much of an ethical vaca, is it? And what kind of person can frolick in the sand, knowing the waiter who served them earlier can’t eat tonight, will go to prison if he says the wrong thing to you, and can’t step foot on the very same beach you’re enjoying?

“I just don’t believe embargoes or boycotting something is the way to address a problem.”

Hey, sure — OK. Except then you point out that person recently was tweeting criticism of Wal-Mart’s ‘labor practices’, has a list of companies he boycotts for a myriad of different reasons, and brags about his socially-responsible coffee brand.

And there is a sudden silence.


“Look, I don’t just care about sexy trips and cigars…. I really am interested in seeing, like, the real Cuba.” 



“The Cuban people are so incredible. What do you have against them?”


Another huge misconception. Cuban exiles/Cuban-Americans adore the Cubans on the island. We see them as our brothers and sisters who are being held hostage. The problem is not with them, never has been, and never will be — the problem is with the regime that holds them prisoner and deprives them of nearly every fundamental human right.

“Cuban exiles are just bitter and upset about property they lost.”

My initial response to this stupidity, astounding in its tone-deaf cruelty but also remarkable in its historical ignorance is:

Don't Ever Speak to me again

Then I compose myself and point out that the vast majority of current Cuban exiles and Cuban-Americans (especially those who came over post 1960’s) did not lose property in the Cuban Revolution. Did the kids who came over in Pedro Pan lose property? Did the Marielitos, who were already living in a Communist system for 20 years, lose property? I could go on and on with examples. And, even for those who did, or whose parents or grandparents did, might it have less to do with a house lost than with, perhaps, seeing your family and friends carted off to a concentration camp or an execution fortress, or 30-year prison sentences simply for speaking up, and helplessly watching as a tyrant yanks all basic freedoms away?


Just a thought.

At some point, the person will bring up a positive aspect about Cuba. “OK, but you have to admit, Cuba’s healthcare is better than ours.”

Taylor, take it away:


No, just NO. I’m trying to understand how you go to this level of misinformation (too much Michael Moore?) but….


I can’t.

The person will then mention anything positive they can think of about the Cuban system, anything at all:


And it’s one misinformed angle/statement/argument after another…. making you almost pity the arrogant fool.


So this is a good spot to hit PAUSE. This is Part 1. I’ll update with more info, likely by the new year. Hopefully, by now you’ve learned some new points and considered some ideas, from a “crazy Cuban American”:

Because, while reasonable people can certainly have a difference of opinion…


… let’s be sure you make an informed decision and… most of all, don’t forget:

best come correct if you’re going to argue with a Cuban-American about Cuba!

tumblr_mn7vovxzSS1qbn5iyo1_500 I’m out!


24 thoughts on “Arguing with idiots about #Cuba

  1. Pingback: The Obama Cuba Policy: “Warm-and-Fuzzy Notions of Positive Thinking” | The Universal Spectator

  2. Pablo says:

    So, you attempt to make several moral/ethical arguments against the new Cuba policy, but you also make this argument:

    “More importantly, though, we’re bound by reality. Are some of our oil-supplier partners not exactly good guys? Sure. But our economic realities prevent us from ignoring that market. Ditto with China. Cuba we can realistically shun.”

    It appears that you do not place much value in morals or ethics. Otherwise, you would treat them as more universally applicable, and not only when they are convenient.

    You are rehashing a lot of the old and tired arguments anti-Castro types have always brought up when discussing Cuba. At least you are upfront with your hypocrisy.

    • Cuba needs our trade and bank credits to save itself from bankruptcy. But Castro wants all that even while Cuba keeps its failed government model in place. Because of Government’s tight grip, the Castro regime has kept Cuba’s GDP hamstrung – economy now at a tiny $72.3 billion, less than half that of the state of Iowa, and the average worker earns less than $25 a month. Cuba needs a bailout because Its crony communism has failed, it is steeped in debt, and Cuban Pesos are running low. Historically, Cuba has enjoyed lifelines in the form of money and oil from Venezuela and the Soviet Union, which had been supplying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day before their economies failed.
      According to you, now it’s our turn.
      But what about the Cuban people?
      For a half century, Cuba has been run by a Soviet-style nomenklatura filled with party elites who have become wealthy while abusing the Cuban people. Critics of the government, perceived enemies of the state, or those calling for basic human rights are imprisoned without due process, many beaten, even killed. Cuban power elite are the Castro families, party chieftains and army leaders. The Cuban economy has not changed since the collapse of the USSR. Unchecked by media or Congress, the Cuban elite enjoy rich salaries, vacations overseas, yachts, Internet access, beach compounds and satellite dishes to see U.S. movies. Also, since 1958, Cuba has routinely expropriated assets of foreign investors – rum, tobacco, hotels and resorts are all owned and operated by the regime and its security forces. Cuba’s dominant company is the Grupo Gaesa, founded by Raul Castro in the 90s and controlled and operated by the Cuban military, which oversees all investments. Cuba’s Gaviota, also run by the Cuban military, operates Cuba’s tourism trade, its hotels, resorts, car rentals, nightclubs, retail stores and restaurants. Look all this up, Pablo, Gaesa is run by Raul’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas. So Cuban Nomenklatura, controls everything of value, including hotels, banks, the sugar industry, and all resorts. All of this is why Cuba is ranked 176th out of 177 countries on the index of economic freedom put out by the Heritage Foundation, beating North Korea at dead last, but ranking worse than Iran and even Zimbabwe.
      In fact, Cuban law even lets the government confiscate foreign assets for “public utility” or “social interest”. Three CEOs of companies doing hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of business in Cuba were arrested and stuck in jail without charges or due process: Cy Tokmakjian of the Tokmakjian Group, Sarkis Yacoubian of Tri-Star Caribbean, from Canada, and Amado Fakhre of Coral Capital of Great Britain.
      But the Cuban people, Pablo, do you really care? They own relatively nothing and have no rights at all. An outspoken Cuban, who criticizes his country the way you do yours, is either dead or in prison. A Cuban with an “incurable” disease like AIDs or Tuberculosis is isolated in a concentration camp in the mountains until death frees him. Please look all this up, Pablo before you write another Pro-Castro diatribe sorely lacking most basic facts.
      Last, but not least, from Amnesty International: Vietnam has a population of 92 million people and about 70 political prisoners. Cuba has a population of 11 million people and over 8,000 political prisoners. Look it up.
      Obama has rewarded bloody tyranny with a financial bailout… and you applaud?

    • Anonymous says:

      She is right and you are the one that lacks morals. Until the Cuban government decided to treat their people like something other than slaves, doing business with their Master is wrong. Foreign businesses have been doing business with Cuba since 1999 and the only thing that did, was enrich the junta. What you don’t seem to “get” is that the people that this happened to are still alive, and for you to dismiss what happened to them as old news, is indeed ignorant.

    • Tim says:

      Triage is how the world works. The rest of the USA, and much of the world does not care (any longer) about the views of very few. If we could have stopped Castro in day…excellent….Now make sure you do not follow what silly Rubio states, ” He does not care what 99% of hi constituents think….” That is amongst the least successful statements an aspiring leader can make….If something has not worked for 50 years….try something else…..

  3. Pingback: A liberating gift for liberals | aguilera

  4. Pingback: If you want to argue with a Cuban about Cuba…. be prepared | Babalú Blog

  5. Jason says:

    Given your bio I would expect you to construct an educated and well constructed argument and transform that to a cohesive and thoughtful blog entry.

    Perhaps you should spend less time searching for cheesy video clips and put that energy into researching your topic with greater efficacy.

    It seems to me you’ve armed yourself with nothing but your heritage.

    Perhaps YOUR experiences (NYC, Fortune 500, Harvard, attorney) have left you less inclined to comment on the real Cuban experiences than you think? An achingly Right Wing American experience at that.

    The entry is drivel at best, has little to no substance, nor supporting facts.

    Might I remind you that for over 20 consecutive years the UN General Assembly has, supported a resolution condemning the ongoing impact of the embargo and claiming it to be in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law?

    • Jason, perhaps you should spend more time responding with well constructed counter-arguments, instead of a full frontal ad hominem attack which is what you did.

      To make matters even worst, you discredit yourself with your cheap shot charging that A.J. has only armed herself with her heritage as if that were a negative thing, but then again, some people would arrogantly dismiss Cuban exiles from opining on their former homeland. I say that as the daughter of Cuban exiles with family in Cuba, she is more likely to be familiarized with Cuba than your average non-Cuban whose knowledge of Cuba was likely [at best] reached form a few “educational” trips to Cuba, from reading the New York Times or from some Latin American Studies Class.

      That said, why would her personal achievements leave her less inclined to comment on real Cuban experiences? Are you suggesting that she is too assimilated or successful to very able to speak on Cuba? If that’s the case, you may as well dismiss Cuban Experts like Phil Peters, Susan Eckstein, Wayne Smith, the Editorial Board of the New York Times, etc… These pro-engagment folks are the ones that are most often quoted and published and I assure you, they have very impressive curriculum vitaes.

      Regarding the over 20 consecutive years that the UN General Assembly has supported a resolution condemning the ongoing impact of the embargo and claiming it to be in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, so what? That UN General Assembly has also refused to condemn Cuba for human rights violations even though maimed victims of castroism have testified and even though NGO’s have presented enough evidence to choke a horse that every single one of the 30 Principles stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Cuba is a signator is violated in one way or another inside of Cuba. In other words, the UN is a politicized and totally politicized and manipulated entity. Just take a look at some of the countries on the Human Rights Council of the UN and weep.

      Ray Sand

    • Hunter Thompson says:

      Jason must have taken you several hours to construct your well-thought, provocative and amusing trivial diatribe of a statement, in your own mind of course. Remember the great Mark Twain motto – Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

  6. Hi “Jason”! You sound very preoccupied with my views, experience, and this post. I hope you find happiness — or at least more of a life because, it’s two days before New Year’s and you’re taking the time to write this long, strange comment on a blog. Yikes.
    Regardless, I do ask that all who leave Comments such as your put their names on it. Too ashamed to post your name and email? If so, I understand. 🙂 Hate is embarrassing.
    Good luck to you! I shall leave your comment here in all its splendor, for all to witness the unhinged elements against Cuban-Americans. THANK YOU, “Jason”! 😉

  7. Te la comiste A.J.! And don’t worry about folks like Jason. As Dr. Carlos Eire recently commented when all of the hate mongers came out of the woodwork in response to an article that he published in the Washington Post which I copy and pasted below.. It’s well worth reading.

    And here is the link to the article:

    Why are Cuban exiles hated so much?

    Dear Fulana:

    Thanks for writing.

    Other readers let me know about the vitriol in the comments, so I have intentionally refrained from reading them.

    Unfortunately, I’m used to this.

    As for your question, “why are we the villains?” NO, of course we’re not the villains, and of course we don’t deserve to be hated so much. If there were any real justice in this world, we would be admired.

    We’re defending freedom and democracy. In many significant ways, we are just like those who resisted the Nazis seventy years ago.

    But here is the dirty little secret behind our “loathsomeness” in the eyes of the world: it’s all due to bigotry and racism. Even worse, it’s an insidious sort of bigotry that the bigots will not acknowledge.

    Here’s my theory:

    To begin with, one must distinguish between the First World (where most Cuban exiles live) and the Second and Third Worlds. And one must keep in mind that not everyone thinks alike in any world, be it First, Second, or Third. There are always exceptions.

    What I am referring to here is the general left-leaning mind set or worldview that governs the culture and the thinking of people in their respective worlds.

    In the First World it is commonly assumed that North-Western Europeans are superior to all other human beings. Yes, First-worlders claim they are “inclusive” and not at all bigoted or racist, but deep down they think that Southern Europeans and all other people are inferior to them. (The Second and Third Worlds). This prejudice includes the Spanish, of course, and all of their former colonies. It also includes all the Slavs, and, above all, everyone who is dark-skinned. So, it gets a little tricky: it doesn’t really have to do with skin color all the time, although there is a scale of better-to-worse: a blond and blue eyed Pole or Russian is inferior to a dark-haired brown-eyed North-western European, but at the same time also superior to any Arab or African or Inca, or Australian Aborigine.

    This helps explain why so many Canadians and Europeans flock to Cuba as tourists, to enjoy exclusive resorts no Cuban can enjoy. To them, the Cuban people are just inferior, and the issue of human rights does not really apply to them.

    We “Hispanics” (even if blonde and blue eyed, like my children) are most definitely inferior. We need strong rulers to keep us all in check, because we are incapable of creating the same kind of society as north-western Europeans — just like the Russians and all inferior people, especially the Chinese and all Asians. Never mind what the Germans did with their Third Reich. That was an aberration that First-Worlders like to blame on the Versailles Treaty, and especially on the French, who are borderline people, way too close to Southern Europe. (Oh, but don’t say that to the French, who think of themselves as First World and superior to everyone else). The First World will not allow the Third Reich and the Holocaust to dispel their myth about Northwest-European superiority, a myth they fervently believe but will never openly profess or acknowledge.

    Add to this the leftist proclivities of those in the First World who control the news media and public opinion, and what you get is the unquestioned assumption that socialism/communism is just perfect for inferior folk.

    So…. the Castro brothers are wonderful. They are the best thing any Lateeeeen-oh could hope for. They are the kind of rulers Lateeeeen-ohs/ Lateeeeen-ahs deserve and need. Given this assumption, there is no way that First World human rights can be of equal significance to Lateeeeen-ohs. All they need is a strong leader, some medical care, some elementary education, and a full plate of food every day. If some people need to be tortured and killed in order to ensure the delivery of those goodies, so what?

    This is why right-leaning strong men like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet are “evil” and Che and the Castro brothers are “visionary,” even “exemplary.”

    Those of us who deny such a myth are therefore wrong. Nothing we can say will disprove the myth. Moreover, because we dare to challenge the myth we are not just stupid, but evil. This is why we deserve to be stripped of all property, to be tortured, etc…. and also why we deserve to be scorned and treated like scum. This is why an American journalist can speak of Marco Rubio’s defense of the human rights of Cubans as a “tantrum” and of such behavior as “unpresidential” — and not be denounced by his peers as a bigot.

    Worst of all, if you point out to all of the bigots who hate us that they are no different from any member of the Ku Klux Klan, they will refuse to acknowledge that truth and think you are even more evil and stupid than they expected.

    Outside the First World, in the Second and Third worlds, there is a different myth. It’s fairly simple: communism/socialism is the hope of humankind. The utopian mentality fostered by communist/socialist propaganda is way too attractive outside the First World. (Though in the First World, for some reason I haven’t yet figured out, it’s extremely attractive to intellectuals and to a majority of college-educated people).

    So…. as far as many in the Second and Third World are concerned, those of us who deny that myth are both evil and stupid, and deserve not just to be insulted, but perhaps also tortured and killed.

    There you have it. This is the sad truth, as I see it. This is why Che t-shirts and other such merchandise sell so well throughout the world, and why we Cuban exiles are hated.

    Oh…. and there is one more thing: we Cuban exiles have proven everywhere that we have gone that we are not at all inferior to anyone. In fact, we have proven that we give everyone else stiff competition. That is our worst unpardonable sin.

    Don’t let this get you down. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and do your utmost to be happy, not just to spite the bigots, but to enjoy the world God has given us all, regardless of our place of birth or ancestry. Pay no attention to all the bigots and fools behind the curtain. They know not what they’re saying and doing.

    Un abrazo cubano,



    Ray []

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been to Cuba a dozen times. I agree with everything written by Cubans here about the nasty Castro regime. However, I think the embargo is nonsense. I’ve read that approximately 400,000 Cubans who live in the USA visited Cuba over the past year. I thought they’re exiles. If one comes to the USA and asks for political asylum they shouldn’t go back to the country they fled from on vacation. Especially on a direct charter flight from Miami!!

  9. Pingback: Arguing with idiots about #Cuba | Fausta's Blog

  10. Rafael says:

    Part I was great! It’s lamentable that not everybody is enough open eyed to understand it! When is part 2 coming? Looking forward to it!

  11. Anonymous says:

    They don’t get it. It’s about the cruel and ruthless regime. Just sit back and watch.
    It’s a matter of time when they show who they are. Que lastima that someone will pay the price.
    My dad had a great saying: you can take a pig out of the pig pen
    Bathe him put a bow on him and as soon as he gets a chance, he will be a pig again. Those that don’t understand they are opening the doors to cruel and ruthless people are just IDIOTS.
    Castro’s regime will jump in the pig pen real fast, just like they did with so many other countries . I want nothing more than to see my home country, meet my uncles and cousins, see where I was born and see my fellow Cubans enjoy what the rest of the world takes for granted. I’m thrilled my people are able to see their first Broadway show but how scary
    Is it , they are are not able to attend and scared to have freedom of speech to tell us how unfair it is.

  12. Wilfredo Gonzalez says:

    Excellent blog. It’s right on point and very funny to boot. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to part II.

  13. Pingback: RFK Jr. Throws Dead Kennedys Under the Obama-Cuba Bus | Babalú Blog

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