Some of my friends in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area have brought to my attention recently that I’ve changed since moving down to Florida. You might ask the obvious questions: How have I changed? Has it been for the better? Is the main culprit senility? When I asked them, they responded that I’ve changed my political views, and it’s been for the worse. I never suspected that Florida could have such a deleterious effect on its new arrivals.
This assessment brings to mind a few of the lyrics from Lionel Richie’s famous song Easy: “Would anybody put chains on me? I’ve paid my dues to make it. Everybody wants me to be, what they want me to be. I’m not happy when I try to fake it!”
When penning this op-ed, I sought understanding for my political and ideological metamorphosis from others, not agreement nor disagreement — although agreement would be great!
Since arriving in the United States in 1966, I’ve had an unyielding desire to see a Cuba Libre. I’ve argued with people of opposing views on this subject. I’ve penned letters to the editor that have been published in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Tampa Tribune. I’ve participated in talk shows in the Silvio Canto, Jr. radio program. I’ve contributed articles to the American Thinker. I’ve written multiple opinion pieces on LinkedIn – one of which has been read by over 51,324 members. I’ve participated in massive demonstrations against the Castro regime. The fight to restore democracy to my homeland after fifty-seven years of oppression by the Castro Brothers has been an integral part of who I am. It’s personal.
When I lived in Communist Cuba at a young age, I did not like what I saw or how I was treated. I suffered discrimination in school because of the political views held by my parents. On the first day at a government-run school, everyone knew that my family was not in sync with the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the Cuban Government. And I paid a heavy price for it. I suffered rejections by students whom I wanted to be my friends. Teachers monitored every word that I said. I can remember one incident when I refused to salute the Cuban flag because I claimed that Cuba was enslaved, and the school principal issued my parents a stern warning about facing jail time if they did not modify my behavior. To pass from one grade to another, everyone had to take a test (prueba de nivel) that assessed my loyalty to the Castro regime and the Marxist ideology. To test my knowledge acquired during the fifth grade, I had to elaborate on the achievements of El Che Guevara to the Cuban Revolution – something that conflicted with what my parents had taught me regarding the crimes that this murderer had committed. When I revealed my Catholic faith, I was told by school officials that it would be a hindrance to continuing my higher education.
Political discrimination against me and my family generated a feeling of emptiness, of not knowing what the future had in store for us. After my parents revealed their intentions to emigrate to the United States, they were fired from their jobs. In communist/socialist societies, the government is the sole employer. Considering that my mother insisted that we leave the Caribbean Island through legal means, our departure was delayed for seven long years. We lived through a myriad of humiliations, and were treated as the scums, lumpen, scoriae, and dregs of society. All of these negative experiences during my formative years left an indelible mark in my personality about the evils of socialism/communism – the latter are one of the same and are used interchangeably to deceive the misinformed.
The years that I lived in Communist Cuba taught me the difference between right and wrong. The attempt to forcefully supplant individualism with collectivism was not well received by many Cubans. Parents wanted and insisted on teaching their children their traditions, their religion, their values. It was inconceivable to these Cubans that the government would want to take the place of the family. And my family decided to vote with their feet by emigrating to the United States.
I realize that there are people who disagree with the way that I feel about the dictatorship of the Castro Brothers. While I realize that in a democracy there is room even for misinformed beliefs like the ones held by some people towards the Castro dictatorship, please realize that my views are based on what I saw and what I experienced firsthand. Regardless of your feelings on this issue, I think that you would agree it is inhumane to deny the Cuban people the right to elect their own head of state via internationally-monitored elections for close to sixty years.
Most voters have one or two issues that are non-negotiable when pulling the lever on Election Day. Some of these issues deal with gun rights, abortion, same-sex marriage, taxes, judicial nominations, the preservation of Judeo-Christian values, health care, and/or entitlements. While many of these issues are important to me, the one issue that is paramount as to who I’d give my vote to is the restoration of freedom and democracy to Communist Cuba. Cuba is part of my heritage, my history, my DNA. The love and gratitude that I feel for the United States is magnified by the yearning that I feel for a Cuba Libre. As long as Cuba remains enslaved, I will continue with my advocacy and pen to demand its freedom.
President Obama gave a speech to the Cuban American National Foundation on May 23, 2008, in which he underscored that his “policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: Libertad. And the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba’s political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair.” He lied — just like when he says that he is a Christian but defends Islam at every opportunity that he gets, while putting down Christianity.
December 17, 2014 was a day in infamy for freedom-loving Cubans, Cuban-Americans, and world citizens interested in seeing a Cuba Libre. A day when President Obama gave a speech announcing a new day in U.S./Cuba relations. 8,000 Cubans immigrants are in Costa Rica in 2015-2016 trying to gain entrance to the United States. This is an anomaly, as you would think that with President Obama’s New Day in U.S./Cuba relations, no Cuban would want to leave the Caribbean Island. After 57 years of totalitarian oppression under the Castro Brothers, most Cubans recognize who the bad actors are. When they saw U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s slight to Cuban human-rights dissidents by not inviting them to the official ceremony of the reopening the U.S. Embassy in Havana in August of 2015, they realized that President Obama was not truthful in his promise of hope and change for a Cuba Libre. They understood that President Obama’s gestures were in solidarity with the Cuban Government, and not with the Cuban people. They knew that the actions of President Obama would prolong the totalitarian rule of current and future dictators for a very long time. They knew that President Obama was not a friend of liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands.
Former Secretary of State and 2016 Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton stated in a 2014 appearance in New York hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations that “We should advocate for normalizing relations and see what they (Cuban officials) do.” Therefore, a vote for Hillary would be a vote for an Obama third term with regards to the U.S.-Cuba policy. It would represent a continuation of the current policy of giving Communist Cuba everything that it asks for without demanding anything in return for the benefit of the United States or a Cuba Libre.
And, then, there is U.S. Senator and 2016 Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. “A democratic socialist” he calls himself. Cuban-Americans are very familiar with the terminology that communist governments use in media outlets to confuse the free world. Take the example of North Korea calling itself the Democratic People’s Republic Korea or the former East Germany calling itself the German Democratic Republic. There was nothing democratic in place in these countries, and the will of the people was ignored repeatedly. A vote for Bernie Sanders would be a betrayal to the democratic ideals that our nation stands for and an imposition of the dictates that my parents fled from.
That leaves me with U.S. Senator and 2016 Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio. He offered his views recently on President Obama’s Cuban policy: “It is as if we have now agreed that Castro and oppression get to stay. It would be one thing if this was part of a change in our policies in exchange for a change in Cuban policies, but this is a unilateral change. We are changing toward Cuba, but Cuba isn’t changing toward us or its people. For many, it feels like we are accepting that the Cuban people forever will have to live under a repressive government.” Under a Rubio presidency, the United States would again be that shining city on hill – a beacon of hope, freedom, and democracy to all people living in misery under totalitarian governments.
Senator Marco Rubio did not get the Republican nomination, but he won re-election for a second term as a U.S. Senator. I am still one of his biggest fans and supporter. Donald J. Trump is now the president-elect. I gave my vote to him, and I offer no apologies.
President-elect Donald Trump has said “concessions” the Obama administration made to Cuba can easily be reversed and that he will unravel them unless U.S. demands are met. He indicated that he can reverse Obama’s executive orders and will do so “unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands — our demands. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners.”
I also refuse to embrace the ideology of the Democratic Party when it is incongruent with my values. I refuse to become a slave to a party who takes my vote for granted.
Hispanics did not do as well under recent Democratic administrations as they had expected by voting for their candidates in large numbers. President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13171 (Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government) on October 12, 2000 — just a few days before the end of his days in the White House on January 20, 2001. Bill Clinton’s presidency lasted from 1993 through 2001 — eight years! This was a betrayal to Hispanic groups who had yearned for this executive order to have been issued much earlier in his administration. When I asked a high official who had served in the Clinton’s White House to explain the delay, he responded that they had expected Al Gore to have won the 2000 presidential race. Outrageous! And going forward, when comparing the representation of Hispanics in the federal workforce during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama by using the reports issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Hispanic representation under the Bush administration was better. So, I concluded that when it came to Hispanics, Republicans had a better track record, and I was willing to align myself with a political party that delivered on its promises rather than with one which betrayed them and talked the tranquilizing drug of doubletalk.
To those who are disappointed in me because of my conservative transformation, I offer no apologies because they were never my friends. I believe that life is not a static process, but an interactive one that enriches our lives with gained wisdom. I’ve concluded that to search respectability from others by betraying my values would leave me unmoored to my moral compass. This is simply unacceptable to a free man like myself!
To my friends who claim that I’ve changed, let me set the record straight. It is not senility that has impacted my political views. I try to go to the gym multiple times during the week, and I stay physically fit. I am the same person that I’ve always been – a Cuban-American enamored with freedom and democracy for all. I became a Republican for one simple reason: the Democratic Party left me, and the Republican Party was better suited to serve the interests of the American people and keep them out of harm’s way.