In 1886, Cuba’s liberal reformers and their allies in the international community pressured the Spanish government into abolishing the institution of slavery. Whereas in the United States, the slaves would have to suffer legalized discrimination in the “Jim Crow” South, no such thing would happen in Cuba. The blessings of freedom had been secured for all Cubans. Unfortunately, the liberals’ triumph would be all too short-lived. For nearly 50 years, the Cuban people have been enslaved by a caste of masters (the Communist elite) and slave drivers (the secret police, the bureaucrats, the heads of the CDRs, etc.) who secure the populace’s compliance through state-sanctioned violence, such as the “actos de repudio” (acts of repudiation) and other methods of coercion.
Why? Because brute force is required to maintain any system that institutionalizes the violation of individual rights.
Since the triumph of the Revolution, the Cuban people, like slaves, have been obligated to work for their overlords. Indeed, there is no clearer proof of the populace’s enslavement than article 45 of the illegitimate socialist constitution which affirms that there is a general obligation to work on the part of the Cuban people for the state.
Why? Because it is immoral to dispose of the fruits of one’s own labor.
Indeed, that is the sole justification left to the Castro brothers and their supporters because communism has generated none of the wealth that was promised.
Now, the regime has decided to increase the rations of its slaves. Working off the assumption that it can buy off the Cuban people’s support with trivial concessions, the regime has created an “opening”. Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects — the academics and the media — are beside themselves. Accepting the morality of the regime’s policies, these rather sordid individuals have glossed over the Castro brothers’ bloody 50-year record to heap praise upon Cuba’s new dictator, Raúl. Disgustingly, a March Associated Press story was even headlined “Thanks Raul: Cubans Can Stay in Hotels.” When I first read that article, I wondered how someone could be so crass as to expect the Cuban people to be grateful to their oppressor. Then, I thought to myself that the writer of that article probably does not realize the nature of the very repressive machinery that forces the Cuban people to live in bondage. Or, worse, he is aware of it and finds their oppression an acceptable price to see his infirm ideals put into action.
The fundamental truth, however, is that communism is not a moral system. No one has a right to coerce another person to work for his own benefit. Despite all the praise that has been heaped on Raúl’s recent wave of reforms, the incontrovertible truth is that the Cuban people remain enslaved. Freedom is not freedom to make insignificant choices about where we can go or what trinkets we can buy (though not afford), as the regime and its supporters would have us believe; rather, it is complete and indivisible power over the whole of our lives. Freedom consists of our right to determine what we do with our lives, and for the ends that we each determine to be fit.
After close to five decades of Communist oppression, the Cuban people deserve a government that respects their individual rights. More of the same by a different name is not the solution. If the current socialist experiment were to be continued, even in a watered-down form, nothing would change but the face of the despot that oppresses the Cuban people. The paper limitations of a constitution cannot protect one from an omnipotent state with the power of life and death over its people. The only real prescription for Cuba’s problem is a healthy dose of capitalism and liberal-democracy.
The Cuban people’s struggle to regain their lost freedom will be a difficult one. They will need support from abroad. The international community must stop naively swallowing Raúl’s new, “more palatable spin” on the same murderous dictatorship. Forgiving the past atrocities of this regime is treason to the thousands of victims that it has accrued. We should not be satisfied with the repackaged lies the same regime presents to the world to hide their human rights abuses. We should accept nothing less than a government that stands up for freedom and individual rights. After the nightmare of socialism, Cubans deserve the chance to live out the dreams that have kept them going.
Michael Fernández is a 2007 graduate of the Yale College.