NPR enters the lists with a report about increased human smuggling from Cuba. As usual, the bad guys are not the mafiosi in Havana or the misbegotten Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy, but Cuban exiles and families in Miami. Blame the victim. Since they didn't see fit to tackle a major part of the problem, thought I take a stab at it.
Any policy that results in members of the United States military firing on unarmed civilians and/or repatriating others to almost certain imprisonment has to be a bad policy and, I would argue, an immoral one. Christ once said of false prophets that by their fruit shall we know them. Well if the same can be said of a false policy, the fruit of this tree is rotten. Fleeing Cubans have been known to douse themselves with gasoline, hold knives to their throats, and even impotently attack members of the Coast Guard to avoid being sent back. Whatever might have made them take to the Gulf in the first place, the moment they left, they became political refugees. That is to say, once repatriated they will face all sorts of repercussions for the audacity of wanting to leave. Yet here is an institutionally enforced policy that does just that, send 'em back, in direct contravention to US law, I might add.
At the same time, what is the United States to do? As a fellow blogger wrote, the economy of the United States could handle the entire population of Cuba if it showed up on our doorstep, that number being very close to the estimate of illegal immigrants in the US. But imagine in the current xenophobic climate, the uproar at thousands of Spanish-speaking and racially diverse people on our shores. Mariel X’s God-knows-how-many.
Much as we may dismiss these political considerations, they are real, as are the interests of the United States. Over the decades, the US has served as a pressure release valve for the Cuban regime. One has to wonder what would have happened if this country had never allowed a single Cuban exile to alight on its soil, wet or dry foot. Since that is a moot point, let’s carry on with the pressure cooker theorem which holds that if unhappy Cubans are forced to stay in Cuba, the whole pot will explode. I’m sure there are valid reasons why this is not necessarily so, but there is one which takes precedence over all, that is we are dealing with human beings here, not peas. Would you place a human being in an oversized pressure cooker? Of course not.
This is the problem that dogs Cuba policy. How to separate the Cuban people from the State, given that the State has falsely assumed the rights and prerogatives of the same? How do you help the people while holding the line against a sworn enemy of the Republic? A while back, I came across one suggestion on another blog that made my cynical heart go pitter patter. I took the suggestion and ran all the way to Disney.
The suggestion was simply to send those who fall in American hands to Guantanamo. That’s been done before, you say. Yeah, but this idea goes far beyond tent cities. Why not establish not a camp but a town? Make it a model hamlet. Heck, pretty soon that detention camp is going to be closed. Call in the imagineers to create Calle Central, Cuba, down to the wrought iron balconies. Let those who don’t make it to the United States at least know that they will be sent to somewhere where they can earn their keep, have a say in their town government, and go to bed with three squares. Sure, the US government will have to subsidize it, but there’s plenty of money to be had in other anti-regime programs. What better pressure is there than to demonstrate what a free and capitalist Cuba could be?
Come to think of it, alone among all the candidates, John McCain has called Wet Foot/Dry Foot a flawed policy. He doesn't know how to fix it he tells us. Hmm. Maybe I'll email him.
(Although I have CRS, I think I first came across the idea at Killcastro. If not, I apologize to wherever I came across it.)