China, Cuba, Sanctions and Hypocrisy
WLRN’s Tim Padgett has written an essay concerning Yoani Sanchez, the embargo and American hypocrisy that is a remarkable exercise in rhetorical gymnastics. He condemns “hardliners” who support sanctions but praise Yoani Sánchez while in disagreement with her position on sanctions. At the same time Mr. Padgett acknowledges that he knows that “[s]ome Cuban dissidents do support the embargo , and I respect their arguments – especially since they, like Sánchez, are the ones on the ground in Cuba, if not in its jails.”
Argument doesn’t hold up
If you argue that persons who advocate a pro-sanctions policy cannot admire and respect a person who is anti-sanctions then you cannot claim the opposite that you respect persons who are pro-sanctions even though you have an anti-sanctions position. Or is it that one can only hold a respectable position by being as you say: “on the ground in Cuba, if not in its jails.” With that line of argument the only voices that should be listened to are inside the island. One’s position on sanctions whether in favor or against would not be based on the best case put forward but on one’s geographic location.
Sanctions are the last nonviolent way of seeking to change an unjust system by refusing to cooperate with tyranny. When discussing the Cuban embargo in the mass media these two aspects are rarely, if ever, touched upon. Academics and the lobbyists for big business, such as USA Engage, often claim that sanctions never work; rather, it is economic engagement that leads towards greater respect for human rights. However, recent history in China, Burma, and Vietnam indicate otherwise. Out of the three only Burma has seen an improvement in its human rights situation and was subjected to tough sanctions while things have gotten worse in China and Vietnam despite normalized relations and trade.
When I met Yoani Sánchez and expressed my admiration for her writings while at the same time my disagreement with her position on economic sanctions she smiled, laughed gently and said that we need to celebrate differences of opinion that it is part of democracy. I am in full agreement with her on that and on the need to “decriminalize discrepancy.” The meeting ended with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
People of good will with good intentions can be found on both sides of the sanctions debate. However, people of ill will can also be found on both sides of the debate. A strategy of sanctions that seeks to harm the population into revolt is immoral as is playing the rhetorical humanitarian card to lift sanctions and enter into business with the oppressor.
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