Free expression a two-way street
MIAMI — Some days ago in Havana, a group of dissidents who are hostile to the Cuban state staged an illegal political event in a residential area. At the same time, another group of Cubans responded politically, rejecting the event.
Both groups expressed opposite points of view and, although some tense situations arose, nobody was hurt or arrested.
In the United States, a group of politicians, following a call from Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart against the administration of Barack Obama, has tried to punish a musician who allegedly participated in the political response to the dissidents. The punishment would consist on denying him a visa to the United States to participate in a cultural exchange.
Those of us who believe in free expression know that nobody should be punished for his or her opinion. But it seems that Congressmen Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Albio Sires and Joe Garcia do not share that opinion. They insist that the musician be punished for his “incorrect political thought,” diagnosed by an opinion made from afar, conditioned by the social networks and certain broadcasters of anti-Cuban propaganda.
What is the message sent to the Cuban people? It seems that we agree on isolating those Cubans who do not please the Cuban-American political right by denying them visas, at the same time that we reward, with the same visas, the dissidents on the island who are preferred by the Cuban-American right.
In other words, it is simply a political trap to curtail the collective freedom of all Cubans and strike a low blow to Cuba’s sovereignty.
I wonder, what’s the moral behind using force to condition political behavior and later talk about civil or political rights?
The Cuban dissidents travel with complete freedom throughout the world without being harassed because of their ideas. Apparently, those who oppose those dissidents inside Cuba’s civilian society are now exposed to coercive actions that political meddlers abroad prepare against them.
Of course, the propaganda insists that the Cuban government is authoritarian, but did Cuban singer Boris Larramendi experience any interference by Cuba when he traveled to Spain to support the dissidents?
Someone might say that that’s not the case, because the U.S. Congress has no ethical commitments to the Cubans from the island. It can ask the Executive Branch to punish or deny visas to whomever it pleases.
But that’s only a partial truth because, when the time comes to seek votes, the Congressmen involved in this action need to win the people’s will inside our community.
And in South Florida, that popular will is increasingly distancing itself from the old, arrogant method of blocking or punishing our brothers on the island.
The reward-or-punishment technique works only when we train babies who don’t know the difference between good and evil. That’s why we exercise our authority over them and grant them very little freedom, so we may, in the long run, improve their character and behavior.
To do that with entire nations is an insult. Cubans have the right to choose their destiny, without rewards or punishments from legislatures that have nothing to do with their civil society. Cuba has a right to its freedom as a nation. It is a collective natural right — and quite human, of course.