ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - El senador Robert Menéndez (D-NJ) emitió hoy las siguientes declaraciones sobre el último anuncio de la administración Obama para levantar las restricciones permitiendo la financiación de exportaciones de comercio estadounidenses a Cuba.
"Las acciones de hoy por la Administración son una violación de la ley - la voluntad del Congreso, las personas que nos eligieron, y una traición a esos valientes cubanos que han levantado sus voces en apoyo a la libertad, sólo para ser silenciados por un régimen al que ahora ayudamos. En pocas palabras, el exportar a Cuba significa exportar al régimen y a sus empresas estatales exclusivamente controladas por la familia Castro; algo que no hará nada para empoderar al pueblo cubano. "Por otra parte, la ley de los Estados Unidos dice que cualquier Administración tiene la discreción para endurecer sanciones, pero no tiene la autoridad para relajarlas, algo que los reportes de prensa indican está haciendo esta Administración por tercera vez desde que anunció un nuevo enfoque con el régimen cubano. "Fue la falta de oportunidades - no un cambio de opinión - el que había desacelerado el aventurerismo regional de Castro y su apoyo a aquellos que representan una amenaza para nuestros intereses nacionales. Fue la falta de recursos la que causaba que el régimen aflojara su control. Y, serán éstas y cualquier líneas de vida estadounidense que el régimen utilizará para revertir ese curso, consolidar la dictadura y socavar los valores por los que tanto hemos luchado. En su totalidad, el alivio de sanciones que hemos visto en el último año no solo envía un mensaje al pueblo al que una vez apoyamos. Proporciona a sus opresores los recursos que necesitan para reforzar su control".
José Antonio Font – December 17, 1947 – December 15, 2015
Some remarkable men have recently left this world in a rather unexpected and bitingly unfavorable way. One of these men was my father. Nepotism aside, he was incontestably an extraordinary man, not only receiving countless, emeritus tributes and honors for what can most easily be described as various entrepreneurial accomplishments, but for an arduous career to advance freedom in the economies and societies of the Western hemisphere.
As a student of American University’s School of International Service and Diplomacy, it is interesting to note that he was once granted a “full ride” through his PhD but reluctantly declined mid-way, never finding the time to oblige; he was at once consumed by his leadership role in founding the Ibero-American Chamber of Commerce in Greater Washington D.C. and later the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, feeling the need to address more critical issues of the time. Both institutions still thrive today. They, and tiny-colossal projects like establishing what was once the Washington World Gallery of Art in Georgetown and its adjacent hot-spot, Café de Artistas in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s were to lead him down a fairly different path.
Brilliant, sensitive and strong, he was something of a peaceful warrior, invariably fighting bullies, championing the underdog of the moment, and continuously lending a hand to the less fortunate, the worthy and the helpless. You may be entertained to know that in Cuba, as a ten-year-old Judo master, my father appeared on a highly popular live televisionshow, ultimately demonstrating how even a small boy could fend for himself against tyrannous men. This entailed levelling ten adult males in their attempt to encircle and attack him. I have the black and white photo to prove it.
Story has it that as a precocious, little boy he would often confront a band of aggressors at school given to behaviors he deemed deplorable. Namely, unscrupulous kids taking pleasure in throwing stones (more often than not, at birds and other guiltless creatures). From a young age, he was irrefutably profound with a deep respect for life and all living things, becoming an impossibly ethical man of many deeply rooted principles.
A product of a grand experiment in freedom, his parents left Cuba with the advent of that totalitarian, military regime we all know and love so much. [Ahem] Bearing witness to his family’s destruction and the catastrophic demise of all they had worked so hard to build had more than its traumatic effect on him; it determined the rest of his painstaking life. This is what forged a martyr. This is what made a freedom fighter. And with a gracious appreciation for his new found home (the great country in which most of us here live today) was born a resolute proponent and activist of free enterprise and real representative democracy. His last endeavor was the Alianza Democrática, focused on power through knowledge, so that people may never fall prey to demagogues and tyrants.
Anyone who knew the man knows that he was not one to concern himself with the trivial ins-and-outs of pop culture, or even pretend to indulge in such frivolity. Forget fluff; the more weighty, the more complicated or challenging the subject, the more it agreed with him. By him, his ventures were always ambitious, never insurmountable - just seemingly impossible, to most. The man was bent on building lasting institutions on causes and purpose. (The biography of John Adams was one of his favorites.)
It is safe to say that my father, Jose Antonio Font will forever be remembered by most as a social and human-rights activist, a leader, a trailblazer, and well, a builder, bold and unafraid to push boundaries and rethink the world. (I will remember him as my dad.) He could, and often did inspire people with a dollar and a dream or a problem to solve. He was a man interested in philosophy, obsessed with justice, and ultimately consumed by politics.
Funny enough (almost tragically), the shamelessly weathered, virtually disintegrating, moth-chewed T-shirt which he just happened to be wearing when he passed away did its best to dress his blessed heart with the eroded phrase: “Freedom Is Not Free”. His shirt, a token of philanthropic appreciation featuring the worn-out slogan that finally served to describe the very ideal that arguably cost him his entire life.
Now, more than ever, it is evident by his case that freedom is not free, at all. And that that the freedom for which he fought so hard to bring to others came at a tremendous sacrifice – to his health, to his pocket, to his time, to his family and paradoxically enough, to his personal ability to find rest in his living years.
His mission to help liberate Cuba, fight for the oppressed and rid the world of despotic characters became an exhausting quest. It is this force of unremitting will, through his slender eyes on the freedom prize, and his ethics to prestigious form that shall forever resonate by his soul, so admirably.
December 17th marked his 68th birthday, and we should have celebrated it with him. That was the plan; instead it is with deep sadness that we respectfully mourn the loss of his life, just two days prior; a week before Christmas.
My father and I, well, we were fairly close, close enough for me to have wrestled with his lifeless body in order to give him his final bath. And, I was thorough, in the same way he taught me to bathe myself when I was barely standing. This time, I was the one washing him. And, let me tell you something, not only had this once physically and mentally strong man been radically rendered utterly like a child; he was now very suddenly dead.
Yet somehow, I can’t tell you why, the son-of-a-gun looked better than ever – svelte as he never was, with newborn tears from the corners of his eyes, and totally at peace with his faithful God. Not a care-worn wrinkle in his otherwise typically furrowed brow…his last utterance having something to do with his mother, or mine, or well, the loving woman who gradually and eventually became a mother to us both.
Many will attest that it was difficult to resist the earthy and sensuous qualities in my father’s makeup, and countless aimed to be involved with him as fully as possible, and for as much time as possible. Many who wanted to meet him, never had the pleasure, even. Probably one of the few men left to refuse money for politics, he was someone rather indifferent to the material, firmly bound to ideas, individuals, structures and organizations, even if these things inhibited or held up his individual development or growth. This became particularly evident when circumstances dictated that it was time to move on; his martyrdom prevailed, albeit to little or no avail.
One might say the fate of his romantic theories flat-out lied to him. One might say those idealistic theories proposed with tremendous personal stakes and international reputation ultimately betrayed him…betrayed him with harsh reality…with injustice…with crushing disappointment. I know, for a fact, he felt jipped…cheated. I believe that this is when his personal political convictions for a higher purpose became his pious convictions for a higher power, improvising with the sub-standard to find the exquisite, or a pristine point of light.
The universe, not ready to yield all of its secrets, reveals the following to me. The extraordinary values that set the man apart are the very things that will forever keep us together – what humanity can do so well in a world where humanity is capable of quite the contrary…great achievements of pure good in a world of such scattered impurity.
This is the way that I will, and that you may, pay sincere respect to my father for all the good he so selflessly put into our world obscured by smudges of treachery and strife. Not to mention, a world wherein he never reached his PhD, never saw a free Cuba, never met his grandchildren, and never took his wife to Italy. It is in this world that I ask you to capture my father’s undying glimmer of idealism, and run with it; take what became something of his mantra in eternal optimism as he would say, “We’re almost there.” and show him that you know the way. Or, just follow him. I’m sure at this point, he has finally asked for directions and even knows the scenic route.
Because, although I cannot adequately explain how lost he may have felt about his shortcomings before leaving us, I can very clearly list out his virtues. And to me, that is not only admirable and inspiring, that is a shining beacon and my guiding light.
If you’re listening, Papi, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for teaching me all that you did, and giving me all the love you had to give. I love you very much.
Progress in the Americas—including supporting the new democratic majority in Venezuela, advancing essential freedoms in Cuba, and promoting prosperity throughout the region—demands much more active and ambitious US leadership.
Flagging economic growth and widespread corruption in key Latin American countries have produced popular dissatisfaction with big-government solutions, creating an opportunity for free-market policies to restore prosperity.
Urgent US sanctions targeting criminal kingpins—despots in Venezuela, cronies in El Salvador, narcoguerrillas in Colombia—can make a crucial and timely contribution to democracy and security.
In 2016, the United States has the opportunity to advance key US interests in the Americas—eclipsing the failed and fading legacy of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, filling the void that China’s receding demand created, and backing a trend toward accountable policies. Predictably, President Barack Obama’s outreach to the Raúl Castro regime in Cuba has failed to produce the results that he hoped would leave a lasting legacy. However, he has one final year to make a meaningful contribution to democracy, the rule of law, and free-market economics in the Americas as a whole.
For nearly two decades, several countries have succumbed to a mix of authoritarian populism, statist economic policies, and unsustainable social spending—giving government such an overbearing role in national economies that it spurred corruption and undermined democracy. Regrettably, in the last decade, the United States failed to advance any alternatives to big-government strategies.
Meanwhile, regional antidrug cooperation that willing Andean neighbors forged with the United States 25 years ago has virtually disintegrated today. At first, leftist regimes in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela defied this US-led agenda. Eventually, several became complicit with narcocorruption—with little or no pushback from US policymakers. Now, Colombia’s government is gutting key antidrug policies in its rush to make peace with narcoguerrillas, but US diplomats have failed to counsel against making peace at any price. Transnational organized crime destabilizes a half-dozen countries, but the Obama administration plans to throw US tax dollars at the symptoms in Central America while neglecting the narcostate in Venezuela.
In a number of countries in recent months, elections and opinion polls suggest that people are seeking alternatives to statist formulas that have produced political repression, economic recession, or both. President Obama has the opportunity to salvage the final year of his mandate by empowering his diplomatic and economic team to demonstrate US leadership in key areas:
Show that the United States cares about its neighbors. Energize outreach to like-minded governments, civil society, and the private sector, and speak out on a host of practical and pressing issues—including fighting corruption in Central America, promoting political accountability and practical economic solutions in Haiti, and rallying solidarity with the region’s democrats, beginning in Venezuela and Cuba. Lead with free-market solutions. The secretary of the treasury should form a regional working group of finance ministers to develop a prosperity agenda for aggregating and channeling private capital and international assistance to private-sector entrepreneurs, liberalizing internal markets, modernizing infrastructure, maximizing energy production, and tapping the benefits of international trade. Help rescue Venezuela and support the new democratic majority. Call for an urgent meeting of foreign ministers at the Organization of American States under the Inter-American Democratic Charter to respond to the Nicolás Maduro regime’s attempts to deny the democratic opposition the National Assembly supermajority it won on December 6. Put narcotraffickers and other transnational criminals on the defensive. Use executive authorities to sanction individuals (denying access to the US financial system and freezing assets) who play a disproportionate role in undermining democracy and the rule of law. Promote principled peace in Colombia. Encourage the Colombian government to negotiate a tough, enforceable agreement with the guerrillas, such as Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC); fortify the agreement with a constitutional referendum; and restore effective extradition and coca-eradication programs if the FARC fails to cease drug-related crimes. Support the right of the Cuban people to choose their own future. Reprioritize their human rights, democracy, and economic liberty in compliance with the bipartisan Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996. Challenge the Castro regime for meddling in Venezuelan affairs. Filling the Vacuum of Responsible Leadership
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry clearly come from a school of thought that sees Latin America and the Caribbean as a bundle of grievances against US interference. When, in November 2013 at the Organization of American States (OAS), Kerry declared, “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” he might have admitted that the Obama administration’s policy is to leave the Americas alone, literally. Dutiful career US diplomats have fashioned a policy of benign reticence—self-conscious silence as leftist caudillos (strongmen) dismantled democratic institutions, muzzled independent media, and jailed political opponents; as unsustainable social programs and corruption smothered burgeoning economies; and as China muscled its way into a natural US market with mercantile tactics and predatory loans.
Minding these matters is the United States’ business.
It is a fallacy that Latin America regards any sort of engagement by Washington as unhealthy intervention. The truth is the United States can work with like-minded democrats to reenergize the Inter-American Democratic Charter—starting with reviewing the conditions of democracy, human rights, and the separation of powers in Venezuela. Luis Almagro, the new OAS secretary general, deserves the strong backing of the United States and other democratic governments, so the OAS can reassert its role in detecting and responding to threats to democracy and human rights.
There is dramatic evidence that people in many countries need and welcome their neighbors’ renewed solidarity. In Guatemala, a political neophyte, Jimmy Morales, was elected president in October with two-thirds of the popular vote. His election came after months of peaceful popular protests, which forced President Otto Pérez Molina (and his vice president) to resign in the face of corruption charges uncovered by a prosecutor backed up by a UN-sanctioned (and US-backed) international investigative team. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has turned to the OAS for similar international assistance to ferret out corruption.
In Haiti, the United States and the international community cannot merely provide aid while ignoring the feudal economic system, nor should they pay for periodic elections and then neglect political dysfunction. Once the current electoral impasse is resolved, the United States and other donors must press Haiti’s new president and parliament to govern responsibly and eliminate the culture of cronyism and corruption. Haitian leaders, in government and business, should be challenged to take practical steps to modernize the economy from the bottom up, emphasizing private initiatives that create decent jobs and give people a stake in the future. This requires transparent policies that encourage domestic and international investment. As Haitians begin to identify responsible government with greater prosperity, their leaders can pursue the long-term goal of reforming the country’s political institutions to make them more accountable and relevant.
Poverty and insecurity in some Latin American and Caribbean countries are primarily caused by a lack of strong, accountable institutions that can foster economic development and provide for public security. For these valid reasons, the United States has been active for 80 years in promoting democracy and the rule of law in the Americas. In numerous countries in recent years—including Guatemala, Haiti, Argentina, and Brazil—people demonstrated their faith in these democratic solutions to the toughest problems. In each case, legislatures, courts, independent media, civil society, the rule of law, or free and fair elections have played indispensable, positive roles.
US foreign policy cannot be timid when these values and institutions are tested. Although some in the region complain about the appearance of US meddling, many have come to expect US solidarity with its neighbors in defense of shared principles.
En Patria de Martí abogamos por la libertad, la democracia y los derechos humanos para Cuba y el mundo. Somos una publicación digital y un foro político que se fundó en 2006 con el propósito de avanzar la libertad, la democracia y los derechos humanos en Cuba y el mundo, dentro de un marco cultural y ético que sea consecuente con su fomento y preservación. Patria de Martí, libertad, democracia y derechos humanos en Cuba y el mundo. (Online newspapers Patria de Martí: liberty, democracy and human rights). En Patria de Martí encontrarás: Noticias de Cuba y el mundo, artículos, videos, entrevistas y debates, relacionados con la libertad, la democracia, los derechos humanos, el comunismo y el socialismo. QUIENES SOMOS ►