Conflict & Justice

Cuban exiles follow U.S. race

In Cuba the two men knew each other: RC was a journalist pushing the limits of freedom of speech, while OH was an independent librarian lending out banned books. They were jailed together in 2003 and then released to Spain, and are now part of Spain's Cuban population, the largest Cuban exile community outside of Miami. RC says he's been in Spain for six months and he's just earned political asylum. RC says he went into jail a healthy man and now at 51 he's got severe diabetes and hypertension. He says he's a walking testament to what's wrong with Cuba. He says he can only hope the next U.S. president will bring change to Cuba, and he thinks there's not much difference between a Democratic or Republican president. When pressed, RC does give slightly higher marks to Obama because Obama is open to talking to Raul Castro. The question of whether to engage or isolate Cuba has divided Cuban exiles for decades. Politically speaking, both these men embody that split. OH is 64 and he's been hobbling about on crutches since suffering a car accident in Cuba. OH wants the U.S. embargo against Cuba strengthened and thinks McCain is more likely to do that. He thinks Cuba is not under any sort of transition and must start. To try to force Cuba open, President George Bush announced millions of dollars in aid to Cuban groups promoting democracy both on and off the island. Ironically, most Cuban dissidents were cool to the offer because it could've jeopardized their work, but OH supports the idea. OH is interrupted by his daily phone call from his family back in Cuba. The moment Cuba is free, he says he'll be back in Cuba. Both men agree that whoever the next U.S. president is, he should build an international coalition which can pressure Cuba to democratize. When the U.S. acts alone they argue, it gives the impression that the U.S. just wants Cuba back under its influence.

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