Will 'Sicko' be the Next Elian for US-Cuba Policy?
Personally I don't think so. We don't have the cute kid with a simple moral question, we have the divisive Michael Moore and socialist Cuba. I think the exposure will do loads of good but the impact of Sicko will be primarily on US health care (hopefully). I don't expect the embargo to fall unless perhaps we elect Obama.
After 45 years and counting, sanctions still don't work against Cuba -- says the The Kansas City Star
May 22, 2007, By MARY SANCHEZ
Filmmaker Michael Moore has the chance to stir the pot on U.S./Cuba relations in ways we haven’t seen since Elian Gonzalez boarded a plane back to Havana.
Young Elian, you’ll recall, was the child unlucky enough to become a pawn in a Cold War struggle that should have ended years ago. The 6-year-old landed in the U.S. after he and his mother escaped Cuba. She died en route. Elian’s father, in Cuba, wanted him back. And the boy’s fate became a media sensation, illustrating the cruelties suffered by families split between the two nations.
The Elian controversy opened the eyes of many Americans to the extremism of diehard anti-Castro Cuban-Americans. Normally sane and respected folks such as Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan — who worked to keep Elian in the U.S. — went nearly loco with venom for Fidel. And the whole sad affair ended with U.S. agents ripping the screaming boy at gunpoint from his new home in Florida to send him back to Cuba.
The fervor of those days in 2000 has died down. But in ensuing years, people far less camera-ready have had their lives devastated by this pointless diplomatic impasse — especially by the policies of the U.S.’s 45-year embargo restricting trade and travel to Cuba. Missionaries have been threatened with thousands of dollars in fines for taking medicine to the Cuban people. A Cuban-born National Guard member serving in Iraq was denied the right to visit his sons in Cuba. And hundreds of students and professors have been told Cuba is off limits to their studies.
These cases attract little attention. But Moore has the potential to do what he does best: shine a light on crazy policies. The creator of “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” is being investigated by the Treasury Department because of a trip he made in March to Cuba.
Moore went to Cuba to film a segment of his latest documentary, “SiCKO,” an indictment of the U.S. health care industry. He took along a few 9/11 recovery workers affected with respiratory problems, presumably as a way to contrast Cuba’s much-praised health care system with our own. “SiCKO” premieres at this month’s Cannes Film Festival and will hit theaters June 29.
In typical fashion, Moore sees the investigation as a grand conspiracy to undermine his work. “I can understand why that industry’s main recipient of its contributions — President Bush — would want to harass, intimidate and potentially prevent this film from having its widest possible audience,” he wrote to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in a letter widely posted on the Internet. Rep. Jose E. Serrano of New York has joined in Moore’s fight, calling the investigation “a witch hunt.”
But this is no conspiracy — it’s just a really dumb, outdated federal policy run amok.
They say the definition of crazy is doing the same thing again and again, expecting a different result. Well, the Bush administration has taken that adage to a whole new level. Instead of dismantling a policy that has not worked — it was put in place in 1962, yet Castro is still in power — Bush has tightened the sanctions. Cuban-Americans were allowed to visit family in Cuba every year; the current administration has curtailed visits to every three years. It has also strictly cut the amount of money Americans can send to Cuban relatives.
People-to-people trips, like the one that brought the Buena Vista Social Club to U.S. audiences, were halted. Some trade is allowed, but only through cash payments, which is cumbersome. And special courts have been set up to slap sanctions violators with fines. This is what Moore faces.
While Bush clings ever more tightly to the failed sanctions, others are increasingly willing to consider new remedies. More and more Democrats and Republicans in Congress every year support legislation that would rescind or undercut the embargo. Even Cuban-Americans are polling stronger and stronger against sanctions.
Engagement, people-to-people exchanges, trade — things that stand to improve the lives and lift the expectations of the Cuban people — are the best way to inspire democracy. Funny, Bush preaches this for China and Vietnam, but not for a neighboring island held by a dictator with one foot in the grave.
Labels: sicko michael moore cuba