". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, November 7, 2008

The following e-mail went out to the list this morning, our response to :

[ A project of the Obama/Biden transition team, Change Dot Gov lays out policies and claims to want your input:

>Tell us your story and the issues that matter most to you. Share with us your concerns and hopes. – the policies you want to see carried out in the next four years.>

There's an "agenda" tab that has a "foreign policy" sub-tab. under this tab, there's a lot about Iran. and Georgia. But "Latin America and the Caribbean" was, as of last night (11/6), a dead link. How appropriate to its place in the chain of priorities, always. However, as of this morning "Latin America and the Caribbean" was MIA. Evidently it has been decided already that the only foreign policy concerns are: Iraq-Iran (Afghanistan?); Israel-Palestine; Russia and nuclear weapons. This is a deeply negative indication about the direction this administration is choosing.

Is anyone really going to pay attention to this? I'm cynical, but hey, if Barack Obama asks your opinion it's your responsibility to give it to him,no? This is an open challenge. Tell the Obama-Biden transition team what you want to see happen with Cuba. Everyone in the United States with an opinion on this topic, this is the time to say it.Take a little time to write it. Let them hear that a sane Cuba policy matters to Americans.

There is some confusion about President-elect Obama's policy on Cuba. Some people seem to believe he has indicated he will end the embargo. He has not, to my knowledge. So far, in concrete terms re the embargo, he has only indicated that he is in favor of removing travel and remittance restrictions for Cuban Americans to visit families. That doesn't even put us back to where we were during the first years of the George W. Bush administration, before harsh new guidelines were implemented at the end of 2003.Here are some of my points. Feel free to compose your own:

(1) As the Cuban Revolution looks out across the Gulf toward the eleventh US president it has known, the United States embargo of Cuba is the poster child for failed policy.

(2) The embargo of Cuba is implicitly also an embargo of Havana's historic great trading partner, New Orleans. If Cuba were able to buy products from the United States, much of the shipping traffic would necessarily flow through New Orleans, as it did during the 190 years there was trading between the two cities before the imposition of the embargo by President Kennedy in 1962. Let's help get New Orleans back on its feet by ending the embargo of Cuba.

(3) The embargo of Cuba isolates the United States in the world community, as we are the only country that maintains it. We join Lula of Brazil, and 17 successive years of near-unanimous UN resolutions (this year's vote was 185-3), in calling on Obama to end the embargo. (Of course, thanks to Helms-Burton, which President Clinton signed into law, it takes congressional action to do that, but there's a lot the president can do, both in terms of administrative action and a call for legislation.)

(4) End the embargo unilaterally, as Jimmy Carter suggested. Don't demand concessions first. Just do it. No preconditions. Short-circuit the stalemate. Let the United States, which imposed the embargo, take the first step. Then let's talk.

(5) While we're working on ending the embargo, end the travel ban, period. This can be done without congressional action.

(6) While we're working on ending the embargo, remove the restrictions on credits and other Bush-era bureaucratic obstacles that keep American farmers from selling their products to Cuba as presently allowed by U.S. law. This would also have beneficial humanitarian consequences. Cuba is has repeatedly asked to be able to purchase American farm products at marketvalue.

(7) Stop relying on the advice of so-called Cuba experts who have never been to Cuba. We need a new generation of Cuba specialists in all disciplines of the arts and humanities. Open and facilitate academic and artistic exchange immediately, so as to cultivate better mutual understanding and information flow, beginning now.

(8) Let music help the process along. At present, no musician living in Cuba and planning to return home has been allowed by the United States government to come in and perform since 2003. Beginning immediately, greenlight visas for Cuban performers.

(9) Introducing sanity into our relationship with Cuba would be the cornerstone of a reasoned, constructive Latin American policy. The converse is true: without removing the embargo, our relationship with the rest of Latin America will continue to be strained and distorted by it.

(10) We urge President Obama to follow through on his debate pledge to talk directly with high-level leaders in Cuba without preconditions. That would be a truly historic breakthrough in relations.

(11) We voted for change. Let's change the United States embargo of Cuba. ]

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