Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Cubans discuss US embargo

The US Congress has recently voted to lift restrictions on relations with Cuba imposed by the Bush administration.

Cuban-Americans will be allowed to travel to the island once a year and send more money to relatives there.

Here, Cubans in the US and Cuba give their reaction to the easing of restrictions and discuss whether the US should rethink its Cuban policy.

ALMA CRISTINA, 75, retired teacher, California
Alma Crisitna
Alma Cristina: The US's ill-advised embargo hurt the people of Cuba

The easing of restrictions is a good thing on a personal level - it eases the contact. But it is too little too late.

I am five years Castro's junior, born and raised on the island. Ours is the last generation who grew up in and remembers the old Cuba - the Cuba before Castro.

Cuba has been destroyed. The Cuba that I left no longer exists. The people's hardship was caused by the dictatorship, but the embargo made it tremendously worse.

An ill-advised embargo which hurt the people but did nothing, obviously, to bring down a dictator who refused to be America's man in Havana. The US wants democracy in Cuba? I don't think so. It is not democracy America wants, but the control it once had.

Under Castro, Cuba lost its demeaning role as America's courtesan, but the people also lost their freedom. Cuba exchanged a foreign master for a home-grown despot to regain a measure of lost honour and dignity.

Have the gains been worth the long-lasting suffering of the people, the lost freedoms and the abysmal economic and cultural poverty of the nation?

There is a law of the way things are, regardless of who's the president of the US, and that is that nothing stays the same.

Obama is making changes because the world is changing but he can only depart so far from what was there before him.

Will I go back? That's a damn good question. It's going to be difficult. It's going to be painful, it's going to hurt like hell. The answer is: I don't know.

MIGUEL F MIRABAL, 38, lawyer, Florida
Miguel F Mirabal
Miguel F Mirabal: The embargo is internal
I think it's good to have easing of restrictions. It's good for people to be able to travel. Cubans in the US should be allowed to travel more and send money home to help their relatives there.

However, I don't think the embargo should be lifted.

My family escaped the horrors of the communists in Cuba. My uncle died in prison after 35 years. My father and grandfather were persecuted because they had a private business. My mother was taken to prison after she was caught at a pro-democracy demonstration carrying propaganda materials.

The embargo is not external, it's internal. The Cuban government apartheid is the true embargo.

Cuba has everything it needs: food, petrol from Venezuela and all kinds of US and European products. Everything that needs to get into Cuba, gets into Cuba. Only, these things are for the elite and not for ordinary people.

When tourists go to Cuba they stay in lavish hotels, enjoy beautiful beaches and eat lobsters.

Every freedom-loving country should boycott Cuba

Life for Cubans is very different. Not only do they not eat lobsters, there's not enough food, not enough medicine and the hospitals are not fit for butcher shops.

There are only two state propaganda channels and any true journalism is suppressed.

Fifty years of Soviet-style communism changes the country's soul.

The true criminal isn't the US and its embargo, it's Castro and his Venezuelan supporters.

It makes me sick to see kids in Europe wearing t-shirts with an image of Che Guevara. For me, that like wearing Hitler's face. Che is romanticised, but he still remains a butcher and his victims are my friends, family and compatriots.

Not only there should be an embargo against Cuba. Every freedom-loving country should boycott Cuba. They need to change before we change our approach to them.

PROF ARNALDO CORO ANTICH, broadcaster, Havana
Prof Arnaldo Coro Antich
The easing of restrictions is not far-reaching

The change of the restrictions just winds things back to how they were in 2004, when then President George W. Bush imposed draconian measures to the Cubans living in the US, even to the point of arbitrarily deciding who was and who was not a relative.

The decision has a very limited nature, in fact, it only extends until the end of the current fiscal year. So it doesn't seem to be a permanent restoration of the freedom to travel.

The criminal US blockade against Cuba has shown to the world that it is a failed policy

It has yet to be seen if this heralds a change of policy because this did not come by the executive order of President Obama.

It was achieved by a group of members of the US Congress, that for many years has tried to restore the rights of Cubans living in the US and American citizens to travel to Cuba in the same way they are allowed to visit other countries.

The so-called 'embargo' by the US against Cuba is a total blockade that includes all kinds of things, including pacemakers produced in other countries by a subsidiary of an American company.

In my personal opinion the criminal blockade of the US against Cuba has only shown to the world that it is a failed policy.

This was clearly demonstrated at the UN Assembly General, where practically all the member nations voted against the embargo, except for the US, Israel and a small Pacific island nation.

I think the US government should realise that the only way the world can survive is by stopping wars, respecting other nations' political systems, promoting cultural and scientific exchange and developing respectful trade and diplomatic relations.

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