The Cuban government has consistently tortured and murdered political prisoners...please read Armando Valladares book "Against All Hope" that chronicals years of torture that left him in a wheel chair.
The Cuban government has consistently persecuted homosexuals. AIDS patients are isolated and sent into exile. Please see the movie "Strawberry and Chocolate" which was made in Cuba and shows the experiences and repression of homosexuals and all Cubans alike.
The Cuban government is one of the most represive regimes in modern history. You are right that Cubans are very friendly and social people, but their spirit today is not the same. One of Fidel's first tasks when he came to power was to install block leaders whose task it was to spy on their fellow citizens and report to the government. I remember a small Cuban boy who came to my house after Mariel and we asked him about conditions on the Island. Crying he told us that he could not say anything bad about the government because the "walls had ears." Cubans on the island are afraid to tell you what is truly going on.
Those great hotels you visited as you might well know are off limits for any cuban citizen to stay in, those beaches you visited are segregated. A type of tourist aparthied.
Tell your story about ending the Cuban embargo to those dissidents who were rounded up by the Cuban government last week. Please read last Mondays New York Times for details of the Cuban governments actions.
Tell your story about how happy it is in Cuba to the more than 1 million Cubans that have fleed the island. That is a diaspora of more than 10% of the Cuban people.
Tell your story about ending the Cuban embargo to the families of the pilots who were shot down in international waters by Cuban mig-fighters. These unarmed Americans committed the sin of searching international waters for Cubans leaving the repression, the torture, and the pain of seeing thier island being destroyed by a mad man.
Yes, the Cuban people have suffered enough...but it is not the embargo that makes them suffer--Their suffering is attributable only to Fidel Castro.
Please educate yourself about the truth of Cuba...read what I have asked you to read, watch the movie, and I think that you will change your mind.
The Cuban people are wonderful and I also hope to visit Cuba BUT only when democracy returns to the Island.
1. It is morally wrong.
You make the assumption that if trade between the United States and Cuba were to open up some how the people of Cuba will benefit. The government of Cuba controls the distribution system in Cuba and they do what they feel like doing with humanitarian aid. Internaltiona observers have witnessed medicine brought into Cuba for so called "humanitarian aid" being sold in tourist only stores for hard currency. Furthermore, Fidel Castro is no idiot He realizes that the biggest threat to his regime is the truth, therefore he makes every attempt to control access--segregating tourist from the cuban people, controling publications entering the island (a famous example is when the government outlawed a Soviet newspaper because it was too liberalized post-glastnot), outlawing books, etc...I could go on. Any trade with the island will be severly limited to serve the purposes of the government and will benefit Cubans only tangentially. What is morally wrong is trading with an island that is one of the most repressive regimes in modern history. I stand by the comment Thousands of political prisoners, thousands of political prisoners murdered, millions dislocated from their homes and sent into exile, millions of people kept ignorant of ideas because it does not serve the purposes of a corrupt regime. Certainly we do not see the autrocities of Cambodia, the exterminations of a Bosnia, but these are only differences in degree and not of kind.
2. That it has not worked.
It has not been given a chance to work. Unlike the embargos against South Africa and Haiti the Cuban embargo is a unilateral action by the United States. As you observed when you went to the island the rest of the world is free to trade with Cuba and they do so happily. The Spainards have helped the Cubans rebuild their tourist infrastructure through joint ventures, the Mexican telephone company, again through a joint venture, has agreed to help rebuild the destroyed Cuban telecommunications system, the Russians are helping Cuba finish its Chernoybel type Nuclear Reactor. Furthermore, until early 1990's the Soviet Union inundated the island with aid--to the tune of several billion dollars per year. In addition the Soviets exchanged oil for Cuban sugar at supramarket rates. To argue that the embargo has not worked fails to take into consideeration that it has not ever been given a chance to really take bite. Hopefully, with Cuba's reckless and lawless action the UN Security Council will finally act to internationalize the embargo.
What has led to the Cuban economy being in shambles is NOT the embargo or lack of foreign assistance--its is a corrupt and evil government.
Your argument that the embargo only gives Castro an excuse for a wrecked economy is one that I take seriously, but have rejected. Castro is a masterfuyl orator able to convince anybody of anything--he learned his speaking style by listening to tapes of Benito Mussolini over and over again. He'll find another excuse and convince a certain segment of the Cuban population that he is right.
But he will not convince: Dr. Emilio Rivero who was tortured for months to extract a confession and spent years in solitary confinement, or
Carlos Bentancourt. A journalist who was sent to a forced labor camp, or
Angel Loredo, a Catholic priest wo was brutally beaten in prison, or
Ibrahim Torres, a victiom of biological experiments at the hands of the Cuban government, or
Julio Tan, who was killed by a bayonetting in a forced-labor camp, or
The endless list of people that have been imprisoned and killed at the bloodied hands of Fidel Castro.