In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Venezuelans should heed lessons of Cuban exiles

 

fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com

Venezuela is the new Cuba, or so says conventional wisdom — and Miami, once again, is city of refuge and solidarity soundtrack for the victims of a regime.

It’s a laudable role — until Florida politicians step in to play partisan politics, trouncing reason and common sense.

In the U.S. Congress, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio gives a rousing speech and calls for U.S. sanctions against the Venezuelan government after two weeks of widespread anti-government protests have left at least 16 people dead, many students killed by police and paramilitary forces shooting into crowds, streets, buildings.

In Miami, Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia holds a press conference to say he has asked President Barack Obama to issue an executive order granting political asylum “to those seeking to escape the ongoing violence,” to stop deportations, and to expedite pending applications.

“As the Venezuelan people continue to face the harsh and unjust mistreatment by [President Nicolas] Maduro and his regime, it is critical we find meaningful, concrete measures to help those trying to escape, or fearful of returning to their crisis-stricken country,” Garcia said.

And so, from two Cuban Americans in Congress with opposite views on Cuba and the embargo today, come the same ineffective 1960s U.S.-Cuba policy as solutions for Venezuela’s unique historical moment.

Economic sanctions so that Maduro can spend the next 50 years blaming the nation’s troubles on the United States and asylum for Maduro’s enemies so that he has no opposition left on the inside.

At this critical juncture in which Venezuelans inside their country are putting their lives on the line, Venezuelans here would do well to heed the lessons of the Cuban exile story: Five decades of too much rhetoric, endless debate on isolation or détente, and the needle never moves in favor of democracy.

This is not to say Venezuelans aren’t welcomed here; they are. But what parent, if offered asylum, wouldn’t put their protesting teenager on a plane to safety? A cycle of endless family separations would begin — and Maduro would solidify his power.

Then say hello to forever exile, Cuban-style.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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