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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  July 25, 2021 5:00pm-5:31pm PDT

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what's next for cuba? this week on "firing line." ♪ ♪ the calls for freedom are growing louder. in cuba, the largest protests in decades. a powerful new generation online. ♪ ♪ >> and in the streets chanting -- liberty. now the police crackdown. conditions on the island are bleak. food shortages, currency shock and covid. >> they're not asking for remit answers. they're not asking for aspirin. they're asking for freedom, for freedom. >> representative mario diaz-balart is cuban american congressman whose family fled havana when castro took power. the florida republican was a
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harsh critic of president obama's decision to move toward normalizing relations with cuba and supported the rurn to tighter restrictions. >> i am cancelling the lt administration's completely one-sided deal with cuba. >> as americans again turn their attention to cuba and its communist regime -- >> freedom for cuba! >> -- political leaders debate the best response. >> president biden, this is a moment of leadership. stand with the cuban people. >> what does representative mario diaz balart say now. >> "firing line" with margaret hoover is made possible in part by -- robert granieri. charles r. schwab. the fairweather foundation. the asness family foundation. and by -- corporate funding is provid by -- stephens inc. and morg an
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stanley. florida congressman, mario diaz-balart, welcome to "firing line". >> my pleasure, margaret. good to see you. >> 90 miles off the coast of florida there is a crisis in cuba. we have heard renewed calls for libertad. we are reading about increased food and medical shortages, we have seen images of violent police crackdowns. you and i have known each other for a long time, since i worked in your congressional office when you first came to congress in 2003. and working for you i learned about your family's unique history with the regime in cuba. your father w a prominent politician in the government and at one point a dear friend of phi dell castro's. your father's sister, your aunt, was actually married to fidel castro, but uimately your family was driven from cuba during the revolution. would you say that your father had early insight into fidel castro, into who he was and what the revolution would become? >> so my famil was involved in
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cuban politics way before batista or castro, but what you just stated is factually correct. now, as to whether my father knew what castro would become, absolutely. look, as you stated, they knew each other very well. they were friends. they were roommates, eventually castro married my father's sister, but, again, because of castro being a psychopath, and that was pretty clear relatively early on, then obviously my father distanced himself rather quickly and rather severely from castro, eventually becoming one of his strongest adversaries, precisely because he knew him very, very, very well and he knew he was, frankly, a murdering psychopath. >> cuba is one of the last remnants of the cold war. you know, a soviet-friendly mmunist dictatorship that survived the collapse of the ussr. congressman, many people don't understand why cuba didn't fall
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with the bern wall. >> yeah, that's a very good question. there was a lot of hope that when communism in europe collapsed that it would also collapse in cuba and in north korea and in other places, but, unfortunately, cuba is one of those places where it didn't. we could talk at length as to what role the united states may have played in that or not and should it have been more aggressive, but the reality is accurate to say that that same regime that has been in power for 62 years remains in power. it was first fidel castro, then he turned it over to his brother, as if -- as if the cuban people on that island were his personal farm, right. he turned it over to his brother, and now his brother has declared those who are going to follow him. but it is not a private farm. these are -- this is a country with people who want freedom, who have their dreams and who, by the way, now as we've seen rather vividly have turned out
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en masse in the streets. they know what they're risking, right, and they're getting bludgeoned for it and they're getting murdered in the streets for it. we have seen the images of the regime thugs going into people's homes and shooting them in their homes. we hav seen the beatings in the streets, the use of live ammunition, shooting people in the streets, and then not allowing the to even have medical attention. so the level of barbarism, of evil that the world is seeing and that the cuban people have had to deal with for 62 years is, frankly, hard to fathom. it is beyond orwellian. it is cruel. it is evil, and, yet, the cuban people risking everything are going in the streets and they're chanting one thing. they're not asking for remit answers. they're not asking for aspirin. there's no health care for the cubans unlike what you may here. they're not asking for that. what they're clamoring for is one thing, libertad, freedom. after 62 years the cuban people
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want freedom. >> you currently represent south florida. this is your tenth term in congress, and your district has the largest cuban american population in the country, 42%. why should americans, congressman, care about what we are witnessing in cuba right now? >> well, first and foremost, we have to be concerned about the national security interests of the united states. that's what foreign policy should always be driven by, right? the national security interest of the united states. so here you have a regime 90 miles away from the united states that is a state-sponsor of terrorism. why is it on the list of states that sponsor terrorism? because it harbors fugitives from u.s. law, because it protects convicted murderers and convicted terrorists including cop killers, because of its association and its aid to other terrorist regimes and other terrorist groups, whether it is fark. you name your favorite terrorist group, the cuban regime has been dealing with them, helping them
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and in many cases tining them for decades. when they had a little bit more funds, margaret, not only were they harboring terrorism and exporting terrorism, but they even had troops around the world in latinmerica and even in africa. so it has been a cancer in the entire world, particularly in this hemisphere. the secretary of the organization of american states has stated that what cuba has in venezuela, another state that we should -- you know, we can talk days on end on, is an army of occupation, keeping that regime, that dictatorship in power. it is cubans that are doing that with the help of russia and china and iran, but it is cubans. so for our national security interests, that regime has been a nightmare. but on top of that, for the cuban people, you know, these are people who want to live in freedom and want to sd their kids to school and want to have the basic rights that everybody else has. for 62 years there have been no elections. for 62 years it has been the private possession of, frankly,
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a family. so here is the question. is there ever a time that we shou say, you know, enough is enough, the cuban people deserve freedom? and the u.s. law and the u.s. policy, the so-called embargo, all it is -- >> we're going to get there >> all right. we'll get there? good. >> okay. it was two weeks ago when images from cuba began to get the attention of the united states and the larger media, the mainstream media. large groups of peaceful protesters in the seets chanting, libertad. these have been described as the biggest protests in three decades, more than three decades, and they are occurring throughout the island nation. you know, congressman, many people are asking why now. is this about covid-19? is this about the collapse of tourism becau of the pandemic? >> yeah, the interesting thing is that this has nothing to do with covid. this has nothing to do with tourism.
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this is all to do with the people being fed up with being slaves, being abused, being murdered. and, however, i think the big game changer has been cubans, the ability of cubans to communicate via the internet. you know, that has been an empowering thing for so many people around the planet, in particular for folks that suffer under repression. in the case of cuba, that was the way that people saw that this was happening and, you know, obviously it wasn't being broadcast by the -- you know, by the communist party and the censored television in cuba. it was on the internet people started seeing this happening, so it was just really a grassroots, impromptu thing. they hit the streets. one of the first things that the regime thefore did was cut off the internet, just shut it down all together so that cubans couldn't see what is going on and couldn't communicate. which is why one of -- >> congressman, they've -- they've had the internet for several years now, so why now? >> the internet has been very limited to the cuban people.
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most cubans have not had access to the internet. it is very difficult for regular cubans to have access to the internet. there also are broadcasts, basically like radio-free europe we had against the iron curtain before. there are tbn radio broadcasts into t island. it is also a w where cubans can get some information. i will tell you the game changer has been people being able to actually see what is going on, on videos, on the internet. >> what you are saying is it is not about bread lines, it is not about medicine, it is not about coronavirus. this is about questions of political liberty? >> yes. >> having nothing to do with the pandemic? >> no. it is interesting. i mean don't take my word for it. listen tohat the people in the streets are saying. when they went in front of the communist party in havana, they said, this is not your country, it is ours. in other words it is the cuban people's. it is not one small group of elitists that control everything in the country. they said, we don't want remit answers. this has nothing to do with health care which, by the way,
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is nonexistent to the cuban people. not only now, it has been non-exis nonexistent for the cuban people for decades and decades. they're saying, we don't want help with aspirin, with vaccines. we demand freedom. freedom is the one thing that they're demanding and freedom is the one thing that they understand is the solution to all of their problems. you cannot have 62 years of brutality, of no elections, of no -- you know, no freedoms whatsoever, no freedom of press, no ability to organize yourselves in independent labor unions, and then expect people to be supportive of that. nobody in the island supports the regime except for those who are living off of the regime and using the brutality -- sheer brutality to keep the rest of the population down, including murdering, killing, imprisoning innocent people just because
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they ask for liberty, for freedom, for libertad. >> i want to know more about what you know about the crackdown on the protesters, and, specifically, miguel diaz-canel who is the president of cuba and has been since 2018. he took over from raoul castro. >> he was never elected to anything. again, calling him president is a misnomer. he is not. he is the newly designated dictator and enforcer of the repression, of the barbaric repression the cuban people have been suffering under for 62 years. >> he signed an order targeting artists, made it illegal for artists to sell their work or perform.
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the song which is liberty and life has more than 72 million views on youtube. ♪ ♪ >> it has become the protest anthem for the san ysidro movement. what about these artists? what is your take on this opposition? >> yeah, margaret, what -- >> like are they a real opposition movement, congressman? >> there are so many leaders of the opposition movement in cuba. what this group is are a group of artists. they're afro cubans in a part of havana called san ysidro. again, they'reartists, but the regime started cracking down on them because they didn't like their art because, again, you know, there's zero freedom in cuba. so the interesting thing that started happening though is that the whole neighborhood started reacting, trying to protect these artists from being arrested, from being beaten up by the regime.
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and then this sg emerged from that neighborhood, pat patria y vida. it has become an anthem across the island. what the song basically says is we don't want this dictatorship, this repressive dictatorship. we just want freedom. we want country and life and freedom. the song is very explicit about that, freedom. so this is a freedom movement. these are people who are clamoring for just one thing, and we cannot minimize this. they're not asking for handouts. they're not asking for medical assistance. they are asking for freedom, and they are putting their lives on the line asking for that, the most valuable thing that any human being can ever have. >> there's a cuban youtuber named dina fernandez, known as dina stars. she was taken into police custody in the middle of an interview with a spanish television station. she was subsequently released and announced she was arrested
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for, quote, promoting the protests. congressman, what is the impact of seeing this play out on live video? >> well, that -- >> how does it impact cubans who see that? >> cubans are aware of this. cubans on the island know what repression is all about. they've suffered it for so many years, you don't have to tell them. the question is what is the international community going to do. the international community, so much of the world has been doing business with the castro regime, particularly the castro military that owns the entire tourism section. is the international community going to say, whoa, wait a second like they did in south africa when they were embarrassed because they were doing business with the apartheid regime in south africa, eventually they got embarrassed to stop doing business with that apartheid regime. is the international community going to join the united states in not doing business with the castro military, with those that are repressing and murdering the cuban people? it is about time that peopl stopped playing this game of, we
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support han rights in cuba but we're going to continue to do business with those that murder cubans, with the cuban military, with the cuban repression apparatu so you asked i think the key question. spain being a good example. the government of spain is one of the worst culprits in playing lip service to human rights in cuba, but then going out of their way to help the regime and deal with them and do business with them because, you know, when you are dealing with slave labor it is profitable. so, hopefully, they will be shamed in joining the united states in not doing business, not propping up, not sending wealth and money to the organisms that are repressing the can people, i.e. the cuban military and the intelligence services. >> i just want to ask you about the term you have used a couple of times, slave labor. i know you speak in hyperbole sometimes, but i know you also
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probably believe it is slave labor because you believe the cubans don't have free and independent choice over their work. but is using the term "slave labor" rhetorically polarizing? >> no, and i will tell you why i say that. because it is -- they practice slave labor and they also practice the regime as a policy in human trafficking, and they profit off human trafficking. they, for example, will send doctors abroad, but those doctors don't get paid. the doctors get a very small stipend. the money goes directly to the regime and to the castro -- >> why isn't that socialism? >> it is human trafficking. it has been categorized, by the way, by the department of state, the united states department of state as human trafficking. it is the definition of human trafficking. you get an individual, you use their services, they don't get paid, the person that traffics in them ishe one who gets paid. these people have no right
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that's precisely what happens in cuba, for example, with the medical professionals. but, also, if there's a european company,or example, that sets up a hotel in cuba, the workers are not pd directly. the money goes to the regime. the regime picks the people that they decide to send to, for example, that hotel, and the regime gives them a little bit of a -- you know, a tiny bit of money. the vast majority of the currency is kept by the regime. you can call it human traffickg. you can call it slave labor. call it what you might -- well, you know, it is the extreme of a government who in essence owns the people, traffics in those people while the only beneficiary is the regime, mostly the castro family. we have all seen the videos of the castro's nephews and grandchildren in these huge yachts traveling in luxury throughout the world.
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how is that funded? it is funded by trafficking in humans, not allowing cubans to get paid direcy by companies that are doing business with the castro regime. i don't know what you want to define that. the department of state, of the united states calls what they do with their doctors human trafficking, and i believe that is absolutely accurate. >> you signed a letter this week to leading democracies around the world. you signed a letter last week to president biden. you are making key specific recommendations for what democratic allies should be doing vis-a-vis cuba and what president biden should be doing with the united states policy to cuba. let's first take the letter from this week. what should our democratic allies be doing to support the cuban people in this moment? >> margaret, number one, call the regime out for what it is, an illegitimate, murderous regime. there have never been elections in 62 years. it is an illegitimate regime.
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treating it as if it was costa rica is absurd and totally immoral. number two is stop doing business with a regime that murders its people. the entire tourism industry is officially controlled by the cuban military. number three, call out the abuses, the human rights abuses that are existing, and start pressuring via sanctions, via all sorts of pressure that regime as opposed to doing business with the regime, playing footsie with the regime and pretending it is basically, you know, quaint because the cuban people have no freedom and have to drive, you know, 70-year-old cars. >> what shouldresident biden be doing? >> a lot more than he is doing. >> what would be helpful? >> yeah, we already talked about the importance of internet. the united states h the ability to provide communications so that the cuban peoplean communicate, i.e. to stop the block of t internet. number one. the united states should be leading the internation effort to, again, make sure that the
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world understands that it is an illegitimate, murderous regime, andhould be pressuring our allies and everybody else to stop doing business with the regime, to stop helping finance the regime, and to call it out for what it is. again, it is some very basic things that the united states knows how to do very well. lead the world in the cause of freedom. >> what more can the u.s government do to ensur that cubans have internet availability and access to communication so that they can organize against the government themselves? >> the united states does have technology thatan be very helpful in allowing communication -- the people in the island to communicate among themsees, so we can and need to do a lot more and a lot more urgently there. the second thing, margaret, is the united states has had radio and television broadcasts into the island, and i'm saddened to say that in the budget
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recommendation of the president as well as what the majority is doing in the appropriations bills, the are reducing funding for broadcasting news into cuba from the united states. this is clearly not the time to cut funding for that. it is actually the time to double our efforts to make sure that cubans have information because that is one thing that makes all of the difference to repressed people. >> so in 1998, "firing line" hosted a debate on the u.s. embargo and conservative william f. buckley jr. argued on the side of ending the embargo. representative robert men tende who is a democratic, took the opposite side of the debate. >> the u.s. should not lift the cuban embargo because the castro regime has demonstrated it does not institute economic or political change other than when it faces the economic need to do
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so. >> we were right in imposing an embargo on castro's cuba in 1961, but we didn't do so merely because of castro's human rights abominations. we did so because he had publicly enlisted cuba as an ally of the soviet union. it was a part of a world ente enterprise edging up on continental america with its dagger drawn. that's over. we won that war and fidel castro wallows the economic misery he has generated. >> why do you believe the embargo is still the right policy? >> the embargo are sanctions against the repression and the regime that has enslaved the cuban people for 62 years. the embargo, the sanctions go away immediately, overnight if only three things happen. number one is when all of the political prisonersre freed. number two is when some basic freedoms, freedom of the press, dependent labor unions,
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political parties are allowed. and then when elections, the process of elections starts moving forward. here is the question. which one of those three things do the cuban people not deserve and which one of those three conditions do you not support? not you, do we not support, does anybody not support. those are basic human right conditions that the cuban people demand,hat the cuban people deserve, and it is not only the right thing for the cuban people, it is also the right thing for the national security interests of the united states. >> so as early as july 12th a group of cuban exiles in miami, florida, began calling for u.s. troops to step in to back the freedom fighters and to bring the regime to an end. the mayor of miami, francis suares, made national headlines last week when he suggested that the u.s. shouldxplore the option of airstrikes in cuba. are you suggesting airstrikes in cuba? >> what i'm suggesting is that that option is one that has to be explored and cannot be just
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simply discarded as an option that is not on the table. >> would you support u.s. military en military intervention in cuba? >> i think we need to listen to what the cuban people are asking for in the streets of every city in cuba. what they're asking for is solidarity, what they're asking for is freedom. do i think that the president should have on any issue dealing with the national security interests of the united states should have every option on the table, and all of our adversaries and enemies need to know that the president has every option on the table? absolutely. but let's be very clear. what the cuban people are demanding, what they want is just one thing, freedom. freedom and freedom. that is the answer for the national security interests of the united states. that is the answer for the dignity and the future of the cuban people. >> so no intervention from u.s. military on cuban soil? >> yeah, i think i answered the question. >> congressman mario diaz-balart, thank you for joining me on "firing line". >> my pleasure.
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"firing line" with margaret hoover is made bopossible in pa by robert granieri, charles r. schwab, the fairweather foundation, the asness family foundation, and by -- corporate funding is provided by stephens inc. and morgan stanley. stephens inc. and morgan stanley. ♪ ♪ -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com
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batteries and first aid kit are a good start to learn more, visit safetyactioncenter.pge.com captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, july 25: bipartisan infrastructure negotiations enter another week. >> sreenivasan: jeff greenfield with analysis. and singer-songwriter jackson browne. next on “pbs newshour weekend.” ♪ ♪ ♪ >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the anderson family fund.

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