On Sunday, I received an email from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, with a subject headline that caught my eye. It read, “Help End the Book Embargo Against Cuba” and it included a request to visit the following link https://petitions.whitehouse.
I’m asking you to do the same.
Why? If you care about people being oppressed and mistreated, here is a small step you can take to help in a big way. It won’t cost you anything except the few minutes of your time to click on the link, read the short petition, and sign your name. On March 21 and 22, President Obama will be taking a trip to Cuba, and shortly thereafter, his administration will announce modifications to the embargo that will likely loosen some of its restrictions. We want to encourage President Obama to lift the embargo against books and educational materials.
Here are some of the points Mark Coker makes:
“Cuba has an adult literacy rate of nearly 100%, about 20 points higher than the US.”
“Cuban publishers have difficulty acquiring even the basic raw materials of bookmaking like paper and ink.”
“Cuban readers don’t have easy access to books published by American authors and publishers.”
“Books promote greater cross-cultural understanding, economic development and free expression.”
For those of you who’ve read my book, Imbroglio, you know that I touch on some of the horrible living conditions of the Cuban people as a direct result of their government’s political regime and the effects of the U.S. government’s embargo. Without delving too deeply into the country’s politics, I’ll share just a bit about those conditions for those of you who may be unaware.
With their state-controlled agriculture, the country struggles to feed itself, forcing the government to import approximately 70 percent of the island’s food which, of course, amounts to higher costs. The government employs a ration system for Cubans to receive a portion of food and commodities which they can purchase at their local bodega at subsidized prices. However, these rations are often out of stock or frequently delayed, and since the average Cuban salary amounts to around $20 a month, be the person a janitor or a doctor, many local residents aren’t able to afford the higher marketplace prices. Consequently, many go without, typically consuming one meal a day. The country operates with two different currencies, where many establishments accept one type and not the other, resulting in the broadening of the haves and have-nots, and there is so much more. For those interested in reading further, I have included links at the bottom of this blog.
What you may be asking is, with the much bigger problems the Cubans face, how will ending the book embargo help? History has shown that when people are enslaved, oppressed and otherwise mistreated, knowledge, wisdom and information have been the keys to effecting positive change. With political relations warming up between our two countries, we are primed to do just that.
Please take a moment to join me in the opportunity and then share this with others you know. 100,000 signatures are needed by April, 8, 2016, so time is of the essence!
For more information about Cuban and U.S. relations and their economy, visit:
A Brief History Of U.S.-Cuba Relations
Amid Reforms, Cubans Fret Over Food Rations Fate
Cuba Looks To U.S. Farmers For Help With Food Crisis
Reform On The Range: Cubans Heed The Call To Farm