U.S. Cuba policy out of tune

Opinion

Did you see where Benjamin Treuhaft, a piano tuner in the U.S., is being pursued by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) because in 1994 he went to Cuba and tuned pianos there – for $1 (U.S.) each?

OFAC says Treuhaft violated the Trading With the Enemy Act and has been demanding that he cough up $10,000 (they must figure he tuned an awful lot of pianos)! “More recently,” he says, “OFAC sent me a Cease and Desist letter threatening $1.3 million in fines and 10 years in jail.”

The U.S. government would like you to believe that all U.S. citizens support the campaign against Cuba, but in fact lots of U.S. people think the country’s anti-Cuba policy is for the birds. Treuhaft is one of them.

He is one of the organizers of a project with the catchy title Send A Piana To Havana. “We tuners collect used pianos for Cuba, visit the island en masse to fix them, and help run our Newton Hunt Workshop/School of Tuning and Instrument Repair at the National School of Music in Havana.”

To show how absurd the U.S. policy is, while the Treasury is hounding Treuhaft for “trading with the enemy” in 1994, the following year he received permission from the U.S. Commerce Department to ship to Cuba the hundreds of pianos donated by U.S. citizens to Send A Piana To Havana!

So far, the U.S. tuners have delivered 210 pianos to “the 90 conservatories that dot that musical island.” And they have another 30 “waiting to go.”

But the U.S. government is well aware of the threat posed to American values and the democratic way of life by tuned pianos just over the water in Cuba. So this year OFAC refused to renew the U.S. piano tuners’ license to travel to Cuba to tune the pianos Americans donated.

“This makes no sense so I’m going anyway,” said Treuhaft in a letter to the Cuba Desk of the U.S. State Department earlier this month. And he went.

No doubt there will be further repercussions and efforts to stop Benjamin Treuhaft and his colleagues from continuing their simple humanitarian work. But every time U.S. government officials try to stymie such actions and to silence the “perpetrators,” they create more rebels against U.S. policy – in the U.S. itself.



This article is reprinted from The Guardian, the newspaper of the Australian Communist Party.