Reflections on Freedom by José Azel is a superb collection of his most acclaimed columns published in American, Latin American and European newspapers over a ten-year period. Azel’s reflections remind us of the importance of individual freedom, while introducing complex economic, philosophical, and political concepts in brilliantly written articles.
The collection of writings sends the reader on a journey with personal freedoms and Cuba as underlying themes. In the first chapter, “Reflections on Individual Freedoms,” Azel contemplates the concept that in order for individuals to be unequivocally happy they must first be free from oppression. He illustrates his point by referencing Pericles’ speech during the Peloponnesian Wars, the “Word Happiness Report,” the American Founding Fathers and Cubans living on the island, while proving his remarkable ability to connect past and present.
“Where Do Human Rights Come From?” is a chapter that immerses the reader in a philosophical quest. This thought provoking analysis becomes the basis for later articles about how the word freedom has been omitted from official government statements in the international arena. He further studies how this phenomenon can negatively influence the future of liberty in a world which seems to be favoring moral equivalence.
The book’s second chapter, “Reflections on Foreign Policy,” explores the dangers of this moral equivalence in foreign policy, pinpointing examples from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Azel also highlights how President Obama’s foreign policy towards authoritarian and totalitarian regimes rests on the flawed assumptions that economic development alone can lead to democracy.
Azel’s deep understanding of economics shines in “Reflections on Public Policy,” a series of thought-provoking articles that evaluate domestic policy and challenge consensus on unemployment benefits, minimum wage, government regulation and welfare. This chapter is invaluable for entrepreneurs to understand how paternalist economic policies curtail one’s ability to innovate and prosper.
“Reflections on Politics and Polls” provides a window into the complexities of Hispanic and American political culture. In the article entitled “Latin America’s Wiki-Constitutionalism,” the author argues how the lack of respect for laws in the region has resulted in the adoption of numerous constitutions, coup d’états, and a culture of government dependency and political violence. This important chapter also eloquently describes Hispanic voter trends in the United States, which serve as reflections of their native countries’ political instability.
Chapter five, “Reflections on Cuba and its Future,” is a testimony of Azel’s academic commitment to freedom and passion for his long-suffering homeland of Cuba – the island nation under communist totalitarian rule for over 50 years from which he escaped as a child in the Peter Pan Exodus, the largest exodus of unaccompanied children in the Western Hemisphere. In the “Birdcage of Self-Employment in Cuba,” and “Coming: The Cuban Institutional Revolutionary Party,” Azel explains how General Raul Castro’s shallow economic and political mandates perpetuate his dictatorship and solely benefit his military elite.
Azel’s desire for freedom in Cuba is imminent in the poetic piece, “Desiderate for the Cuban Nation,” while “Lessons of the East European Experience” and “Manual of the Perfect Cuban Transition,” demonstrate his academic goal of providing Cuban dissidents with possible pathways to democracy.
In his final chapter, “Reflections on U.S.-Cuba Policy,” the author provides a series of critical articles of Obama’s policies towards Cuba. “Mr. President, Remember Selma,” is a beautifully written piece that draws the sharp comparison between the Selma marches in Alabama and the marches carried out by Cuba’s Ladies in White activists on Sundays. The careful reader will notice how each article is a response to a policy enacted by the Obama administration in regards to the island.
Reflections of Freedom is an intellectual jewel for anyone in the world who values individual freedom and is interested in understanding Cuba’s communist disaster.
Jennifer Hernandez is a Miami-based Venezuelan-American technology enthusiast. She is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami. Her most recent works focus on civic technologies and their impact on local democratic governance. She has a BA in International Relations and Asian Studies from Florida International University and an MFA in Interactive Media from the University of Miami. Ms. Hernandez is also a contributor to the online-conservative-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.