On March 24, Florida’s State Senate voted 39-1 to condemn recent moves by president Barack Obama toward normalizing US relations with Cuba.
There’s no nice way to put this: Those 39 state senators voted in favor of maintaining the Castro regime in perpetuity. They voted against freedom for 11 million Cubans. Incidentally, they also voted against the economic interests of all Floridians and against reunification for Florida’s families of Cuban descent.
Freedom is a virus. Wherever free people go, they spread the desire for freedom to those less free than themselves. That desire is infectious. It’s also deadly to authoritarian regimes.
For 55 years, the US government has quarantined Cuba via embargo. That quarantine didn’t prevent the spread of authoritarianism from Cuba to other parts of the world (see, for example, Nicaragua and Venezuela). It just prevented the spread freedom to Cuba.
We’ve seen this effect, and its opposite, elsewhere. The obvious pairing to demonstrate the claim is China versus North Korea. China has become progressively more free over the decades in which it has enjoyed normalized relations with the US. Not completely free by any stretch of the imagination, but much freer. North Korea, under sanction and embargo, remains an utterly totalitarian state.
In Cuba, the embargo’s beneficiaries are the Castros and their henchmen.
In America, the embargo’s beneficiaries are moneyed interests who don’t want to compete with Cuban sugar, cigars or tourist destinations, as well as generations of “anti-Castro” Cuban emigre politicos who procure donations and US government grants to think about and talk about overthrowing the Castro regime … with no prospect of ever actually doing so, and no desire to see it done unless the transition puts them, and only them, in power in Cuba.
In Cuba and in America, everyone else is a victim, not a beneficiary, of the embargo.
It’s time for Cuban students to start attending America’s universities and for Cuban farmers to start selling their goods in America’s markets.
It’s time for American tourists to start visiting Cuba’s beaches and for American engineers to start improving Cuba’s infrastructure.
It’s time for Florida and Cuba alike to gain the advantages of new nearby trade partners (Tampa is closer to Havana than it is to Atlanta).
It’s time to end the quarantine and spread the freedom virus.
If Florida’s politicians won’t lead on this issue, they should at least get out of the way.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.