Tag Archives: Cuba

Obama Visits Havana: Cuba Libre For Real?

"fight against which is impossible and wi...
“Fight against the impossible and win” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

US President Barack Obama’s late March visit to Cuba, continuing his initiative to re-establish friendly relations between the two countries, arouses opposition on both sides of the aisle in Washington.

The Republican complaints, of course, are to be expected. If Obama walked across the Florida Strait without wetting the hems of his trousers, Ted Cruz would ask why the president can’t swim.

But some Democrats also oppose breaking the ice with Havana. “It is totally unacceptable for the president of the United States to reward a dictatorial regime,” says US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). “The president is again prioritizing short-term economic interests over long-term American values.”

Let’s be honest here: Cruz, Menendez and their ilk have done as much to prop up Fidel Castro’s regime as Castro’s own secret police agents or neighborhood “Committees for the Defense of the Revolution” ever could, if not more. Half a century and change of sanctions and embargo have strengthened, not weakened, popular support for the island nation’s Communist rulers.

National isolation is the desire of every dictator: If his subjects never see what a freer society looks like or have the opportunity to avail themselves of its goods and services, they have no standard against which to measure his rule and find it wanting.

If a powerful, threatening external enemy actively aids him in achieving that isolation, so much the better: For now even if his subjects DO get a glimpse of higher living standards and relative freedom to travel, speak and worship, he can just blame that external enemy for denying them such things.

This is the dynamic which has kept the mullahs in charge in Tehran since 1979 and the Communist Party in charge in Havana since 1959. It is this dynamic which Obama hopes, by way of burnishing his presidential legacy, to interrupt with his Jeffersonian (“friendship and commerce with all nations”) overtures to Cuba.

The beneficiaries of the US embargo on Cuba have been the Castro regime, the US military industrial complex, the US sugar industry, and a few professional “opposition exiles” living on CIA funds and hoping to one day ride into Havana on American tanks. Its victims are legion and include the entire populations of Cuba the United States.

Just as it was a myth that “only Nixon could go to China,” any president could have gone to Havana. One finally has. And we’re all better off for it.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Florida Senate: Wrong on Cuba

RGBStock Havana

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.