Thoughts on Cuba

  1. I am thrilled that we many finally be opening up to Cuba.  I would throw the doors wide open to free trade, travel, and interchange.  I think it is perfectly reasonable to rethink a strategy after fifty or so years of failure.
  2. I am depressed to see Obama kissing Castro's butt.  I shiver to contemplate the future love-fest between Obama and Chavez
  3. My approach would have been:  Fidel, you and your system of government are evil.  However, isolating your people from the rest of the world so they don't know how bad they have it is just doing you a favor.  We are going to kick your ass with openness, rather than embargoes
  4. Oh, and by the way, we are going to end sugar tariffs and hopefully start purging HFCS from our food in favor of good old, high-octane pure cane sugar.

Update: According to Radley Balko, Obama is giving Castro moral support without any real increase in openess.  Bummer:

At the OAS meetings last week, Obama refused to renounce Cuba's human rights violations, including its imprisonment of political dissidents. It's usually risky to criticize someone for what they didn't say or do, but in the world of diplomacy the absence of any explicit criticism of Cuba's political suppression was conspicuous, and almost certainly wasn't accidental. At the same time, Obama has backed down from his position in the Democratic primaries to open up U.S. trade with Cuba (he actually came down from that position during the general election campaign).

In other words, America's new Cuba policy seems to be one of gradual rapprochement when it comes to engagement with Cuba's authoritarian government, but continued isolation and punishment of Cuba's people. That's unfortunate.

Obama did allow for more visitation between Cuban-Americans and their families on the island last week, but while that's a welcome change, it wasn't particularly bold, brave, or risky. There was almost no political downside at all to the change.

  • Ian Random

    Wait, if we drop that, then what excuse will there be for revolution's failure? I think we need a contest to come-up with a new excuse.

    We need time to build-up after 50 years of the embargo, just don't notice the modern container terminal we built or the citrus we export to the UK.

    The close proximity to imperialistic Americans suppresses our growth.

    American spies are sabotaging our economy.

    Until our neighbors have a revolution, shouldering the ideology burden is hampering our progress.

    We under estimated the impact when the USSR broke-up.

    Once America embraces a single payer system, the medical tourists will generate enough money for all. Or at least Combiomed will benefit.

    Next time Michael Moore visits it will trickle down.

  • Allen

    Ending sugar tariffs? Don't underestimate the lobbying powers of North Dakota farmers. :)

  • http://delicious.com/Edgewise.Sigma Edgewise.Sigma

    "However, isolating your people from the rest of the world so they don’t know how bad they have it is just doing you a favor. We are going to kick your ass with openness, rather than embargoes"

    What "isolation"? This doesn't make sense; practically [*at least* _most_] of the *rest* of the planet, *including* _all_ of Latin America and Canada, already does business with Cuba; Cuba already receives billions of dollars of trade and investment from the rest of the world, they already receive numerous foreign tourists and visitors--including people from democratic societies. So what's this "isolation" you (as well as a lot of others) keep talking about?

    Will adding one more trading partner make a difference? (Anyway,the embargo isn't perfect--US firms reportedly already do business with Cuba via cutouts in Panama, Canada and Mexico).

    Well, maybe, materially-speaking, anyway. But I wouldn't bet on it liberalizing Cuba. If trade and contacts with the rest of the world haven't succeeded...

    The Castros will probably learn a lesson or 2 (or 3, or 4...) from their comrades in China. The Beijing politburo has already shown the way.

    That economic big boy China is another trading/investment partner. Right now they're helping Cuba develop its own offshore oil resources (guess they won't need Chavez and Venezuela for long...).

    If the example of China is anything to learn from, a more "accurate" prediction would be that lifting the embargo will actually _strengthen_, rather than "kick", the Communists' asses. (And besides, compared to China, they have fewer people and less territory to control.)

  • http://herdgadfly.blogspot.com/ gadfly

    Since we are fast running out of corn for HFCS, thanks to our ethanol plants, we can use some low cost cane to use in place of HFCS or to make ethanol cheaper.

    First up is a return to cane-sweetened soft drinks.
    http://www.bevreview.com/2009/02/09/pepsi-throwback-mountain-dew-throwback/

  • Stan

    Wait a minute, I thought HFCS was cheaper than sugar, which is primarily why we use it. And having tasted both kinds of Coca Cola, I like the HFCS kind.

  • Les

    HFCS is cheeper than sugar because of the sugar tariffs. The US is the only country I know of with such a ubiquitous usage of HFCS in it's processed foods, and we're considered No. 1 in Obesity.. I see a correlation there that demands further study.

  • JoshK

    I usually agree with your posts and agree to some degree with the expressed sentiments. I do have one issue with trade with Cuba, particularly tourist trade is that the military directly controls, manages, and benefits from the tourist trade. I feel like economic freedom of US citizens is certainly very important, but maybe there is some point where we should make a statement. The Cuban government is really evil and the US left wants us to think that Bush was far worse than anything on the left. I just feel that there is something wrong to giving into that which is part of the general moral equivalence / ambivalence thing.

  • Stan

    So with more liberal trade, Cuba essentially becomes a free rider in the global capitalist structure. And we prop them up with the hope that state-controlled Cuban media will let the wool slip off their eyes. I'm usually not a proponent of continuing failures, but why try something worse?

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  • tomw

    Cuba is a thugocracy. The Castro brothers rule by brute force. Their cronies follow orders because they get the perks. Just like old time Russia[USSR], with the NKVD and so on. Report on your neighbor and get a new stove or refrigerator. They live by the golden rule: them that has the gold makes the rules.
    Opening trade will not change a thing, as the increased trade funds will end up in the boss' hands once again. There could be a difference in employment in the resort industry if tourist visas are granted freely.
    I remember as a kid on New Years Eve(???) hearing that Fulgencio Batista had fled Cuba, and thinking that was a good thing, no mo dictator. Freedom. And then, not much later, being aghast at finding out the Fidel was a communist, and had killed a lot of his opponents. Innocence as youth does not make an excuse for innocence as an adult. These are evil people who deserve the ten cent solution. A lot of them. But, it won't happen as they have all the guns.
    If the 'trade' could be kept out of the kleptocracy, and remittances could be private and not under government control, I could be in favor. If it is Cuban goverment controlled, then no way, as it is just another revenue source for the criminals.
    tom

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  • http://firstconservative.com/blog MAS1916

    Perhaps Chavez could introduce Obama to his tailor. That way they can both look like the political thugs they are.

    The next time Chavez gets in the mood to have someone shot, he should start with his valet.

  • Craigo

    I heartily agree especially point 3. There is nothing like rampant consumerism to shake off the shackles of political oppression. (China - take note).

    Opening up trade with Cuba will be no different to the US dealing with other political allies of convenience in Africa, Asia or the Middle East. Kleptocracy and Paternalism is alive and well in a great number of grubby pseudo democracies around the world, many of which receive direct aid from USA. I would also hazard a guess that bad governments out number good but that would depend on your world view about good and bad. If torture is bad one side of the fence, it is also bad on the other?

    You should feel more positive about your Commander in Chief - after experiencing the power of executive decision and the glory of liberating Captain Phillips, by exterminating a few african pirates he has crossed the divide and in time will loose the moral high ground.

  • brotio

    If I understand correctly, the embargo was placed on Cuba when its government nationalized all of the industry; in effect, stealing millions of dollars from US corporations. I was also led to believe that Cuba was told the embargo would be dropped when US comapnies were compensated for that theft.

    If that is true, should it be our government's position that if a Communist state lasts long enough after stealing American property, that the crime should be forgiven?

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  • http://www.buffalog.blogspot.com Craig

    If we could trade with the Cuban people, I'd be all for ending the embargo. But foreigners can't trade with the Cubans; we can only trade with the Castro brothers who, if they so choose, can allow a little of the resultant wealth to drip down to their subjects. Why is enriching the Castros desirable?

  • skh.pcola

    You folks do realize that Cuba gets most of its food from the United States, right? Øbama and others keep saying that we have isolated Cubans, but we provide most of their food. There is no total embargo, de facto or de jure.

  • gsparson

    "If that is true, should it be our government’s position that if a Communist state lasts long enough after stealing American property, that the crime should be forgiven?"
    The statute of limitations on theft ran out decades ago. As such, there is no legal justification for demanding payment.

    That said, the proper answer to the nationalization was not an embargo, but normal judicial procedure. You sue in U.S. court and then spend the next 20 years trying to collect whenever the cuban government stashes assets within reach of U.S. courts.