UPDATE: After reading Henry’s comments below – I have changed my mind. I am keeping the rest of this post, though, so my readers can see my thought processes.
Okay, I won’t say this very often — and I know the folks at Babalu won’t like this — but I agree with Barack Obama. At least on the Cuban embargo. The Miami Herald has a quick run down of some of the candidates’ positions on Cuba, including Obama:
In an opinion column in The Miami Herald, Sen. Barack Obama assailed President Bush’s policy — which restricts Cuban Americans to visiting relatives once every three years and sending only $100 per month — as “strategic blundering when it comes to advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in Cuba.”
Rival Sen. Hillary Clinton said she would continue the Bush administration’s hard-line stance, for the most part. Clinton’s campaign said she agrees that exiles should be able to freely send money to their relatives but said she does not favor ”any wholesale, broad changes” to the travel restrictions until Fidel Castro falls.
The other major Democratic candidate, John Edwards, said in a statement Tuesday that promoting travel by family members to Cuba ”can help spread the promise of freedom and democracy within Cuba and strengthen families across the waters.” He favors the cap on remittances to use as leverage against the regime.
”Rudy Giuliani believes America must stand ready to help the Cuban people reclaim their freedom, but decreasing sanctions on Cuba will only serve to boost the Castro regime,” said a campaign statement.
Romney’s campaign said: “Unilateral concessions to a dictatorial regime are counterproductive, helping to secure a succession of power and repression instead of a transition to freedom.”
And yet, all of these candidates don’t seem to understand the reality of the situation. They don’t understand the way to end the Castro regime is not to play a game of wait and see, but to exert force upon him.
In the 1980’s the United States and it’s European allies did not trade with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. President Reagan called it the “Evil Empire.” For more than 40 years, the US stood opposed to everything Soviet.
Then came Mikhail Gorbachev, who brought us glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980s. These two concepts, opening government and restructuring the economy were the main reasons for the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, it could not have happened on its own.
The west took advantage of Gorbachev. They pushed information and started pushing western goods into the Soviet Union. In 1990, the first McDonald’s opened. Coca Cola was first sold in Moscow in 1988. The first Pizza Hut opened in 1989. The Barrie Newsletter wrote in December 1989:
There is about to be an explosion of visible Western commercial activity in the Soviet Union. Within the next six months, the largest MacDonald’s Restaurant will open, along with Pizza Hut, Marriott and other hotels. There is growing number of Western advertising, public relations, legal and accounting firms here. A new Soviet law allows professionals and blue-collar workers alike to take jobs abroad and earn hard currency there.
For these and similar reasons I find it impossible to imagine that the “free fall” into capitalism can be avoided. I like to think that Gorbachev is trying to slow the opening shock of change by forcing it to be gradual, but I’m not sure how successful that can be. The rapidity of change is so great that it will soon overrun all attempts to control it.
I see huge economic possibilities here.
The new decade will be the prologue to a new century of possibilities, and I believe all of the collected experiences of my life have brought me here for that purpose.
Fast forward to 2007.
Only now we’re not talking about an internal push to save a dying economy. Instead, we have the death of the head of a cult of personality. His iron will, his tryanny over his people, have helped in stay in power. To be sure, he has been able to trade with everyone BUT the United States for some time. It has a trade deficit with Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and more.
It was imposed in by Executive Order in 1962 because Cuba seized the property of US citizens and corporations. In 1992, it was codified into law by Congress, to bring democracy to the people of Florida. Yet Castro is still in power.
So, the embargo has been nothing but an abject failure.
End it. Now.
First, allowing Cuban Americans the right to travel freely back to Cuba, to send money home, will have the effect of glastnost. Cubans will be opened to new ideas. They will learn from their families that the United States is not the country depicted by the Castro regime. They will understand that if America is a good country, Castro must be feeding them more lies. The simple act of allowing thousands of Cubans to have more connections with their family will start the process of fomenting unrest. Castro can’t jail everyone.
Second, American companies can finally move into the country. This can mean jobs for Cubans, as well as being the nose of the camel for other American interests. McDonalds, Starbucks, WalMart, Mariott, Hard Rock, General Motors, AT&T, DirectTV, and many more companies would love to open in Cuba… and there’s no way Castro could keep them all out.
Yes, I know. Fidel Castro is a corrupt thief. Yes, ending the embargo will put more money into his hands – and I agree that is a bad thing. It is why so many are saying we should wait until he passes away. That will be the moment to step up.
Of course, there is an old saying – be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Raul could turn out to be worse… or maybe there is a new player able to rise up and become the next evil dictator.
No amount of wishing and hoping and thinking and praying and planning and dreaming each night will cause the right circumstances to occur.
We must act. The sooner the better. Or Santayana will be right.