The U.S. has now begun formalizing and normalizing relations with Cuba. Good! Great, even! I’ve been preaching that we’ve needed to do this for decades. As I look back on my life this is one of those event milestones where I was there at the inception and for the end… like the fall of Soviet communism and the Berlin Wall, relations with China, burying the hatchet with Vietnam, the return to Coke Classic, etc.
I have no issue with Cuban-Americans in Florida and elsewhere feeling disappointed with this decision by the Obama administration. I am not Cuban so I can’t identify with the passion those folks have for their homeland having been oppressed by the Castro family for over 50 years. But time moves on. We were never at war with Cuba (although we did try in the Kennedy administration to remove Castro), the Cuban government was never a terrorist haven nor supported terrorist strikes against the U.S. on land or sea, they never declared any religious jihad (likely largely because the major religion there is not Muslim but Catholic), and the Cuban government seemed to never threaten the Guantanamo Naval Base. Yes, like any nation trying to live within the immediate restrictions of American sanctions and embargos, they attempted other political agendas with certain Caribbean and African nations, they found a tacit trade friend with the communist Soviet government until that collapsed with the Soviet Union. Were they ever true international belligerents? Nope. Yet for the last 50 years it’s been a total embarrassment that the great America could not have a political and trade relationship with a nation just 90 miles away simply because of old Cold War feelings. Think of it for a moment. As President Obama gave his televised speech outlining the new relationship, President Raul Castro was giving his own people the news… and in Havana church bells rang. Why? Because the Cuban people have hope; the Cuban people do not dislike America or Americans because of some archaic political view.
History continues to show (and most of us continue to ignore) that when you are friends you can have greater influence than when you choose to isolate. Frankly, I’ve often thought that the motel and hotel industries, along with elements of the Florida entertainment and business venues, and certain Florida politicians (and likely organized crime), were feeding this anti-Cuba feeling in order to maintain tourist and business interest in the Florida economy. Because what will likely happen with normalizing relations with Cuba will be the natural proliferation of tourism; Cuba will be the new hot spot tourist destination for the next few decades… and dollars will leave Florida (and Mexico, and the Bahamas, and the other traditional Caribbean tourist destinations). If Cuba allows casinos then Vegas will suffer. But Cuba will profit and grow and ultimately their government will change and the U.S. will be Cuba’s greatest friend in the years to come. Give it another 50 years and Cuba could be admitted to the Union (stranger things have happened).
By the way, this was already in the works for years.
“In 2008, the EU and Cuba agreed to resume full relations and cooperation activities. United States President Barack Obama stated on April 17, 2009, in Trinidad and Tobago that “the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba”, and reversed the Bush Administration‘s prohibition on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans from the United States to Cuba.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R)Florida, seems to be heading the vocal dissent for this new relationship with Cuba. He is so incensed with this decision that he’s gone so far as to pledge that he will never confirm an ambassador appointment nor vote for embassy funding. Prior to this he was a fair-haired favorite for a Republican presidential nomination (although he had a couple “embarrassments” that likely cost him that). But he is a Cuban-American and is more qualified than me to vent his opinion on this matter and I think his intentions are truly based on his feelings for a democratic Cuba and not some agenda just to keep tourist money in Florida. So far it’s yet to be revealed how many other republicans are opposed to Obama’s effort; one has to weed out if their opposition is based on just “Obama no matter what he does” or on policy opinion.
Funny thing though… the news networks are sending reporters and interviewing political people in Florida to read the pulse of the Cuban-American community there. This isn’t about Florida. This isn’t about Cuban-Americans or Cuban expatriates who escaped Castro 50 years ago. This is about American foreign policy toward Cuba in the year 2014 and beyond. We’ve recognized Vietnam years ago and we had over 50,000 soldiers die in battle there. That will be how we “win” the Vietnam War. Recognizing Cuba will ultimately give Cubans democracy. That’s when we will “win” in Cuba. You may not like it but that’s how life is. The picture is far greater than any single expatriate or their descendants in America.
Bravo, President Obama (and Raul Castro and, Pope Francis).