Yesterday, President Obama announced that he will be establishing normal relations with Cuba. To paraphrase a comment during his announcement, he noted that the definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. The key point in Obama’s decision is that, if the Embargo hasn’t worked in 54 years, what might we expect another five or ten years of Embargo to accomplish?
On October 19, 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Executive Order which initiated an Embargo against Cuba. Over the years since, there had been a number of additional Executive Orders and, eventually, the then existing Executive Orders had been codified into Law. Today’s announcement by President Obama is one more Executive Order, in a long series.
Wednesday’s on-line version of the Miami Herald, as well as local Miami TV coverage, has been quite heavily weighted with coverage about virtually every facet of the Cuban Embargo decision. 70% of Cuban-Americans reside in Florida, and a large portion of them live in South Florida–especially in Miami-Dade County. The sentiments of the local Cuban-American Community in South Florida is divided. A poll in the Herald cited 66% of respondents, at least at that time, as being in Favor of Obama’s Executive Order, with 34% being Opposed. A local TV station poll, however, was reversed–56% Opposed to 44% in Favor.
A group of Cuban Exiles stormed Cuba’s shore in 1961, landing at the Bay of Pigs, with some CIA backing. That Invasion was a disaster and ever since, the Miami-based Cuban Community has always felt that President John F. Kennedy could have done more, so the Cuban-American Community has tended to vote Republicans. In JFK’s defense, he seems to have been pre-occupied with the Soviets planning to base Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in Cuba in 1962–just 90 miles from Miami. That’s the so-called Missiles of October.
Over time, the Younger Cuban-Americans have been more open to changing the dialogue–perhaps even actually starting one–with Cuba. That Third Generation is more removed from the awful treatment that the two Older Generations lived under, and the terrible risks that they braved to flee to the U.S. Of course, they all call themselves “Cuban Exiles”, even though many have never set foot on the Island Nation.
On Wednesday, The Cuban Government released Alan Gross, a U.S. AID Worker who had been imprisoned for five years, and an American Spy who had been jailed for 20 years. In return, the U.S. has released three Cubans, who were spying on the local Exile Community, and who had been in jail for eighteen years. Many other agricultural, educational, financial agreements have yet to be worked out. Secretary of State John Kerry has been charged to meet with his Cuban counterparts to work-out the details , and to establish Embassy’s in the respective countries.
For the past 54 years, the Embargo has not really accomplished anything; however, as today’s announcement becomes clearer, this might hold more promise for the two countries, on a People-to-People Basis. In the past, the Embargo had only served to move our two Governments farther and farther apart.
After far, far too much Insanity, it was truly right to finally try something different. Today, President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro spoke by telephone for 45 minutes. Now, that’s a welcome start! Unfortunately, the Republicans of all shapes and sizes castigated President Barack Obama for sending a “Christmas Gift” to the Castro Brothers and relinquishing all hopes of Human Rights for the Cuban People. So, political expedience still lives.
The Embargo has always had three basic responses that the U.S. wanted to see from the Cuban Government before it would release the Embargo: Free Elections; Release of all Political Prisoners and the Freedom of Expression (Speech and Press). But think about it: these prerequisites were suggested during the Cold War Era, and they haven’t accomplished anything. Cuba is now releasing 50 political prisoners and, practically speaking, how much can you expect to accomplish the first day.
President Nixon travelled to China and President Reagan met with Premier Gorbachev in Moscow. So far, the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has been more oriented to tearing each other down, which does nothing whatsoever for the Cuban People. If we can make the People’s lives better and build a rapport with the Government of Cuba, we could then be in a situation of negotiating from strength–rather than the current situation of having no dialogue whatsoever. The Castro Brothers are not going to be around forever. And then, by demonstrating what America can offer to Cuba, we would then be in a position to get closer, on a Government-to-Government basis, and then be able to do even more for the People of Cuba.
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