Post Cold War, Let’s Defrost Cuba

Adam Labonte

Just 90 miles south of the southernmost point of the continental US in Key West is the island of Cuba. Since 1959, Fidel Castro and his Communist government have been David against the Goliath that is the imperialist United States. Castro and Che Guevara led a revolution against a government that was largely influenced by the United States, riddled with corruption and with a large mafia influence that was running the gambling sector. Cuba before Castro was America’s playground. The Rat Pack were common visitors, and Ernest ‘Papa’ Hemingway had abandoned Key West for this island country.

As I traveled to Key West over Spring Break and was as close as most Americans can get to Cuba, I could only dream of visiting this island. Unbeknownst to many US politicians, the Cold War is over. It has been for almost 20 years. Yet the US government still holds on to feelings that it has harbored since Fidel Castro took over the island in 1959.

It is time that restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba are lifted. The US no longer has to worry about Soviet nukes being stored on the island, facing the eastern seaboard and ready to destroy the world as the two ‘superpowers’ of the time engaged in mutually assured destruction. The US needs to get over all of its little embarrassments that it has faced against Cuba. There was the Bay of Pigs that caused President John F. Kennedy severe embarrassment in his first months in office. Then were those repeatedly failed attempts by the CIA to blow up Fidel via one of his cigars. Fidel is still with us – barely, but Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Reagan are all gone.

Now readers of this might be thinking that I am this crazy Communist who is plotting the next revolution for right here in the US. This is not the case, but I do have some sympathies for Cuba. While a lot of its poverty and poor economy can be linked to a poor government in Cuba, Cubans would be better off if the United States cut off its restrictions and provided for trade, if not aid. Additionally, allowing travel by American citizens to this beautiful island would allow a boost for its tourist economy that is already catering to many Europeans and Canadians. Very few Americans are allowed travel visas to Cuba each year, and those that are issued are most often limited to educational trips or Cuban-Americans visiting relatives. Those who really want to go but can’t by legal means risk prosecution by the American government if their trip is discovered.

It has been clear for quite some time that US policies towards Cuba are not working. Although often just scraping by, Castro’s Communist government remains in power a half-century and 10 US presidents later. During the Cold War, our policies brought Castro closer to the Soviet Union; today our policies are bringing the rising leftist movement of South America a partner to aid in their cause. Hugo Chavez, the socialist leader of Venezuela and a man notorious for his remarks about Bush at the UN last year, has made visits to an ailing Castro, and Castro even made an appearance on Chavez’s radio program last month. Bolivian President Evo Morales announced this week that he is hoping for a visit by a healthy Castro next month.

In an attempt to win over many conservative Cuban-American voters in the 2004 election, the Republican-led government tightened already strict policies against Cubans. These policies were implemented despite the failure of the previous policies. In a 2003 New York Times column, Adam Cohen says that ending the embargo ‘will improve the lives of ordinary Cubans. It could even topple the current regime by unleashing the power of capitalism on a country that has long been protected from it. But these changes will come at the cost of an onslaught of American culture, lobbed from 90 miles away.’ But lawmakers responsible for the stricter policy don’t care about the freedom of 11 million Cubans and their chance at a better life; they care most about the votes of a few hundred thousand Cuban-Americans in Southern Florida.

Trouble is, though, that many of these voters are older, and younger Cuban-Americans who don’t have memories from the events of 48 years ago are not as anti-Castro or conservative.
It is time for the American lawmakers to concede a battle that they have been losing since 1959. Castro is barely in control, and the opportunity to foster a free Cuba in the post-Castro world is available right now. Continuing American policy as it is pushes Cuba farther into the rising left that is occurring in Central and South America, and doing this means we allow Communism to entrench itself even further in the Cuban mindset.

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