Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Normalizing Relations with Cuba

I have thought for years that we ought to normalize relations with Cuba.  Perhaps it is my ignorant, flyover country upbringing, but I've always seen it as being counter-productive, for one big, fat, juicy reason:

Cuba was using the US trade embargo as an excuse, and to the extent that their populace bought that excuse, our embargo was helping them keep power.

The rationing of virtually all food products in Cuba has been in effect since 12 March 1962. The official Castro government position on the reason for imposing a food rationing system in peace time and for the past 45 years is to blame the economic trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. which it insists on characterizing as a "blockade".... 
... Although Cuba is not blockaded and is able to trade freely with over 195 nations, the food crisis is the fault of the U.S. government...
... It is unclear how much time Mr. Moore spent inspecting the health care systems (yes, that's plural) in Cuba but it is likely that his government minders insured that he viewed only the facilities accessed by hard currency paying foreigners and Communist Party aparatchiks and not the system which ordinary Cubans are forced to endure. ...
Helping them, by providing them with an excuse for their incompetence.  After all, it is very, very difficult to get wood for tomato crates from Russia, so when the tomatoes rot on the vines in the field, why, that's all America's fault!  When they have to get permission to sell a head of lettuce, why, it's because of rationing put in place because of the American embargo!

A shop at the marina selling items such as imported beer and canned goods to foreigners for hard currency had some lettuce which they refused to sell us saying that the scale to weigh it was broken. I estimated that the weight was 1 kilo and offered to buy it for the price of 2 kilos and this was refused. We returned on each of the next 2 days to buy the lettuce which was beginning to wilt. On the 3rd day with the scale still not repaired I asked to negotiate with the manager. Two phone calls were made to Havana and the merchant finally got permission to sell the head of lettuce for the 2 kilo price. No tomatoes were available in spite of viewing fields of ripe tomatoes on the TV. I asked why, and was advised that the tomatoes were rotting in the fields as the Russians had failed to send the wood necessary to make shipping crates. An apparently insoluable problem to the party leaders. When I advised that I had seen tomatoes transported in California in dump trucks and other tublike containers the informant looked at me as if I were insane.  
Thanks to the amazing Leonidas over at "Fighting in the Shade", who spent the better part of a decade sailing around the Caribbean, and had a stop or two in Cuba during that time, we get an outsider's view, from the inside, which is a rare thing, given the prohibitions on travel to Cuba placed on American Citizens.

He shared his experiences via blog post back in the halcyon days of 2005, nearly a decade ago now, in the following three blog posts.  I do not know when he was actually in Cuba, but I estimate that it was the 1980's.  I've provided links to them for your enjoyment.  Go.  Read.

Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba I"
Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba II"
Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba III"
Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba IV"

In any case, my desire to normalize relations with Cuba has existed since I was very young, hearing stories from my Cuban ex-pat neighbor, Martin.  Martin used to tell me all about how the government lied to them, and controlled information in such a way that most of the populace truly believed that there was, indeed, a US blockade, as opposed to just a trade embargo, which prevented Cuba from trading with any country, as opposed to just not being able to trade with the US.

When he found out that it was a lie, it was truly a shock to his system, because it exposed a very stark truth to him:

His country wasn't poor because they were being bullied by their stronger neighbor - they were poor because the centralized government that was in charge of making every decision, including selling a head of lettuce for twice what it was worth (as detailed above), was woefully and criminally incompetent.

Communism had, once again, failed miserably.  Or, if bringing want and misery to all is your goal, it succeeded, depending on your outlook.

"At least everyone is equal there, though, right man?"

Our goal should not only be to normalize trade with Cuba, post haste, but also to make sure that the Cuban people know that, not only was there never a blockade, but that even the ineffective trade embargo has now been lifted.

So now, when a head of lettuce rots instead of being sold, because a decision couldn't be made, and when tomatoes rot on the vine because some party apparatchik didn't order wood for the crates, there will be no one else to blame.  One wonders how long the people of Cuba will choose to put up with this once their masters have no one else to blame.

One wonders if the brutality that installed this regime in the first place, will be enough to maintain it after it no longer has a convenient excuse.

Che Guevara, practicing Communist "equality"

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