Changing U.S. Policy Toward Cuba: Another View
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Florida sugar magnate Alfonso Fanjul said he is ready to do business with Cuba “under the right circumstances.” The questions are: “what are the right circumstances?” and “who benefits when American companies ‘do business’ with communist Cuba?”
The Fanjul family left Cuba in 1959 when Fidel Castro confiscated all of its holdings. Eventually settling in Florida, the family rebuilt their lives and fortunes, benefitting from the price supports extended to American-grown sugar by Congress, and Fanjul corporations are now international in scope.
As reported in The Post, Alfonso Fanjul’s comments and meetings with Cuban government officials were promptly condemned by Cuban-American members of Congress who didn’t hesitate to point out that the interview included no discussion of the absence of civil liberties and labor and human rights in Cuba that foreign corporations already exploit.
Foreign companies “doing business” in Cuba are best described as “minority partners” of the Cuban government. Such companies don’t “do business” with Cuban entrepreneurs, they “do business” with the Cuban government, which obligingly “rents” those companies a compliant, uncomplaining labor force.
Cuba’s government sets the rental price that companies pay to the government. In turn, the government pays the employees somewhat less (usually a lot less), and keeps the difference. Complaining employees are fired —not by the company, but by the government—and replaced by someone “willing to work.” This is how Cuban communism works and finances the repression that sustains it.
The Canadian company Sherritt International provides an example. The company operates a nickel mine at Moa in Eastern Cuba. As The Toronto Globe and Mail once reported—and recent visitors still confirm—the town has a pinkish tint, the result of unregulated emissions that can also trigger skin rashes. Fishermen say there has been widespread damage to fish and sea life in the bay.
There are few “environmental protection” programs in Cuba, so much of the country is experiencing the same type of ecocide that Eastern Europe endured under communism and for the same reasons: Cuba’s leaders emphasize unbridled production and tolerate no independent media, labor unions or associations that might challenge government policies. People who complain are deemed to be “counter revolutionaries,” arrested, tried by judges loyal to the Communist Party, and sentenced to long prison terms.
Ah, but what about Raul Castro’s “economic reforms” so often touted by those wanting to do business with Havana? The Washington Post had it exactly right in a recent editorial: “Cuba’s changes are no more than window-dressing.” The editorial went on to recount the strong desire “by some in the United States to normalize relations with Cuba after a half-century of stalemate” and a recent poll by the Atlantic Council underscoring that sentiment.
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