Cuba after Fidel, NAFTA is 23 plus other stories from Latin America……https://t.co/SZ96AgMd6g
— Silvio Canto, Jr. (@SCantojr) December 8, 2016
As Cuba moves away from Fidel to whatever happens next, we were recently reminded of a pre-Castro story that confirmed just how close the U.S. and the island used to be. In other words, once upon a time there were US employers in Cuba taking very good care of their Cuban employees.
One of these employers built a town named Hershey, Cuba:
The town dates to 1916, when Milton S. Hershey, the American chocolate baron, visited Cuba for the first time and decided to buy sugar plantations and mills on the island to supply his growing chocolate empire in Pennsylvania. On land east of Havana, he built a large sugar refinery and an adjoining village — a model town like his creation in Hershey, Pa. — to house his workers and their families.
He named the place Hershey.
The village would come to include about 160 homes — the most elegant made of stone, the more modest of wooden planks — built along a grid of streets and each with tidy yards and front porches in the style common in the growing suburbs of the United States. It also had a public school, a medical clinic, shops, a movie theater, a golf course, social clubs and a baseball stadium where a Hershey-sponsored team played its home games, residents said.
The factory became one of the most productive sugar refineries in the country, if not in all of Latin America, and the village was the envy of surrounding towns, which lacked the standard of living that Mr. Hershey bestowed on his namesake settlement.
This town was indeed very unique, but there were in fact many U.S. employers in pre-Castro Cuba who took very good care of their employees.
For example, my uncle was a draftsman for a U.S. company that operated in his town. He came out of school and was hired by the company. He worked there for almost 10 years until this plant was expropriated in the early 1960s.
I don’t know whatever happened to my uncle’s employer but he clearly got a raw deal from the communists. After all, all he ever did in Cuba was to obey the law, pay taxes, and create jobs.
Overall, the communists confiscated many other U.S. investments. Sadly, the Obama administration did not demand a solution from Cuba and left many U.S. citizens hanging around wondering about the money that was stolen from them.
We will wait longer to see how these investors will be compensated.
It should be one of the issues that demands immediate attention from whatever the new Trump approach is for Cuba.
It did not get proper attention from the Obama administration. It needs to be addressed so that real jobs can come back to Cuba.
By now, everyone is familiar with the story of the truck taking Castro’s remains to their resting place. It must have been very interesting when the driver said to the soldier: “El motor se apago”.
Just a few days ago, I saw this in National Review:
Cuba’s capital, Havana, was a glittering and dynamic city. In the early part of the century the country’s economy, fueled by the sale of sugar to the United States, had grown dynamically.
Cuba ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in per capita ownership of automobiles and telephones, first in the number of television sets per inhabitant.
The literacy rate, 76%, was the fourth highest in Latin America. Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita.
Many private clinics and hospitals provided services for the poor. Cuba’s income distribution compared favorably with that of other Latin American societies. A thriving middle class held the promise of prosperity and social mobility
How else do you think that Castro contacted Cubans almost nightly by TV? Well, there were lots of TV’s spread out throughout the island with Cuban-owned stations broadcasting.
Again, it was not a perfect country and politics had always been challenging. Nevertheless, let me tell you about two things that did not happen in pre-Castro Cuba:
1) People were not taking homemade rafts to the U.S.; and,
2) Funeral cars did not break down on their way to the cemetery.
Not since President Kennedy has a U.S. president been in such a position to have an impact on Cuba.
Of course, President Kennedy fumbled on the Bay of Pigs. He followed that with a better performance in the Missile Crisis but did not force the USSR to take Castro out along with the missiles.
After that, it really came down to waiting for Castro to die or to get overthrown. The U.S. was not going to invade a Soviet satellite and Castro used MiGs and tanks to put down the Escambray rebellion of the late 1960s. (By the way, my friend Enrique G. Encinosa wrote about this war in exquisite detail. The translation of the title is The Forgotten War, the uprising against Castro that was brutally crushed town by town. It was horrific and someone should be charged with war crimes against civilians.)
President Trump has two choices: he can continue the Obama bailout of Cuba or literally pull the plug.
First, Cuba is a disaster that no reform can fix. Spyridon Mitsotakis called it just right in a post recently:
In March of 2014, I spent two weeks in working-class areas of Cuba. I went as a visitor, but was not a tourist. I wanted to see communism for myself — and it was all I feared it to be.
About a year later, with Obama administration’s embrace of the Castro brothers, I wrote atabout a Cuban worker who explained to me that while they hear endlessly from the government about the “American embargo against Cuba,” the real problem is the “internal embargo” — the embargo that the government elite has imposed on the Cuban people to keep them from participating in the economies of the elite and the outside world.
Again, there is no reform for Cuba except throwing away the entire system and starting again.
My guess is that Raul Castro knows that Cuba is beyond reforms. At the same time, he was willing to go along as long as President Obama participated in a bailout of his regime. Why not the foolish “Yanki” bail you out if you can get away with it?
President Trump should take a different course:
1) Cancel the executive orders and stop everything started under President Obama. He has a pen and Congress is not going to lift the embargo; and,
2) Continue to speak loudly on behalf of the Cuban people. He could even wear a baseball cap that goes like this: “Cuba si, Castro no”. He could go further and call on Major League Baseball to play an All Star Game in Cuba as soon as Castro is gone.
My guess is that Raul Castro will quickly get the message that it’s over. There is no one ready to bail him out anymore. Venezuelan oil can’t. China or Russia won’t do it unless they are given the keys to the island. Latin America talks a lot but they have their own problems.
Let Raul Castro take his millions and move somewhere else, maybe Bolivia. President Trump then sits down with the next tier of leadership and demands free elections in exchange for ending the embargo. I think that they will listen because they all know that Cuba is a mess beyond repair.
Could it happen that quickly? Yes it can, and no one knows that better than Raul Castro.
In the summer of 1958, the U.S. cut off military assistance to then President Batista. It signaled that it was over and he left months later. It cut the ground from under Batista and created the opening for Fidel Castro to come in.
In early 2017, President Trump could do his own version of that Batista play. He could promise the new Cuban leadership a deal subject to Castro leaving and elections forthcoming.
Am I too optimistic? I don’t think so, and President Trump is in a position to do it. Pull the plug, Mr. Trump and you will be given a hero’s welcome in Cuba.
I’ve had some friends lately who have questioned my vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Others have felt let down and assumed the tenuous hold of my core principles. And one Mexican-American friend stated that I had ignored what The Donald had done to “his people.”
First, a little history about my trajectory. I was a Democrat in the past, and I voted for President Obama in the 2008 and the 2012 elections. When making my final decision on who to vote for in these elections, I thought that he would make a better president. I was totally wrong in my decisions. In retrospect, I now know that U.S. Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney would have been better choices for the top job in our nation.
Nevertheless, the turning point for my assessment of President Obama came on December 17, 2014. On this date, President Obama issued a statement to change the relationship between the United States and Communist Cuba. Subsequently, with a month left before Americans voted in the 2016 election, the President issued a directive lifting the $100 limit on the amount of cigars and bottles of rum that US travelers were allowed to bring back from Cuba, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers declined to oppose a U.N. resolution condemning the American trade embargo against Cuba. These were definitely not smart decisions if the President hoped to get Cuban-Americans to vote for Hillary. When I heard former U.S. Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate say that she supported “the President’s efforts to move the relationship forward [with Cuba],” there was no question in my mind who I would vote for. In the end, 30+ precincts in Miami-Dade County with the highest concentration of Cuban-American voters gave their vote to President-elect Donald Trump won by over 58%.
I do not view the fact that I was once a Democrat in the past as a character flaw or an act of opportunism. Former President Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat, too. I think that he would agree with me that we did not leave the Democratic Party, but, instead, the Democratic Party left us. Most voters have one or two non-negotiable issues before they exercise the right to vote. For some, it’s the right to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. For others, it’s the right to have an abortion. For most Cuban-Americans, it’s the implementation of a U.S. foreign policy that embraces a hardline posture against Communist Cuba. In my opinion, President-Elect Trump’s views on this matter are better aligned with my own.
In the end, he died like most people do – i.e., old age. No CIA assassination. No overthrow. Just an old man probably connected to a bunch of machines staying alive.
For most of us Cubans, and the ones who grew up here like me, this is a moment when images fly in your head.
First, I recall the morning Batista fled and the expectations. My mother serving us breakfast and my father on the phone talking about the future of Cuba. The phone did not stop ringing. My mother kept bringing my father coffee and offering her opinions as well. The TV was on with constant reports of Cuba. The Voice of America in Spanish on my father’s short wave radio.
Most importantly, no one that morning had a clue of what would happen to Cuba in a few years.
Second, the Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis. As my mother would joke later: “¡Nosotros los primeros!” Or loosely translated, we would have been the first ones to go if the missiles were fired. Thankfully, the missiles were not fired, and my mother’s words did not come to pass.
Third, I will always remember the day we left and the look on my mother’s face when the plane took off.
Most of all, we remember how he destroyed Cuba. He came to power when Cuba was a very prosperous island with a growing middle class. It is not that country anymore, as Tim Worstall wrote:
Fidel Castro, the Communist Dictator of Cuba, has died at the age of 90. There have been those, over the decades, who have held him up as some paragon of a new world order, one in which people will not be subservient to either America nor capitalism. The truth is that he visited an economic disaster upon the island nation of Cuba. No, it was not the US, it was not any blockade or embargo, not anything external to Cuba that caused this, it was quite simply the idiocy of the economic policy followed, that socialism, which led to there being near no economic growth at all over the 55 years or so of his rule. What little that did occur happening when the strictest of his rules were relaxed.
It is polite, human and common to withhold criticism of the dead in the immediate aftermath of their demise. But leaving 11 million people grossly poorer than they ought to be in the name of a bankrupt ideology is not the stuff of which hagiographic obituaries are made
He promised elections but kept delaying them. They never happened.
He denied that he was communist and locked up people like my dad’s cousin for publicly saying so. A bit later, he declared himself a communist but did not release those who called him one.
In the end, he leaves a poor island with very little hope. He leaves political prisons, families crushed, and empty store shelves.
What happens now? This is a great opportunity for President-Elect Trump to demand some real concessions from the island’s leadership.
Fidel’s death is really the end of communism in Cuba. Raúl is also an old man and probably won’t be around in a few years, either.
Cuba is screaming for change. Let’s hear it and demand real concessions from Raúl Castro.
And please don’t insult the memory of so many by sending a big delegation to his funeral. Stay away and show your respect for the thousands executed by this regime.
There is a Cuban expression that sort goes like this: “No puedes tapar el sol con un dedo”. It literally means that you can’t cover the sun with your thumb. In other words, you can’t avoid reality in the long run.
Well, reality is all over the new Obama plan to open up Cuba. The original plan was that U.S. companies would rush in, exploit markets, freedom would explode and that every Cuban would add Obama’s birthday to the calendar of Catholic saints, i,e Santo BO!
Like ObamaCare, the Iran nuclear deal, or ending Mideast wars, the plan is not working out as promised.
Remember the U.S. company that was going to build tractors in Cuba? It was going to be “the poster boy” to encourage other U.S. investors to Cuba.
Not really, as the AP reports:
For a while Saul Berenthal and Horace Clemmons were the seventy-something poster boys of U.S.-Cuba detente.
The retired software entrepreneurs made worldwide headlines by winning Obama administration permission to build the first U.S. factory in Cuba since 1959. Cuban officials lauded their plans to build small tractors in the Mariel free-trade zone west of Havana. But after more than a year of courtship, the Cuban government told Berenthal and Clemmons to drop their plans to build tractors in Cuba, without explanation, Berenthal said Monday.
A month and a half ago, their first tractors started rolling off the assembly line — in the town of Fyffe, Alabama, population about 1,000.
“Producing the tractors in Mariel was not going to happen,” Berenthal said.
He said the company is already selling tractors to customers in the U.S. and Australia and has had inquiries from Peru, Mexico and Ethiopia. He also still hopes to sell to Cuba.
So what went wrong? The answer is that reality had the last word.
First of all, you can’t do business in Cuba unless the Castro family is majority shareholder.
Second, you can’t create a plant and hire your own people: Castro Inc. will do that for you by keeping the hard currency and paying Cuban workers in worthless pesos!
Third, and reality comes full circle, Cuban farmers do not have the money or the means to pay for the tractors. In other words, there is no consumer market in Cuba no matter how many businessmen take “fact-finding trips” to Cuba.
It would have been better if the Obama administration had listened Cuban-American legislators, like Senator Bob Menendez, Senator Marco Rubio or Senator Ted Cruz. Or, Cuban-American members of the U.S. House who are more familiar with reality than President Obama.
Why is the Cuba opening failing? Why is ObamaCare failing? Or the Obama foreign policy?
The answer is that President Obama is not rooted in reality, as the people signing up for ObamaCare are learning this week.
This week, the Obama administration did not show up for the UN vote against the Cuba embargo. It went like thisas reported by the New York Times:
Making a bit of history, the United States on Wednesday abstained for the first time in an annual General Assembly condemnation of the half-century-old American trade embargo against Cuba.
The abstention — a break from the “no” vote the United States delegation has always cast — was another important signal by the Obama administration of its intention to fully repair relations with Cuba, including an end to the embargo.
The reconciliation began two years ago when President Obama abandoned the policy of his predecessors to isolate the Castro government in Cuba and moved to restore diplomatic ties with the island nation of 11 million.
The United States and Cuba formally re-established embassies in each other’s capitals in July 2015, ending more than more than five decades of Cold War-era enmity.
But the embargo, which can only be rescinded by Congress, remains in force.
Yes, the embargo remains in force because it is the law of the land. This is why only Congress can rescind it!
Let’s recall a bit of history about the embargo:
Following the events of 1961–62, economic and diplomatic isolation became the major prongs of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
This continued even after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Washington strengthened the embargo with the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act and 1996 Helms-Burton Act (PDF), which state that the embargo may not be lifted until Cuba holds free and fair elections and transitions to a democratic government that excludes the Castros. (Raúl has said he will leave office in 2018.)
To be fair, honest people can disagree about the embargo. I’ve had disagreements with other Cubans or Cuban Americans. The disagreements are not generational. In other words, some Cubans of my parents generation believe that the embargo should end and some Cuban Americans like me believe it should stay.
The bottom line is that the Obama administration is mocking U.S. law and the Congress in front of the world.
Why doesn’t President Obama call on Congress to end the embargo? At the same time, why didn’t he demand reforms from Cuba, or the prerequisites required by law to end the embargo? Most of all, why didn’t he call on the Cuban government to settle the claims of U.S. citizens for property stolen years ago?
As a U.S. citizen, I find this astonishing. I find it remarkable that the U.S. government would pander to governments at the UN over Cuba.
Let’s go back to October 1976. The # 1 song in the country was “Disco Duck“.
On a more serious note, the USSR and Cuba were working together to attack the U.S. in Africa and Central America.
It sure feels like 1976 all over again and I am not talking about dancing ducks.
I mean that Russia, the one we used to call the USSR, is now down in Cuba talking to Raul Castro, the one who is running the island after his brother Fidel had to step aside for health reasons.
We learned this week that the Russians are coming back to Cuba. To be fair, Russia is not going to subsidize Cuba the way that the USSR did from 1962 to 1992. At the same time, Russia is looking for an anti-U.S. angle and they found one in Cuba.
This is from Sputnk News via Capitol Hill Cubans:
Speaking to the paper, Vladimir Karjakin, a professor at the Military University of the Russian Defense Ministry of Defense, suggested that reopening the Lourdes SIGINT facility would significantly improve Russian radio intelligence, whose effectiveness is low compared to that of the U.S.
“In its own time, the intelligence center at Lourdes kept virtually the entire Western Hemisphere in its view, monitoring the U.S. at a depth of several thousand kilometers,” the retired Air Force colonel recalled.
We are not suggesting that this is 1962 when the USSR put missiles in the island. It sure looks like the 1970s when Cuba and the USSR worked together to hurt U.S. interests.
So why didn’t we warn Castro and Cuba? Why didn’t we say that the embassy and trade deals would be cancelled if the Russians discussed opening the intelligence center at Lourdes?
I guess that President Obama really wanted to make that Cuba deal. Just like he really wanted to make that Iran deal.
From Cuba to Iran and now Obama Care, the question is the same: How does this help the people of the U.S.? It doesn’t but that’s for # 45 to worry about.
You will soon be able to bring Cuban cigars back to the U.S.
Cheers for Cuban cigars. I will always remember my father’s stories of visiting his bank clients in the cigar business. They were some of the hardest-working entrepreneurs in old Cuba. They sold cigars like H Upman, Partagas, and others that your grandfather probably remembers.
Thumbs down for a U.S. administration participating in the merchandising of products made by workers not allowed to join a labor union.
Remember that all of those Cuban cigars were once rolled by Cubans who worked for private companies and were free to join a union. All of those companies were also confiscated from the men and women who built them.
Maybe this is why Democrat senator Menendez expressed his outrage about the administration’s latest moves:
Once again, the Administration has it wrong about what’s right for the people of Cuba. Today, the Administration has announced new regulations that blatantly violate the laws of the United States in a legacy-attempt to further normalize relations with Cuba in the next 100 days, supposedly to benefit businesses, but the only beneficiaries of the Administration’s legacy-largesse are the Castros themselves.
Since the announcement of the change in American policy toward Cuba nearly two years ago, the Castro regime has only grown stronger. It has continued its policies of repression, has continued to jail the Ladies in White, has continued to suppress the freedom of expression, and the promotion of anything resembling democracy.
Today’s regulatory economic changes from the White House not only benefit state-owned Cuban businesses and bolster the coffers of the Castro regime, but mark a profound shift away from our own commitment to the rule of law and the processes of democracy as we have always known them.
The new regulations simply and blatantly violate both the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and the Libertad Act of 1996, which codified the embargo against Cuba, and indicate that the United States government will now actively ‘authorize contracts and violations currently prohibited by the embargo.
Yes, it’s the law of the land. It’s a law based on two important principles: respect for property law and concern for the human rights of the Cubans on the island.
Am I the only person who believes that the U.S. should stand for property rights and human rights?
In the meantime, think about it the next time you light up a Cuban cigar. Maybe your conscience will drive you to get one from Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. Those two countries are not perfect, but at least their workers are allowed to form unions.
We are watching another two presidential candidates debate in 2016. Let’s go back to 1960 and remember how Cuba was discussed in that debate between Senator Kennedy and VP Nixon.
“The reporters are: Paul Niven of CBS, Edward P. Morgan of ABC, Alvin Spivak of United Press International, and Harold R. Levy of Newsday.
Now the first question is from Mr. Niven and is for Vice President Nixon.
MR. NIVEN: Mr. Vice President, Senator Kennedy said last night that the Administration must take responsibility for the loss of Cuba. Would you compare the validity of that statement with the validity of your own statements in previous campaigns that the Truman Administration was responsible for the loss of China to the Communists?
MR. NIXON: Well first of all, I don’t agree with Senator Kennedy that Cuba is lost and certainly China was lost when this Administration came into power in 1953. As I look at Cuba today, I believe that we are following the right course, a course which is difficult but a course which under the circumstance is the only proper one which will see that the Cuban people get a chance to realize their aspirations of progress through freedom and that they get that with our cooperation with the other organi- of the states in the Organization of American States. Now Senator Kennedy has made some very strong criticisms of my part – or alleged part – in what has happened in Cuba. He points to the fact that I visited Cuba while Mr. Batista was in power there. I can only point out that if we are going to judge the Administrations in terms of our attitude toward dictators, we’re glad to have a comparison with the previous administration. There were eleven dictators in South America and in Central America when we came in, in 1953. Today there are only three left including the one in Cuba. We think that’s pretty good progress. Senator Kennedy also indicated with regard to Cuba that he thought that I had made a mistake when I was in Cuba in not calling for free elections in that country. Now I’m very surprised that Senator Kennedy, who is on the Foreign Relations Committee, would have made such a statement as this kind. As a matter of fact in his book, The Strategy for Peace, he took the right position. And that position is that the United States has a treaty – a treaty with all of the Organization of American States – which prohibits us from interfering in the internal affairs of any other state and prohibits them as well. For me to have made such a statement would been in direct uh – opposition to that treaty. Now with regard to Cuba, let me make one thing clear. There isn’t any question but that we will defend our rights there. There isn’t any question but that we will defend Guantanamo if it’s attacked. There also isn’t any question but that the free people of Cuba – the people who want to be free – are going to be supported and that they will attain their freedom. No, Cuba is not lost, and I don’t think this kind of defeatist talk by Senator Kennedy helps the situation one bit.
MR. McGEE: Senator Kennedy, would you care to comment?
MR. KENNEDY: In the first place I’ve never suggested that Cuba was lost except for the present. In my speech last night I indicated that I thought that Cuba one day again would be free. Where I’ve been critical of the Administration’s policy, and where I criticized Mr. Nixon, was because in his press conference in Havana in 1955, he praised the competence and stability of the bicta- bict- Batista dictatorship – that dictatorship had killed over twenty thousand Cubans in seven years. Secondly, I did not criticize him for not calling for free elections. What I criticized was the failure of the Administration to use its great influence to persuade the Cuban government to hold free elections, particularly in 1957 and 1958. Thirdly, Arthur Gardner, a Republican Ambassador, Earl Smith, a Republican Ambassador, in succession – both have indicated in the past six weeks that they reported to Washington that Castro was a Marxist, that Raul Castro was a Communist, and that they got no effective results. Instead our aid continued to Batista, which was ineffective; we never were on the side of freedom; we never used our influence when we could have used it most effectively – and today Cuba is lost for freedom. I hope some day it will rise; but I don’t think it will rise if we continue the same policies toward Cuba that we did in recent years, and in fact towards all of Latin America – when we’ve almost ignored the needs of Latin America; we’ve beamed not a single Voice of America program in Spanish to all of Latin America in the last eight years, except for the three months of the Hungarian uh – revolution.”
My father, like many other Cubans, followed this debate with incredible interest. It was clear by the fall of 1960 that Castro was not going to hold elections or follow up on all of those promises about “pluralism”.
Cubans in the island, and those preparing outside for the liberation of Cuba, must have been very impressed by the comments that they heard in this debate. It’s obvious that both candidates in 1960 communicated their concern about the communist dictatorship consolidating in the island.
Sadly, it all fell apart 6 months later at The Bay of Pigs!
Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times is puzzled with the fact that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is enjoying mai tais on a goodwill/economic development trip with China, while turning his back on Communist Cuba where he could be raising Mojitos and smoking Cohiba cigars. (See http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/ruth-tampa-mayor-courts-china-stiff-arms-cuba/2295156). While the argument seems logical at first glance, it is more complicated when delving deep into the facts.
Every politician is worried about one thing only – getting elected and re-elected. Mayor Buckhorn must be looking at the number of Cubans and Chinese in the Tampa area before taking a stand on the foreign policy that he will embrace. According to data from the 2000 Census, there were 14,674 (4.8%) Cubans versus 724 (0.24%) Chinese in Tampa. Moreover, Florida has a U.S. Senator in Marco Rubio who supports taking a hard-line in the U.S. relations with Communist Cuba. Thus, it seems a safer bet for Mayor Buckhorn to side with the conservative, Cuban community in Tampa.
There are good reasons to trade more openly with China than with Communist Cuba. For starters, it comes down to dollars and cents. The Cuban economy cannot be compared with the Chinese economy where China has become the U.S.’s second-biggest trading partner. China’s market economy has been growing since the mid-1980s – promoting faster market growth and expanding the personal freedom of millions of Chinese. In comparison, the Castro regime has not been willing to liberalize the economy and create a free market economy. Free enterprise continues to be highly restricted, while foreign investors are forced to conduct business with the Castro’s regime.
There are other valid reasons for the U.S. policy on Cuba. Cuban officials have granted “political asylum” to several U.S. criminals like Joanne Chesimard who was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper. Moreover, the Cuban Government still has not compensated the $7 billion in today’s dollars it owes to U.S. companies and U.S. citizens for confiscating their properties.
I would hope that the U.S. Government looks after the well-being of its citizens first.