The Price of American Diplomacy in Cuba
If you watched the American Embassy’s reopening ceremony in Cuba on television, or saw some of the photographs, you may have noticed dozens of bare flagpoles in the background.
There’s a story behind that.
After the US and Cuba dissolved relations during the Cold War, the former American Embassy building became the US Interests Section.
Not a lot went on in that building since our two nations didn’t have normal relations, but even mutually hostile governments have to talk to each other once in a while, especially if they’re neighbors, so the US posted diplomatic staff there.
And in 2006, they created a gigantic electronic billboard in the windows of the building to broadcast messages to the Cuban population outside. They quoted some terrific people.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent” – Abraham Lincoln
“Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” – Frank Zappa
“Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”—Universal Declaration on Human Rights
According to the Wall Street Journal, the billboard even pointed out that Forbes listed Fidel Castro as the seventh-richest head of state in the world. The guy is worth 900 million dollars while the wages of his miserable subjects are capped at twenty dollars a month.
You can imagine how well that went over down there. The whole thing enraged Castro. Remember, he and his brother Raul own all the newspapers in Cuba. You can’t buy the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or The Economist down there. Google News doesn’t exist either because private Internet access is outlawed.
If you want to read something, you’re stuck with the Granma, the Communist Party daily, or Rebel Youth, the magazine written by the elderly walking dead for the island’s young people who’ll go to prison if they rebel or even complain.
So yeah, Castro hated that billboard at what’s now the American Embassy. How dare the United States quote Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. So he erected 138 black flags in front of the building so the people of Cuba couldn’t see it.
In 2009, Barack Obama pulled the plug on it.
Let’s get one thing out of the way here. Barack Obama is not best friends forever with Fidel Castro. He does not prefer a tyrannical regime to Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. He pulled the plug because he wanted to improve relations with Cuba, and that billboard got in the way.
Fine. But it creates a bit of a quandary, doesn’t it? How does it look from the Cuban street if the United States government is all chummy with the government that kicks them in the ass every day?
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