A new day for U.S., Cuba, but it is no sure thing
BY MICHAEL PUTNEY MPUTNEY@WPLG.COM
12/23/2014 8:13 PM 12/23/2014 8:15 PM
The geopolitical world shifted on its axis last week and when it came to
rest, Miami was no longer the turning point of U.S.-Cuba policy.
Washington, after more than half a century of letting Miami Cubans set
that policy, finally took back the reins. But in what direction are we
Toward "normalized" relations between two old adversaries, the president
says. He's proposing a framework for a new, productive relationship
between the United States and Cuba. Obama admits it won't be easy after
more than 50 years of mistrust, derring-do and saber-rattling. More than
just rattling, of course — those were nuclear missiles aimed at the
United States in 1962, and Fidel Castro wanted to use them on us Yankee
imperialists. It was Khrushchev who saw that it would be madness.
Now, it's brother Raúl, in full military regalia, who says President
Obama is a guy he can do business with. And Obama is evidently ready to
do business with a brutal and ruthless Communist (Raúl was a Marxist
before Fidel was) who personally gave the order to shoot down the two
Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing four brave young people on a
That's one reason why there were cries of outrage in Miami after the
rapprochement was announced in Washington and Havana. So many in our
community lost their homes, businesses, careers and country to the
barbudos who came down from the Sierra Maestra. A friend remembers as a
little girl watching them march past her home in Santa Clara, Che
Guevara leading the pack. She says they were frightening. They're still
frightening, the Cuban Communist viejos and their progeny, to anyone
familiar with the Castro brothers' sordid and violent history.
Because Cuba didn't have huge deposits of valuable minerals (except
bauxite) or vast oil fields, Washington put Cuba on the back burner for
the most part. Except to fret over immigration problems and Cuba's
talent for exporting revolution to Latin America and fighting the
occasional proxy war in Africa. Washington had plenty of other problems
to worry about, so it let Cuban Americans control U.S. policy. It did so
because the Cuban diaspora to its great credit, voted in overwhelming
numbers in every election and wrote big checks to politicians. Those
check writers formed powerful lobbies. Currently, it's the U.S. Cuba
Democracy PAC, and before that the Cuban American National Foundation.
As its leader, Jorge Mas Canosa, once said after being criticized for
romancing some powerful Democrats, "We don't have friends or enemies in
Washington, we have interests."
President Obama has decided that his interests in Cuba are paramount —
his legacy, too. Just as Richard Nixon opened relations with China,
Obama wants to be remembered as the president who opened relations with
Cuba. Obama's clearly right that the U.S. policy in place for 53 years
hasn't changed anything in Cuba and never will. But it's far from a sure
thing that Obama's Cuba policy will succeed in turning Cuba into a more
open, democratic and free society.
If you looks closely at what's been proposed, you find no assurances
that ordinary Cubans will have any of the basic human rights they're now
denied. Raúl himself said in a speech Saturday that nothing in Cuba's
closed, authoritarian system will change. He's getting the better end of
What's the United States getting? The possibility that an influx of
Americans, carrying credit cards and capital, will spread democratic
values. Once the toothpaste of democracy is out of the tube, the
thinking goes, Castro won't be able to put it back. It's a lovely
thought and here's hoping it happens. But it hasn't worked over the
decades that Canada and all the Western European democracies have had a
strong presence in Cuba. My guess is that Cuba's economy may become less
centrally planned and more capitalistic, but its political system will
remain shut tight. Cuba may become the Vietnam of our hemisphere.
Whatever happens next will require cooperation from Congress, hardly a
sure thing. Sen. Marco Rubio promises to "unravel" the deal and he'll
get some help from like-minded congressmen. The embargo, though mostly a
fiction, can only be lifted by Congress. We're looking at a long, slow
process before anything the president announced comes to pass.
In the meantime, Miami's anti-Castro industry, which has thrived for
half a century, will start to wither. The anti-Castro rallies at Café
Versailles, and the news media that rush to cover them, will eventually
wither, too. Until the day Fidel dies. I won't just cover that
celebration, I'll join in.
Source: A new day for U.S., Cuba, but it is no sure thing | The Miami
Herald - http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article4896753.html