All Change for Cuba?Thursday, 18 December 2014
So finally things are changing between the US and Cuba with Obama’s announcement that he intends to normalise relations with Cuba – about time most of us would say! Unfortunately Obama’s promise to ‘cut loose the shackles of the past’ doesn’t quite mean ending the 54-year-old-trade embargo (Congress needs to agree to that and, of course, at the moment the US Congress won’t agree to anything). Nor does it allow US tourism, but clearly there are lots of Americans who don’t realise they’re not allowed to visit Cuba. Or ignore that crazy law.
Predictably the really rusty Republicans are against it. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida quickly announced that these changes would allow the Castro regime to ‘perpetuate itself in power.’ Mr Rubio had clearly never thought of the alternative concept: that it’s been the ridiculous US policy which has helped keep Castro and his brother in power for so long. List the US presidents since Fidel came to power: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II. That’s 10 presidents the Castros have outlasted. My theory is the Castros would have fallen over long ago if they didn’t have the US to point to as the cause of all their problems. In my book Bad Lands I concluded the Cuba chapter with the suggestion that the country’s economic problems might be 25% due to America’s crazy embargo, but it was 75% down to Castro’s crazy economics. Once the US comes to its senses it’s going to be 100% down to the Castro dynasty and you can bet that isn’t going to make them popular.
What’s so bad about Cuba anyway? Sure it’s Communist, but so are China and Vietnam and can you imagine a US trade embargo on China! Sure it’s a military dictatorship, but when has having a nasty government ever been a bar to most favored nation status? Er, Saudi Arabia?
PS – Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is just as out of touch as Marco Rubio. Ditto for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but then all three are Republicans.
PPS – I was in Cuba earlier this year, click here for my look at what’s happening with the Cuban infatuation with US cars. And here for my thoughts that Havana could be the next hot restaurant centre. And here if you want Lonely Planet’s Cuba guidebook.