Big Red Car here. OK, The Boss is still in steamboat and I’m hearing he may not come home until 2015? Hey, Boss, get your butt back here. [Just funning as me and the house sitter, we’ve been having a ball. Screw you, Boss.]
So the house sitter and I are are hanging out at the Medici coffee shop on West Lynn having a little coffee refreshment and we overhear a few folks talking about Cuba — recent events in the relationship between the United States and Cuba.
What did happen?
The President announced that the US would be re-opening the American embassy in Havana.
This was the result of almost two years of secret negotiations with the Cuban government headed by Raoul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro.
This is a President’s prerogative and doesn’t require any approval from Congress or Bevo. Bevo likes to stay on top of the international situation.
Where it may get a little dicey is when the administration asks the Congress to fund things but that’s a discussion for another day. Bottom line — American embassy to reopen in Havana if the President can figure out to fund it. Likely take through the end of his term to get this done.
What did not happen?
The President also wants to cancel the trade embargo and to allow unfettered travel and trade between our two countries.
That has not happened yet and will require the action of Congress to make a reality though the President may believe that to be within his executive power — not much these days he doesn’t think he can do.
Likely travel restrictions will be relaxed.
Cuba is not a Disney theme park.
It is the home to the greatest despotship [new word alert, just made that one up, y’all] in the western hemisphere. It is run by the Castro brothers who are avowed communists and make no bones about it.
Even after the President announced the rapprochement [this is one of the Big Red Car’s favorite words even though he did not invent it] with Cuba, they went public dissing the United States and the President making it clear they had given up nothing in the negotiations and that they had made President Obama pinky swear that they had to do nothing to get the President to kiss their…well…you know what I mean.
The Cubans made no concessions of any type whatsoever, another brilliant negotiating coup by the Obama administration.
How did we get here?
So, Cuba is a communist regime which has some history with the United States, a few highlights:
1. Right after Castro took control — at the point of a bayonet having overthrown the American leaning regime of Fulgencio Batista during a rebellion that lasted from 1952 to 1959 — of Cuba, he nationalized (a fancy word for confiscated) all property owned by Americans and all American interests in Cuban enterprises.
This is not the work of a charm school graduate and sure to vex the Americans and American businesses, no? There will be no reparations for this action.
2. On 17 April 1961, the CIA backed an attempted invasion by anti-Castro Cubans at the Bay of Pigs which was easily repulsed with all the rebels captured when Fidel Castro took personal control of the battle.
On 20 April, the invaders surrendered. Launched out of Guatemala and initially authorized by American President Eisenhower, it happened on President Kennedy’s watch and was a case study in how NOT to organize a military operation.
3. Castro had cozied up to the Russians — fellow communists — and in October 1962 the Americans discovered (using U-2 photo surveillance) the Cubans and the Russians were deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba capable of reaching the US in minutes.
What was also important — perhaps more important –was that the Russians had already deployed nuclear bomb lugging bombers capable of reaching the entire United States. This fact was as important or more important than the presence of missiles.
In the end, President Kennedy and the Russian Premier Krushchev negotiated a settlement whereby the missiles were removed in return for the Americans removing similar missiles from Turkey and agreeing not to invade Cuba, absent specific provocation. This was a big coup for the Russians.
4. The Cuban Missile Crisis had placed the world on the brink of nuclear war when the Americans placed a blockade on the island of Cuba and intercepted Russian ships en route.
The Russians were testing Kennedy, who they thought to be a lightweight based on their experience in the building of the Berlin Wall. The Russians had feared Kennedy’s predecessor, Dwight David Eisenhower.
5. The Americans placed an enhanced embargo on trade with Cuba. The original embargo had been enacted in 1960 and the enhanced embargo was expanded in 1962 (signed into law in 1963).
The full history of trade sanctions and embargoes on Cuba is based on the following laws:
Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917;
Foreign Assistance Act of 1961;
Cuba Assets Control Regulations of 1963;
Cuban Democracy Act of 1992;
Helms–Burton Act of 1996; and,
Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.
It is important to realize, contrary to the utterances of President Obama, this is a long standing embargo — not a leftover from the early 1960s as he is wont to suggest — and has been modified from time to time to make it relevant and useful. It is not an ancient, moss covered fifty year old policy.
There is a huge body of law here that will have to be dismantled by the Congress if the President is to have his way of ending the embargo.
Bad Cuban behavior
Cuba is not a nice country — government mind you, not the people. These guys are the last communists in our hemisphere (maybe not including Venezuela).
1. From the very beginning, the Castro brothers were instrumental in oppressing their people including seizing, imprisoning and torturing dissidents, social outcasts and hand selected others.
2. Cuba was not only a communist country philosophically but was a willing and determined partner with Russia from whence all the Cuban Missile Crisis unpleasantness noted above flowed.
3. In 1975, Cuba sent mercenaries to intervene in the Angolan civil war against forces backed by the United States and others.
The Cuban intervention, at the behest and as proxies for the Russians, continued for many years ending in the late 1980s with the New York Accords which ended Cuban and South African involvement in Angola.
[If you want a mind numbing but enlightening read as to American CIA involvement in Africa, study the Angolan Civil War and the players. It is a story not known in the US and it is a doozie.]
4. In 1980 (Mariel Boat Lift, y’all) during the Carter administration (note the propensity for the communists to take advantage of weak, inexperienced Democrat Presidents?), the Castro brothers dumped 125,000 Cubans in Florida.
This included dissidents, prisoners, mental patients and the dregs of Cuban society. This was during an economic downturn in Cuba wherein the cynical and despotic Castro brothers dumped their detritus on the Americans.
No Rhodes Scholars were included surprisingly enough.
5. The Castro brothers are inhumane oppressors of their people.
When the recent rapprochement (double credit for using word twice) was announced Raoul Castro announced that Cubans working for foreign enterprises (who might pay better wages) would have their wages taxed at the rate of 92%.
When you see a tax rate like that, you can understand why President Obama likes them, no?
Chilling with villains
The Big Red Car really has no problem with re-opening the American embassy in Havana.
In many ways it is just a formality as American interests (whatever that might be) have been overseen by allies who have made their embassy staffs available to the United States as an accommodation. Yes, that’s right, the US interests are already being overseen by friends and allies.
We have relationships with lots of shitheads — Russia, China, Viet Nam amongst them. So should we quake that we will have relations with one more bunch of shitheads?
Not in the opinion of the Big Red Car particularly if we use this new found proximity to further our real objective — regime change in Cuba and the development of a democratic government in a country 90 miles from South Beach. An embassy filled with attaches and spies will allow the US to further its interest of overthrowing the Castro brothers — the only keepers of the flame of communism in the entire country.
Realpolitik is the admission that some shit is just going to have to be done because it is not realistic not to do it.
A country, like the United States, holds its nose and just does it. On this score, again, the Big Red Car has no problem with the President’s actions though it would have been more pragmatic to have brought the Congress into the discussion earlier.
The realpolitik of it all is that this policy will likely not amount to much of anything in the short term. By the time President Obama leaves office — oh, happy day which is only 25 months in the future — it is unlikely that the new embassy will be operating. It is also unlikely that a Republican Congress is going to give the President any support on this matter until the embassy in Havana is actually functioning.
In the end, one has to ask oneself — why does this make sense?
Effectiveness of embargo
The Big Red Car is all about the free market and therefore would have tendency to support the relationship with any nation which would provide markets for American goods and services.
Having said that, Cuba is so poor that its ability to buy even basic American imports is questionable. This is a country with approximately $6,000 GDP per capita — Cuban numbers by the way and thus very suspect — making it a country that is substantially poorer than Mexico.
In the 1950s, Cuba was one of the top three countries in Latin America based on a rigorous regimen of measurement including adult literacy and ownership of consumer goods such as televisions. Today it has less than 2% Internet access and most of that is in government buildings.
The Revolution has not been good to or for Cubans who have indicated in a surreptitious poll that over 75% support a democratic form of government and would vote for one given the chance. The Castros are not willing to chance an election under any circumstances. If they thought they could prevail, they would conduct such an election tomorrow.
The embargo has kept the Cuban form of mischief bottled up and thereby the spread of communism in Latin America and South America. This was the overarching objective and like Reagan’s relentless pressure on the Russians under Gorbachev has delivered the desired result. When people say the embargo has been ineffective it is difficult to understand what they thought would be accomplished other than preventing the Cuban government from expanding their communist foot print.
Bottom line, much ado about nothing as it is very unlikely the President will get any of this through Congress and it will take a long time to get the Havana embassy open. In the meantime, please join the Big Red Car in praying for the imminent death of the Castro brothers and the emergence of democracy in Cuba.
Merry Christmas, y’all!