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Cuba Libre February 12, 2011

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
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“I was gambling in Havana/I took a little risk/Send lawyers, guns and money/Dad, get me out of this!” – Warren Zevon

“Havana moon, Havana Moon/Me still alone/Me sip on the rum/Me wonder where the boat she come…” – Chuck Berry

“Tropic days turn into steamy nights/Stateside ways give in to appetites/panatelas under white straw hats/Sit and soak…Rum and Coke/Cuban rhythms push the night along/Past the limits of what’s right or wrong/Hardly anyone is keepin’ score/Let it ride…Por favor.” – Linda Eder

“PT-boat on the way to Havana/I used to make a living, man/Pickin’ the banana/Now I’m a guide for the CIA/Hooray for the USA!” – Phil Ramone

Then there’s this:

Cuba Libre is a highball made of Cola, lime, and white rum. This highball is often referred to as a Rum and Coke in the United States and Canada, where the lime juice is optional.

Of course, the Free Cuba Foundation: http://www2.fiu.edu/~fcf/introd.html

Why this fascination with Cuba? Well, in my mind, would be a better choice for 51st state than Puerto Rico. We, as a nation, have for too long decided that the communist threat some 90 miles off the shore of Florida is intolerable. For a time, it was…and there was reason for concern. But as Fidel Castro’s reign evolved, he discovered, as we did, that his brand of Soviet communism wasn’t working. Freedom…Cuba Libre… is the best path for this people.

Let’s take a look at some current thought, just so you know I’m not a rabid dog barking in the might.

John J. Miller wrote for the National Review on February 4, 2011:

“Eagerly, warily, Cubans are taking up the government’s offer to work for themselves, selling coffee in their front yards, renting out houses, making rattan furniture and hawking everything from bootleg DVDs to Silly Bandz and homemade wine.

Hoping to resuscitate Cuba’s crippled economy, President Raúl Castro opened the door to a new, if limited, generation of entrepreneurs last year, after warning that the state’s “inflated” payrolls could end up “jeopardizing the very survival of the Revolution.”

The Cuban labor federation said the government would lay off half a million of about 4.3 million state workers by March and issue hundreds of thousands of new licenses to people wanting to join Cuba’s tiny private sector, in what could be the biggest remodeling of the state-run economy since Fidel Castro nationalized all enterprise in 1968.

By the end of 2010, the government had awarded 75,000 new licenses, according to Granma, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, swelling the official ranks of the self-employed by 50 percent.”

Miller goes on to say, in essence, this is a very small step on a very long path toward a big solution. But, even the Chinese don’t look much like communists anymore…until someone steps out of line. Today’s communist must where a business suit and feign the love of a measure free enterprise…just don’t think that means you can speak or act as you choose!

In June 2009, Mark Scheffler for the Global Post opined:

“Ah, Cuba: Land of cigars, sandy beaches and a long-isolated populace hungry for the fruits of the Western world.

Ugh, Cuba: A country with crumbling infrastructure, economic puppetmasters like China and Venezuela, and a populace with an average monthly wage of $19.

Such are the attractions and pitfalls for the U.S. economy as it eyes the island nation on the heels of the Obama administration’s April 13 elimination of Bush-era travel restrictions and partial easing of the 47-year-long embargo.

Who cares about 11.5 million communist consumers? Businesses should.”

Yes, they should. I am not a fan of PresBO but I have to admit I think he’s right on this one. The Huffington Post reported on April 13, 2009:

“In a measured break with a half-century of U.S. policy toward communist Cuba, the Obama administration lifted restrictions Monday on Cuban-Americans who want to travel and send money to their island homeland.

In a further gesture of openness, U.S. telecommunications firms were freed to seek business there, too. But the broader U.S. trade embargo remained in place…

But the moves fell far short of the more drastic policy adjustments that some _ including Republican Sen. Richard Lugar _ have argued are required to promote U.S. interests in Latin America and to bring about change in Cuba. For most Americans, Cuba remains the only country in the world their government prohibits them from visiting _ a barrier to potential travelers as well as to the Cuban tourist industry that would like to see them…

Lugar’s report also urged congressional action to remove all U.S. travel restrictions, not just those for Cuban-Americans. Further, it advocated lifting travel restrictions on Cuban diplomats in Washington, who are not allowed to journey outside the capital area. It said this would encourage a reciprocal lifting of Cuban restrictions on U.S. diplomats, improving the U.S. government’s ability to understand more fully the conditions that exist on the entire island.”

Let’s look at a Readers Digest-like version of what happened to tilt Cuba to Communism:

“In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards. Cuba attracted more immigrants, primarily from Europe, as a percentage of population than the U.S. The United Nations noted Cuba for its large middle class. On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure “at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants”, leading to disparities. Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems. Unemployment became a problem as graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. The middle class, which was comparable to the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with the unemployment.

On 2 December 1956 a party of 82 people on the yacht Granma landed in Cuba. The party, led by Fidel Castro, had the intention of establishing an armed resistance movement in the Sierra Maestra. While facing armed resistance from Castro’s rebel fighters in the mountains, Fulgencio Batista’s regime was weakened and crippled by a United States arms embargo imposed on 14 March 1958. By late 1958, the rebels broke out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general popular insurrection. After the fighters captured Santa Clara, Batista fled from Havana on 1 January 1959 to exile in Portugal. Barquín negotiated the symbolic change of command between Camilo Cienfuegos, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and his brother Fidel Castro after the Supreme Court decided that the Revolution was the source of law and its representatives should assume command.

Fidel Castro’s forces entered the capital on 8 January 1959. Shortly afterward, a liberal lawyer, Dr Manuel Urrutia Lleó became president. He was backed by Castro’s 26th of July Movement because they believed his appointment would be welcomed by the United States. Disagreements within the government culminated in Urrutia’s resignation in July 1959. He was replaced by Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, who served as president until 1976. Castro became prime minister in February 1959, succeeding José Miró in that post. (bold, italic is mine)

In its first year, the new revolutionary government expropriated private property with little or no compensation, nationalized public utilities, tightened controls on the private sector, and closed down the mafia-controlled gambling industry. The CIA conspired with the Chicago mafia in 1960 and 1961 to assassinate Fidel Castro, according to documents declassified in 2007.

Some of these measures were undertaken by Fidel Castro’s government in the name of the program outlined in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra. The government nationalized private property totaling about USD $25 billion, of which American property made up around USD $1 billion.

By the end of 1960, the coletilla made its appearance, and most newspapers in Cuba had been expropriated, taken over by the unions, or had been abandoned. All radio and television stations were in state control. Moderate teachers and professors were purged. In any year, about 20,000 dissenters were imprisoned. Some homosexuals, religious practitioners, and others were sent to labor camps where they were subject to political “re-education“. One estimate is that 15,000 to 17,000 people were executed.

The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as ultimate leader. Fidel’s brother, Raúl Castro, became the army chief Loyalty to Castro became the primary criterion for all appointments. In September 1960, the revolutionary government created a system known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), which provided neighborhood spying.”

It is small wonder why Americans are frightened of PresBOs’ socialistic tendencies. Cuba serves as an example that the wheels can come loose from the wagon of freedom very quickly indeed. The 2010 elections demonstrated that the American people can kick the likes of PresBO to the curb and put the wheels back on the wagon. Cuba was not so fortunate, even after being looked-upon for years as the most advanced Latin American nation, between 1950 and 1960, it was over. You know the rest of the story.

That’s why taking a step toward “normalization” of political and business relationships with Cuba will do more goodwill than ever before. More than a half-century of repression, in the name of revolution, has not advanced Cuba. Soviet-style communism failed but Fidel and Raul didn’t “get the memo”.

Let’s hope Egypt has learned by the sad histories of other nations like Cuba and doesn’t allow the moment for “freedom” to slip into another form of dictatorship.

For the moment, let’s make “Cuba Libre” the mantra for a new era of US-Cuban relations.

Now, that would be change I could embrace.

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