by Claude Chaney
It is indeed a wonderful thing that progress has been made in establishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and The United States. U.S. citizens for the first time will be able to spend money in Cuba and use their credit cards. The two countries have been socially and politically cut off from each other since 1961. I can only hope that this initiative signals the genuine new beginning that will benefit both countries.
There are several factors that led to this breakthrough. The United States is more interested in punishing Russia than it is in continuing to punish Cuba (with a heartless blockade). Through careful manipulation with Saudi Arabia the price of oil worldwide has plummeted....and this hurts Russia. Introducing US business to Cuba also hurts Russia. More Cuban dollars spent on US products will definitely diminish Cuban business with Russia. The rest of the world, excepting staunch U.S. allies like Canada, Israel and Great Britain can't understand the reasons for this blockade, which can't be justified by the US saying we don't do business with Communist countries because China is a Communist country, and not only does China do a lot of business with the United States, the United States has borrowed huge sums of money from China.
The United States has long been an obstacle to Cuba joining the Organization of American States, using its veto successfully and persuading other Latin American leaders to follow suit, as a result the governments of the South American countries had plans for a "new" UN like organization that would have included Cuba and excluded the United States and Canada.
From the calamitous "Bay of Pigs" invasion to the numerous attempts to murder Fidel Castro all attempts to dislodge the Castro regime have resulted in embarrassing failures, while the Cuban accomplishments have been mind boggling: Cuba is among the most literate countries in the Western Hemisphere.....even surpassing the United States. With the soaring costs of getting an education in the United States reaching record breaking levels. Cuba has opened it's "free" medical schools to the rest of the world. Students from the United States (especially African-American students from Mississippi, Alabama and other southern states) are taking advantage of this opportunity. All the Cuban government asked from the students is upon completion of studies return and practice in your own communities.
It was no accident that Nelson Mandela visited Cuba upon his release from prison. Yes, boycotts and worldwide anti-apartheid protests did help to topple the racist South African regime, but the major credit has to go to Cuba. Over 10,000 soldiers from this small island nation lost their lives fighting apartheid and more than anyone else played the most significant role in the existence of democracy in the South African nation today.
An espionage deal also played a role in the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. The Cubans gave up a US spy who allegedly planning to distribute dangerously harmful weapons to Anti-Castro Cubans on the island. This person (Mr. Gross) was exchanged for the three remaining Cuban Five in US jails who entered the United States to infiltrate an Anti-Castro unit in Florida that allegedly had plans to overthrow the current Cuban government.
Although vilified in the U.S. media as a pariah, Fidel Castro is seen as a hero to many because he is like a David who conquered a Goliath. The United States with all those weapons and all that influence could not bring Castro to his knees. Finally Barack Obama realized this and apparently decided to go in another direction. Predictably this angers many Republicans (like Florida's Marco Rubio) and Democrats (like New Jersey's Robert Menendez) who have vowed to undo any agreements made by President Obama and President Raul Castro.
Those of us who support this change of policy cannot be naive. We must keep in mind we will be facing and increasingly combative Republican congress who that may use this as a reason to impeach the president in spite of the fact that most Americans, most Cuban Americans and world wide public opinion favor these moves. We must also keep in mind that this doesn't end the blockade. In order for the blockade to end Congress must approve. I don't see a Republican Senate or a Republican House of Representatives voting to end the awful blockade, but we can always hope.