Our Failed, Punitive Policy
By Anya Landau French
Wednesday, February 20, 2008; A17
Wednesday, February 20, 2008; A17
Fidel Castro‘s leaving office on his own terms is not the kind of change that successive American presidents have envisioned for Cuba. In fact, it’s a sign that U.S. efforts to isolate that country and bring down its socialist government have failed.
Today Venezuela, China, Canada, Spain and Brazil all have a robust presence on the island. Venezuela continues to trade cut-rate oil for Cuban doctors. Canada, Spain and China have made major investments in Cuba over the past decade in tourism, nickel and energy. These relationships helped enable Cuba to achieve 7 percent economic growth last year (a CIA estimate) in spite of U.S. efforts to limit hard-currency flows to the island.
As interim leader, Fidel’s brother Raúl has spotlighted longstanding economic problems, criticized the government’s performance and raised expectations of policy changes that will improve conditions for the average Cuban.
Regardless of whether Cuba’s next president delivers or disappoints, Cuba is on the verge of generational change as Fidel Castro and his cohorts leave the scene, one by one. America’s next president faces a choice: Continue a Cuba policy rooted in ineffective sanctions or tailor U.S. policy to new possibilities.
. . . Treating Cuba as an all-or-nothing proposition has netted the United States nothing. Our interests go unserved and our ideals unmet.
Now that Fidel is stepping down from the presidency of Cuba, it’s OK to discuss the island-nation that we
- failed to recognize,
- failed to help when we could have helped,
- failed to defeat,
- failed to humble, failed to intimidate and
- failed to understand it made a mockery of our ‘diplomacy‘
Such was the bull–headedness of administration after administration, based on nothing more than having supported (what, again?) an insupportable dictatorship and demanding the property rights of (what, again?) the mafia and near-mafia who owned and ran the profit centers of Cuba. It was America’s island LasVegas, dedicated to the same propositions of gambling, prostitution and money-laundering (with United Fruit Company sugar plantations thrown in the bargain).
In ’59, after his successful revolution and the throwing out of United Fruit and the American dominated financial interests in Cuba, Castro went to the United Nations for support, looking for investment, plucking chickens in his hotel suite. The United States, which could have and should have supported this fledgling socialist democracy, turned its back (what, again?) and instead turned Cuba into a 50 year experiment in American neglect.
Now, while everyone but the U.S. government admits the failure of that policy–United Fruitless is the best metaphor for the results–no one knows how to get back into the game. With Castro stepping down, what’s left but to stand by helplessly and watch Spain, Canada, Germany and Argentina return Cuba to its pre-American splendor as a tourist island?
The exiled sons and daughters of Casino and Mercedes dealership owners can watch from Miami (which they succeeded in turning into the world’s most dangerous city), but they are (so far) restricted from going there. The joke is, they are unable legally to visit Cuba by their own insistence, having played hardball and lost.
They should have remembered Cuba is a baseball-loving nation and hardball is their game.
For 50 years, Cubans on the island suffered to one degree or another from American foolishness–longer, if you count the decades of pre-Castro American influence. Now, the singular focus of this whole delusion based diplomatic effort is stepping down–not overthrown, assassinated (although god knows we tried often enough) or dead of old age, but by Mr. Castro’s own choice.
The laugh is on America, but the price was paid by Cubans. Now, at long last, supported by the West (as they should have been) perhaps they will be free to thrive.
And we will be free to watch.