By Martin Dyckman
Insanity has been defined often (though most likely never by Albert Einstein himself) as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
By that standard, the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba is a spectacular example of insanity.
After almost 53 years, it still is nowhere near to bestowing liberty on the Cuban people, which is supposedly the purpose.
To the contrary, it helps keep the Castro dictatorship in power by providing a plausible excuse for everything that’s miserable about life in Cuba, from the chronic shortages of food and such basic consumer goods as soap to the constant suppression of free speech and the imprisonment of dissidents.
President Raul Castro admitted as much – in effect – when he warned that the new diplomatic rapprochement would not lead to political reform in Cuba. That means he’s afraid that it will.
The embargo has succeeded at nothing – or so it would seem – other than to perpetuate the misfortunes of a captive people.
The more that Cubans might see of a nearby nation, largely populated by people just like them, where speech is free and small business is allowed to flourish, the less they’ll tolerate what they have to put up with now. The more they could earn from trade, the less the Castros could control them.
This was evident in the joyful response in Havana to President Barack Obama’s announcement that the U.S. would resume diplomatic relations and liberalize non-tourist travel.
But the logical consequence of lifting the embargo requires Congressional consent, which seems to be even more remote now that the Republicans rule both houses.
It’s a dreadful twist of fate that puts Sen. Marco Rubio in charge of the subcommittee that can block it.
Although Rubio’s parents fled Cuba before Fidel Castro came to power – and lost nothing as a result – no one is more outspoken or outwardly devoted to perpetuating the spectacular failure of the embargo.
So is that insanity on Rubio’s part?
That depends on what he, and other pro-embargo politicians, actually expect of it.
If they really think it will bring down the Castros, then it is insanity.
But if their actual expectation is only to secure and lock down the political support of the older Cuban exiles, whose intense hatred of the Castros colors their judgment, then they’re getting just what they expect. Never mind how much harm it does in the bargain.
The aging exiles are single-issue voters. As with the gun lobby and the anti-abortion movement, nothing else matters to them. And until recently, they have had the perceived power to make the difference in elections in Florida, New Jersey and scattered congressional districts across the nation.
But did they account for Charlie Crist’s 64,145-vote loss to Rick Scott after Crist said he would visit Cuba? Not likely. Accustomed to voting hard-red Republican ever since the Bay of Pigs, they would not have voted for a Democrat on any account. Crist probably gained even more votes, from younger or non-Cuban Hispanics, by reversing his own course on Cuba.
Obama, certainly, is aware that support for the embargo has evaporated among the second-and third-generation Cuban-Americans.
What Rubio needs now to consider and accept is that Florida, situated where it is, has more to gain from trade with Cuba than any other state.
Although nobody seems to be talking about it, there could also be a huge benefit for the Everglades should renewed trade with Cuba lead to importing Cuban sugar once again. It would then be impossible to maintain the current U.S. system of domestic price supports and import quotas.
Alfonso Fanjul, one of the two Cuban expatriate brothers who rule the sugar roost in Florida, disclosed to the Washington Post last February that he had begun visiting Cuba and would be eager, under the right conditions, to resume sugar production there. It’s a safe bet that he and Obama have been discussing this.
The more sugar cane the Fanjuls grow in Cuba, the less phosphate pollution will flow into the Everglades.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of the embargo remains as flagrant as the insanity of expecting it to unseat the Castros.
Cuba has posed no threat of any kind to us since Nikita Khrushchev took his nuclear missiles home in 1962. China, on the other hand, is a hugely more populous and powerful rival, with an economy and population well over 100 times more than those of Cuba, and it is every bit as totalitarian as Cuba. Yet we have free and open trade with China, along with other undemocratic regimes.
The hypocrisy is the consequence of single-issue politics. We need to get beyond that, and if Rubio can’t bring himself to lead, let him at least get out of the way.
Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives near Waynesville, North Carolina.
Rick Gardner says
Thank you Mr. Dyckman for inserting a little common sense and pragmatism into the Cuba debate
Mr. Dyckman’s article is not very good. He touts how US policy hasn’t worked in Cuba. I disagree completely. It’s worked tremendously. Cuba decided to embrace the oppressive and economically suicidal policies of communist/ socialism. It had to rely on like minded failing countries for trade.
What 0bama has done doesn’t benefit our country…at all. Rubio was absolutely correct when he said “The president is thee worst negotiator in US history”. The policy is a complete failure in regarding to the US.
I have no problems with the House of Representatives and the Senate addressing our policies, internationally. I think this absolutely needs to be done. However, the first and foremost of any international policy is to achieve what is in your countries best interest, whether that interest is militarily or economically.
0bama’s tyrannical, thoughtless action was nothing more than publicity stunt to take attention away from the epic loss by democrats in the election and 0bama and democrat policy failures that have the economy still sluggish because of their “only government” focus and goals.
Makes sense to me. Thanks, FlaglerLive, for including this guest column on a critical subject.
Lynn Anderson says
The U.S. is not the suppressor of Cuba or its people. Castro can take the credit for all of that. Cuba conducts international trade with many third-party countries and even has been a member of the World Trade Organization for 20 years. The embargo is enforced by six U.S. statutes and for very good reasons. As Mike Huckabee said, “Obama talks to dictators more than he does to Congress & allies. He just ignored 60 yrs of policy because he knows better than anybody else.”
For god sake Lynn, get over it! The US bailed on Cuba for sending capitalists packin and the rhetoric about Castro is still your argument? The embargo crippled their economy and suffered the Cuban people. Hell…I’d take aid from the USSR too! The politicians can’t use Cuba for votes anymore and we finally are on track to a peaceful existence!
Who doesn’t long for the good ole days of the Batista regime? Back then the mob and corporate America ran Cuba like, well, Louisiana.
As a Cuban American this is the best news I’ve heard in a long time. The embargo was always pointless. My father was a political prisoner in Cuba and he always wanted the embargo to end. This is the best thing that can happen for Cuba and its people.
Putting aside all the comments about Castro, want the real reason for the change in policy, follow the money. What supporters of the current administration and congressmen are going to make out. It will be cheaper to ship directly to Cuba and not via Canada.
Can’t wait to be allowed to visit Cuba!! Was time that” should all aquaintance be forgot” for the betterment of the Cuban people…never mind Castro after 53 years!! We forgiven, China, Rusia, Vietnam, Korea …then why not Cuba?
This issue should be debated on the floor of congress, not changed on a whim by presidential fiat.
What is gained by the US by this policy change? Oh yes, we get to visit cuba and spend our money….their government and power brokers, who have chosen a broken, dilapidated, antiquated socialist system that should be kicked to the dustbin of history, continue to get propped up.
I’m always amazed that people continue to find anything remotely valid in Karl Marx, who never worked a day in his life and bummed off the merchantile family of, the other moron, Engels. Yes, lets create a utopia in which we do away with private property and rights, destroy the idea of individual achievment and personal ambition will be punished! What could possibly go wrong?
Sherry Epley says
She said sarcastically. . . Yes, let’s debate absolutely EVERYTHING on the floor of this completely obstructionist Congress! Let’s continue to STOP ANY bills from being passed! In that way, our country’s policy and law making will continue to be completely frozen and other countries can gain power and influence in the world, at our expense! Let’s continue to flaunt how divided we are! Let’s do our best to move backwards! Onwards White Christian soldiers! A gun in every home! To hell with any “common good”!
I don’t know if you realize this or not, but when you speak of “Congress” there are two parts: The Senate and, then, the House of Representatives.
The House has passed over 500 bills that were sent to Sen. Harry Reid’s, the Senate Majority leader, office the last two years. Sen. Reid refused to even debate them on the Senate floor.
Let me guess…you’re one of those do-gooder government types, right? The kind who thinks that society fails if government isn’t “doing something”, right?
Is massive debt progress? Is passing ACA on the backs of lies, fraud and deceit progress, Shirley? Is the indiscriminate drone bombing of civilians progress?
When you pass repressive and over indulgent government, don’t be surprised when that government does things that you don’t agree with and over step their bounds. That’s simply what big government does.