Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Obama Takes Historic Steps Towards Lifting Cuban Embargo!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I have written many commentaries on America’s 50-year embargo against Cuba. Here, for example, are excerpts from two of them in which I proffered the moral imperative for the United States to lift it.

  • fidelb-720814From “Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” August 2, 2007:

Most of us in the Americas are acutely aware that Exhibit A for the patent double standards in U.S. foreign policy is not America’s relationship with Palestine; it’s America’s relationship with Cuba.

Moreover, all fair-minded and progressive-thinking Americans lament that, for almost 45 years, U.S. foreign policy throughout this region has paid undue deference to a cabal of Cuban exiles in Miami – whose political sensibilities are guided by nothing more than their visceral, vindictive and, ultimately, self-defeating hatred of Fidel Castro.

  • And from “European Union Lifts Sanctions against Cuba. United States Will Follow … Eventually,” June 23, 2008:

Advocates for America’s puerile, inhumane and hypocritical policy towards Cuba invariably cite Fidel Castro’s dictatorship as justification for sustained hostilities. But all one has to do is cite China – with whose dictators the U.S. courts a very beneficial relationship – to dismiss this justification as demonstrably specious…

Long before his first trip to Cuba in 1998, the Pope [John Paul II] decried America’s policy towards Cuba as ‘oppressive, unjust, and ethically unacceptable…’ Specifically, he pronounced that ‘imposed isolation strikes the people indiscriminately, making it ever more difficult for the weakest to enjoy the bare essentials of decent living, things such as food, health and education.’

More to the point, though, while other pundits were waxing either theoretical or completely hopeless about this prospect, here is the political predicate I posited for the United States to finally lift the embargo:

I am convinced that, if re-elected, Obama will seal his legacy by lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba.

(“Fifth Summit of the Americas: Managing Expectations, The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2009)

B5EqmhuCcAAIj6UWell, thusly re-elected, he is now vindicating my expectations, and sealing his legacy:

Today the United States of America is changing it relationship with the people of Cuba … we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries…

Consider that for more than 35 years we’ve had relations with China – a far larger country also governed by a communist party…

To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today … I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.

(“President Obama Statement on Cuba,” C-SPAN, December 17, 2014)

VbTms.AuSt.91Obama delineated the many steps he intends to take to implement this policy shift immediately, especially with respect to diplomatic relations, financial transactions, communications, travel … and trade.

Out of respect, he urged Congress to come to its senses and pass legislation to formally lift the embargo. But this is no more necessary for Obama to normalize relations with Cuba than Congress coming to its senses and passing legislation to formally apologize for slavery was for President Lincoln to abolish slavery. (Congress finally apologized in 2008  – almost 150 years after Lincoln took his steps).

For its part, Cuba agreed, among other things, to continue political reforms, release scores of political prisoners (from a list the United States provided), and allow Cubans unfettered access to the Internet.

RUBIO-videoSixteenByNine540Unsurprisingly, Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is leading the chorus of those insisting that Cuba has not implemented enough democratic reforms to “deserve” normalized relations with the United States.

But, as indicated above, all one has to do is challenge those folks to cite what reforms made China deserving, especially given that no less a person than Rubio himself voted just this year to support normalized relations with this unabashedly communist dictatorship.

They exclaim that America is getting nothing in exchange.

But, putting aside the imperial and mercantile arrogance inherent in this exclamation, all one has to do is challenge them to cite what benefits America has gotten in exchange for the 50-year embargo they still support.

Frankly, (mostly White) Miami Cubans care more about continuing their legacy of hatred and resentment against the Castros than about ending the legacy of poverty and isolation (mostly Black) Cubans – who were too poor to escape – have endured.

But, like Obama intimated, those who oppose normalizing relations with Cuba, after decades of the same old sanctions, fit the Einsteinian definition of insanity.

That said, I would be remiss not to note that these are historic steps every president from Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush wanted to, but dared not, take. Which is why, like healthcare reform, this milestone development demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt the boldness and effectiveness of Obama’s transformational leadership.

Incidentally, anyone who thinks Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba just because it released two American spies probably also thinks he championed healthcare reform just to provide poor women easy access to abortions.

140316-obama-putin-jms-1716_8738df87611b8c672fae8d824b332866No less noteworthy, though, is that this move makes fools of the pundits who have been ridiculing Obama – as an upstart playing checkers on the world stage against Vladimir Putin as a master playing chess.

Not least because all Putin has to show for his ham-handed moves in Eastern Ukraine is history’s biggest money pit in Crimea, a national economy that is hurtling into recession, and Russia now as reviled and isolated, for all intents and purposes, as North Korea.

vladimir-putin2All this has befallen his country as a direct result of Obama’s deft move to marshal European nations to join the United States in imposing crippling sanctions to punish Putin for his Hitlerian aggression. And, significantly, Obama did it without resorting to any of the Cold War rhetoric and bullying military maneuvers Putin has been relying on to make himself appear strong.

Which brings me to the geostrategic timing of this move. After all, the truly humbling irony should not be lost on anyone that Obama is bringing Cuba in from the cold with one hand, while pushing its former Communist patron, Russia, out in the cold with the other hand. And, trust me, Cuba is eager to grasp America’s hand in friendship as it jumps from Russia’s Cold War sinking ship….

In an address on Cuba-US relations broadcast on national radio and television on Wednesday, Cuban President Raul Castro said that US President Barack Obama’s decision to normalise relations between the two countries deserves the respect and acknowledgement of the Cuban people.

(Caribbean News Now, December 17, 2014)

So who’s the master now, bitches? Hell, this (chess) move might make Obama finally worthy of that affirmative-action Nobel Peace Prize he won five years ago. After all, Barack Obama normalizing ties with Cuba is, arguably, every bit as consequential as Jimmy Carter brokering peace between Egypt and Israel. No?

Hail Obama!

CARICOM-Single-Market-and-EconomyFinally, I feel constrained to remind my compatriots down in the Caribbean of this abiding fringe concern:

I find it ironic, if not misguided, that CARICOM leaders traveled to Cuba – in an unprecedented show of unity amongst themselves and solidarity with the Castro regime – for this elusive purpose.

After all, my call [to lift the embargo] was always tempered by my hope that a fully integrated CARICOM would be firmly established to compete economically (and politically) in the region with a Cuba unbound by the perennial restrictions the U.S. has placed on its growth…

[T]he irony seems completely lost on our leaders that they were attending a summit to discuss economic ties with a country that not only poses a far greater threat to their economies than the global financial crisis, but also looms as yet another cause for more zero-sum infighting among themselves (in the absence of integration).

(“CARICOM’s Ironic, If Not Misguided, Call to Lift Cuban Embargo,” Caribbean News Now, December 12, 2008)

Alas, integrating our economies into a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) seems even less likely today than six years ago, when I expressed this existential concern.

Related commentaries:
Dancing on Castro’s grave
EU lifts….
Fifth summit
Obama’s bay of pigs
Obama Nobel prize
CARICOM

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