Obama: Right on Cuba, Wrong on Scalia Funeral

Mr. Obama made two decisions this week, to visit Cuba, and to not attend Justice Scalia’s funeral.

The Scalia decision may not be so smart. From Politico:

President Barack Obama is preparing for a fierce battle with the Senate over the Supreme Court vacancy, but he’s not planning to attend Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral — a decision that puzzled even some of his allies and incensed conservative media.

Yep, the decision to forgo the funeral on Saturday is called a partisan snub by the Right. They ignore that Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will go to the Supreme Court on Friday to pay their respects to Justice Scalia while the justice lies in repose in the Court’s Great Hall.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, who share Scalia’s Catholic faith, will attend the Catholic funeral services, representing the Administration.

Politico reports there is little precedent for presidents attending the funerals of sitting justices. President George W. Bush attended, and eulogized Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005. But before Rehnquist, the last justice to die in office was Robert H. Jackson in 1954.

It’s a can’t-win situation for Obama. If he attends, the right will pick apart his mannerisms, facial expressions and interactions with other attendees, criticizing what they will call snubs of various kinds.

While not attending again shows Obama’s tin ear when it comes to domestic politics, his decision is acceptable. Attending the funeral would not suddenly change the stance of Republicans who think that Obama should not nominate a Scalia replacement.

His decision to visit Cuba is smart. Obama will be the first US president to visit the island in 88 years. The last US president to travel to Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in January 1928.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a diplomatic thaw in  December 2014, after more than 50 years of disruption and confrontation between the two countries. The US and Cuba formally resumed bilateral relations in July, 2015. A month later, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, officially opened the US Embassy in Havana, becoming the first US diplomatic head to visit Cuba in 70 years.

Why do we care about opening Cuba? Here is one reason: a story in Forbes this week underlines what we can expect from opening relations.

Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal, both 72-year-old retired software engineers, are slated to become the first Americans since 1959 to set up a manufacturing plant in Cuba. Their plan: produce small, easily maintained tractors for use by family farmers. Under new regulations issued by the Obama administration, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control gave the Paint Rock, AL-based partners the go-ahead last week. Once they get final approval from the Cubans…in early 2017, they’ll start building a factory in a special economic zone set up by the Cuban government in the port city of Mariel.

The Wrongologist visited Cuba in 2014. Below is a photo of tobacco farming in Pinar Del Rio, a predominantly agricultural region about 2 hours from Havana that produces 70% of Cuba’s cigar tobacco. This farmer is using oxen to plow his tobacco field. Most independent farmers use animals for plowing.

The tractors that we did see were Soviet-era imports:

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clemmons and Berenthal got rich in tech here in the US, and identified the need for cheap tractors in Cuba. They will be showing their first tractor model at a Cuban agricultural fair in March. Why are they doing this? They have a desire to be helpful to the Cuban people, but they want profits:

Our business model says we are investing in Cuba and reinvesting any profits we make. We’ll do what we did with our other businesses. We’ll create value and then sell the company.

And was it easy for them to get US government approval? Berenthal told Forbes:

In all honesty it was tedious rather than difficult. We had to wait for the regulations to change so that the proposal we made was covered by the regulations implemented over the last nine months.

Isn’t it interesting that two entrepreneurial guys can identify a big market and jump in before the big US agricultural manufacturers?

And despite Mr. Cruz’ and Mr. Rubio’s yelling about Obama dealing with a Communist regime, the Cuban government appears willing to offer financial backing to private farmers who choose to buy from a privately owned US company.

Kudos to Obama, and to Clemmons and Berenthal. It is long overdue, yet somehow, just in time.

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Politics Is Usually Not The Answer

For the first time in his six SOTU speeches, the president’s economic message on Tuesday was not: “yes, the economy’s weak, but it’s getting stronger” or “we’re on the right path, but we’re not out of the woods.” Instead, he called 2014:

A breakthrough year for America, [as] our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

He added: “this is good news, people!” What President Obama meant was, now that we’ve have sustained economic growth in place, we need to start talking about the policy agenda that will give all of us a chance to benefit from that growth.

But the spin afterwards spoke about things like “leadership”, “redistribution” and “class warfare” that the many, many GOP presidential candidates and their surrogates will parse incessantly, without offering any solutions for our economic future, or those domestic problems that continue to dog America.

Speaking of politics that have not led to solutions, Mr. Obama spoke of his opening with Cuba. Here is what he said:

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new. And our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere. It removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba. It stands up for democratic values, and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo.

But anti-Castro politics, mostly fostered by Republicans, have embargoed some things that have potentially really cost American citizens. No, it’s not Cuban Rum. The Cubans have developed a drug called Heberprot-P, that appears to be very effective in curing advanced foot ulcers in people with diabetes. It could have been licensed for US clinical trials since 2007. It is patented in over 30 nations, including here in the US, and in the European Union.

Most of us have never heard of Heberprot-P. The drug uses a form of epidermal growth factor (EGF) to help regrow cells lost to diabetic foot ulcers (DFU). According to the American Diabetes Association, DFU causes about 73,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations in US adults aged 20 years or older who were diagnosed with diabetes.

The idea behind Heberprot was developed in St. Louis years before the embargo by biochemist Stanley Cohen and neurophysiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini. They received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discoveries of epidermal and nerve growth factors. They discovered that protein recumbent epidermal growth factor stimulates cell growth. The Cubans applied that idea to foot ulcers.

Because of the embargo, we haven’t brought the drug to the US for clinical trials. But, Mr. Obama could immediately license the import of Heberprot-P without waiting for Congress to debate the end of the embargo.

In fact, US scientists heard first hand from Cuban scientists about the Heberprot-P at two forums held here in 2014. One of them was a meeting of the Conference on the Management of Diabetic Foot Ulcers (DFCON, 2014), the largest meeting of US professionals treating patients with this ailment.

So, despite the politics and the hurdles presented by Cuban-American politicians, the President could license the importation of the drug for study and use in clinical trials, followed by an application for approval of Heberprot-P by the Food and Drug Administration. It could then be researched further by American scientists that wish to test different cell growth rates using incubation equipment and see if this treatment could in fact be applied to helping the regrowth of lost cells in humans due to DFU.

In fact, there is a precedent. In July, 2004, the federal government permitted a California biotechnology company to license three experimental cancer drugs from Cuba. That required permission from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

At the time, a State Department spokesperson said that an exception had been made because of the life-saving potential of the experimental Cuban drugs. A government condition of permitting the license required that payments to Cuba during the developmental phase were to be in goods like food or medical supplies, which are permitted under the embargo, while there are rules against providing the Cuban government with foreign currency. In 2004, the ruling was that after drugs reach the market, payments could be half in cash.

Many Americans are mutilated or die every year because of diabetic foot ulcers. First the toes go, then the feet, and later the legs. Death often follows.

And this drug could have been available for trials since 2007 and wasn’t, because of politics?

We should ask Republican politicians why. Maybe the Republican agenda has been helped by calling the Castro brothers sponsors of state terrorism, but it hasn’t done anything to help people with diabetes in the US keep their toes and feet.

 

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Monday Wake Up Call – December 22, 2014

RE: Sony. The twist in this case is the trope that North Korea is suppressing our Freedom of Speech. And, the suppressed “Freedom of Speech” is a shitty Hollywood movie. So the public is getting spun about an invisible, but somehow tangible, “attack” on our freedoms. The Wrongologist has no skills to determine who hacked Sony, but when the mainstream media jumps on something with both feet, you know it supports SOME government theme.

Is the plan to convince the American people that there are “threats” everywhere and that only the State Security Apparatus can protect them from Evil? The usual pun-holes on the Sunday tube talked about how big the threat is, and how vulnerable we are.

America has become a Factory of Fear. Fear the Muslims, fear Putin, fear China, fear immigrants, fear criminals, fear the national debt, fear detente with Cuba. Trouble is, once again, the only thing we’re being urged to do is muster up the courage to go shopping. Authoritarians need their subjects to be afraid. Their bet is that people will submit to bullying if they believe that the bullies are the only thing standing between them and their terrors.

Things have to change. Killing brown people for peace is not working. Our empire is bankrupting us, and has not made us any safer. Unfortunately in the US, our domestic politics, plus our failures in military adventurism, have created ever greater violence and lunacy, further feeding the rolling disaster.

As an example, take New York City. Two police were killed in their patrol car. NY’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police union, reacts by declaring that the NYPD has “become a ‘wartime’ police department, and we will act accordingly.”
Wartime, really? Are these the union’s marching orders to the 35,000 armed members of the biggest police department in the US? The NYPD seems to be asserting their superiority to the NYC executive branch. This has the earmarks of an attempted coup.

As a former military, the Wrongologist respects the absolute need for a chain of command with an elected civilian at the top. As a former military, he knows that many in the military only respect the authority of civilian leadership if the civilian happens to be a conservative.

The NYPD seems to be ready to strike out at their civilian leadership because they have deemed it to be unworthy of leading their “honorable” police force. Their attitude of superiority should scare the living daylights out of all of us. This attitude is not amenable to any evidence to the contrary, or to self-reflection and examination. It will brook no doubts about the moral purity of the NYC police.

This seems to be coming to a head, and seems that it will only get uglier.

Monday’s Wake Up Music: On a much lighter note, some seasonal music. Here are the Capitol Steps with a seasonal song about Guantanamo:

 

Next, a semi-seasonal tune by The Firemen. Sounds obscure? It is. The Firemen are a duo of Paul McCartney and Martin Glover, who performs as Youth. There are some doubts about whether or not “Dance ‘til We’re High” is a real Christmas song, even though it has lyrics about “winter coming”, “snow falling”, “bells ringing out” and a catchy tune. But, it’s way better than McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”:

Your Monday Linkage:
Tanks that won’t go away. The CRomnibus funding bill includes $554 billion for defense spending. This lines up almost exactly with President Obama’s original request, but Congress made considerable changes to where this money is being spent. According to analysis by Defense News, 10% of the FY15 defense appropriations budget—and 30% of all line items—were changed in the logrolling process. The biggest ticket items include $120 million more for M-1 Abrams tanks, despite Army protestations (for the third straight year) that no additional tanks are needed.

Oops. On July 3, Homeland Security, which plays a key role in responding to cyber-attacks, replied to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about a malware attack on Google called “Operation Aurora.” Unfortunately, DHS officials made a grave error in their response. DHS released more than 800 pages of documents related not to Operation Aurora but rather to the Aurora Project, a 2007 research effort demonstrating how easy it was to hack into US power and water systems.

Ars Technica calls the Sony hack a “software pipe bomb.” Analysis by Cisco of a malware sample matching the signature of the malware that was used in the attack on Sony Pictures, reveals that the code was full of bugs and was anything but sophisticated.

Our frequent commenter, Terry McKenna, has a great post about Cuba and our Constitution. Go read it.

Bill O’Reilly said this on his show:

It’s easier to believe in a benevolent God — the baby Jesus — than it is in some kind of theory about global warming. It’s just easier, is it not?

O’Reilly was making the point that literal belief in the story of the virgin birth as it appears in the gospels is easy, while believing that burning fossil fuels causes climate change is hard. Another way of putting this is that O’Reilly thinks it is easier to believe that a woman can be impregnated without sperm than it is to believe the consensus of the scientific community on an issue he apparently doesn’t understand.

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Friday Music Break – December 19, 2014

Today, a little more about Cuba. In January, while on a US government-sanctioned trip to Cuba, Wrongo met and became friendly with an award-winning author who also teaches at a local college in Havana. He is not a member of the Cuban Communist Party. Yesterday, I sent him a congratulatory email. Here is his reply:

What a great day for the future of this country, thanks to everyone´s support. We are starting a new path and I hope the future is prominent for all who genuinely dreamt of this great opportunity. Personally I will keep up the fight to bring both countries even closer. We all deserve it.

He is representative of many of the people I met during the week in Cuba. Many struggle to put food on the table, many are entrepreneurial, holding down 2 and sometimes 3 private sector jobs. And all were optimistic about the future, despite most being cash-poor.

A diplomatic thaw is a hopeful opening for both countries. Time will tell if the governments can match the willingness of their people to create an atmosphere of peace and cooperation.

Wrongo was a freshman in college when JFK gave what some call the “scariest speech ever”. We were playing cards in a dorm room, using a bed for a table as Kennedy spoke. Everyone in that room was frightened, and subsequently, all were drafted, or volunteered for military service after graduation.

Here is a short reminiscence about the times and the reactions in Washington and the Kremlin in 1962:

To help celebrate the end of belligerence between our two countries, here is Phil Ochs with “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” from 1965. It was about Vietnam, but it works for our 55-year disagreement with Cuba as well:

Sample lyric:
Now the labor leader’s screamin’
when they close the missile plants,
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore,
Call it “Peace” or call it “Treason,”
Call it “Love” or call it “Reason,”
But I ain’t marchin’ any more,

Phil, we could really use your voice now. The fight isn’t over.

See you Sunday.

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U-Turn in Cuba/US Relations

Yesterday, Mr. Obama announced that the US and Cuba will resume diplomatic relations after 55 years of dysfunction and belligerence. Predictably, a few Congressional leaders and Republican presidential hopefuls lashed out at the president and the decision. Jeb Bush said:

The benefactors of President Obama’s ill-advised move will be the Castro brothers.

This was followed by these predictable words from Sen. McCain (R-AZ) and his paramour, Sen. Huckleberry Butch Me Up (R-SC), who said that the policy shift reflected that: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

America and the values it stands for [are] in retreat and decline…It is about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs and adversaries, diminishing America’s influence in the world.

The Obama party line is: “the current policy has failed for 55 years. The Castro brothers have outlasted 8 US presidents. Let’s try something different.”

And here we are. This is now possible because the first generation of Cuban émigrés no longer completely control the Cuban voting bloc in Florida, the most crucial swing state to both parties. Consider the following:

• According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 1.9 million Cuban-Americans in the US. 70% of Cuban-Americans live in Florida, making them the most geographically concentrated of the 12 largest Hispanic origin groups.
• We know that the younger Cuban-Americans shifted toward the left during the 2012 election. In 2012, Obama won a majority of the Cuban-American vote in Miami. He won Cubans nationally by two points.

Here is how the political sands have shifted:

Cuban Political Preference

Thus, politics no longer drives the decision about our relationship with Cuba. Our 55 year-old hard line position was more about those upper middle class Cuban-American émigrés who hoped that the embargo would eventually force the return of houses that they abandoned 55 years ago when they left Cuba for Miami.

A final reason why this works for both sides right now is the Saudi decision to force lower oil prices. Cuba cannot sustain its economy on its own. As an example, Cuba now imports an estimated 80% percent of the food its people consume, at a cost of more than $1.5 billion per year. Venezuela has been Cuba’s prime financial benefactor, but the Venezuelan economy is in terrible shape, even before the current sharp decline in the price of oil, which is its primary source of state revenue.

They will soon be forced to cut Cuba’s rations. That will be a huge opening for the US, particularly since Cuba’s former benefactor, Russia, has its own economic difficulties as well.

Despite the Republican bleating about Cuba as a communist dictatorship with a horrible human rights record, being a communist government with horrible human rights record hasn’t stopped America from dealing with China, which these same Republicans think is just fine.

So why not trade with Cuba? How can trade with Cuba be a sign of political weakness, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to global economic progress and a spirit of international harmony?

It’s been wrong for the US to continue to hold a cold war grudge against Cuba. The US could most readily help the people of Cuba by opening up trade between the two countries.

Let’s close with a song about going to Cuba by Jackson Browne:

Sample lyric:
I’m going to drink the Ron Anejo
and walk out on the Malecon
in one hand a Monte Cristo
and in the other an ice cream cone.

And they truly love their ice cream.

Good luck to the Cubans, a lovely people, and a lovely country.

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Postcard from Cuba, Part III

Cuba’s Future and its Relationship with the United States

The Wrongologist did not become an expert by spending 7 days in Cuba. Just like all countries, Cuba is a complex set of equations. A few truths did emerge though:

Ideology and Intellectual History:

Cuba is organized around the intellectual legacy of Jose Marti. Statues of Marti and quotes from his writings are everywhere in Cuba, including in many homes and public buildings. He was 42 when he died in battle against Spanish troops at the Battle of Dos Ríos, in May, 1895. After his death, one of his poems from the book, “Versos Sencillos” (Simple Verses) was adapted to the song “Guantanamera“, which has become the definitive patriotic song of Cuba.

The Wrongologist was struck by a quote on the wall of the Hogar Materno he visited in Old Havana. Here is his translation:

When you struggle for your country and life, division and rivalry are crimes – Marti

Those are words to live by. For Cubans, the revolution was not an event; it is a national continuous improvement process that is still moving forward, 55 years after the overthrow of the dictator, Batista. Here is a billboard just outside of the Jose Marti International Arrivals building that makes the point:

Cubans have internalized the ideology of the Revolution. It comes through in their speaking in a matter-of-fact way,
similar to the way Evangelicals speak about being Christians. This is not an equivalency; while Cubans are somewhat religious, the Revolution is a part of Cuban life, both in practical and ideological ways.

Cubans are steeped not only in the ideology of the July 26th Revolution, but in the writings of Marti and Che Guevara. Che was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary and is a common symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular Cuban culture.

Here is a
photo of a wall in Old Havana. Che played a central role in training
the militia forces that repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and in bringing the Soviet
missiles to Cuba, precipitating the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. He was executed by
Bolivian troops in 1967 after he joined their revolution.


 

 

Havana’s Revolution Square is the political and cultural center of the city; it is the site where Fidel Castro has addressed the Cuban people, occasionally with more than 1 million people participating.

The Square has a 55’ tall statue of Jose Marti at its center. The Square is surrounded by buildings housing the major ministries of the Cuban government, including the Communist Party, Armed Forces, Communications, and Economic and Planning, the National Theater and the Jose
Marti Library.

Here is a photo of the Informatics and Communications Ministry in Revolution Square:

The Cuban Revolution was a turning point in Cuban/American relations. In August 1960, the Eisenhower administration froze all Cuban assets on American soil, severed diplomatic
ties, and tightened its embargo of Cuba. The embargo, called “the blockade” by Cubans, is the longest-lasting single foreign policy in American history. It remains in force today, although there have been efforts, notably by the Obama administration, to loosen it in recent years.

What is the status of Cuba’s economy?

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the economy is  divided into the following revenue streams:

  • Export of Healthcare Services – as described in the Wrongologist’s Postcards from Cuba -Part II, Cuba earns $9 billion/year in hard currency by exporting health care services.
  • Nickel − Cuba has the third-largest nickel reserves in the world. Nickel is the country’s biggest material export, bringing in roughly $2.7 billion in 2007
  • Tourism − Now the economy’s 2nd largest source of revenue, tourists–primarily from Canada and the European Union—brings more than $2.7 billion into the country.
  • Remittances − Academic sources estimate remittances total more than $1 billion a year, most coming from families in the US. If limits on remittances are lifted, this figure could increase substantially.
  • Sugar − Sugar was long the primary industry in Cuba, but production has plummeted due to outdated factory equipment.
  • Foreign investments − Cuba receives hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investments from China,
    Venezuela, and Spain.

Food security is a major problem for Cuba. According to the Miami Herald:

Cuba saw a steep and unexplained drop in the harvest of vegetables and fruit in the first three months of the year [2013] despite government reforms to increase production in a country that spends more than $1.5 billion on food imports

Overall agricultural production, not counting sugarcane, dropped by 7.8% in the first quarter of 2013 compared
to the first three months of 2012. But some sectors saw far bigger plunges. Plantains dropped by 44.2%, potatoes by 36% and citrus by 33.9%. Part of the decline is attributed to Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba on Oct. 25. Eastern Cuba is known for its fruit production.

This grim outcome is despite President Raúl Castro’s 2007 campaign to increase domestic food production by leasing fallow state lands to private farmers, hiking the prices
that the government pays for agricultural goods and easing state controls on the distribution networks. Food production on the island dropped in 2011 to pre-2007 levels and dropped again in 2012, when agricultural food prices were
reported to have spiked by about 20%.

Cuba now imports an estimated 80% percent of the food its people consume, at a cost of more than $1.5 billion per year. This
is hardly a sustainable scenario, and while there does not appear to be starvation in Cuba, food shortages remain a problem.

The Wrongologist visited a predominantly farming area in Pinar Del Rio and saw a farm that did not use agricultural chemicals, relying instead on organic fertilization and pest control.

One issue that leads to inefficiency is the reliance by small independent farmers on animals for plowing. Here is a tobacco farmer in Pinar Del Rio:

The lack of tractors is very obvious in this agricultural region that is less than 2 hours from Havana. Most tractors that we did see were Soviet-era imports.

 

What are the issues that prevent normalization of US-Cuba relations?

  • Human rights violations − In March 2003, the Cuban government arrested 75 dissidents and journalists, sentencing them to prison terms of up to 28 years
    on charges of conspiring with the United States to overthrow the state. There are reports that the government has in recent years used other tactics
    besides prison, including firings from state jobs and intimidation, to silence opposition figures. Despite a 2005 UN Human Rights Commission vote that condemned Cuba’s human rights record, Cuba was elected to the UN Human Rights Council in 2006.
  • Guantanamo Bay − Cuban officials have seized on the US prison camp as a “symbol of solidarity” with the rest of the world against the United States.
  • Cuban exile community − The Cuban-American community in southern Florida traditionally has heavily influenced US policy with Cuba. Both political parties fear alienating a strong voting bloc in an important swing state in presidential elections.

According to the BBC, Edward Alex Lee of the US State Department said: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The United States is ‘very open’ to building a new relationship with Cuba but that any improvement should go hand-in-hand with more political freedom [in Cuba]

Lee went on to say that the two countries had held “very constructive” talks on migration and other issues last week, but he declined to give any details of what he called “substantial progress”. Lee added that the
two nations would seek to continue their negotiations:

Despite our historically difficult relationship…we have been able to speak to each other in a respectful and thoughtful manner…

So maybe there is hope that normalization of relations can take place. Most Cubans that the Wrongologist talked to about this feel it will happen in about 3 years. This may be unconsciously tied to their estimate of when Fidel Castro
will die. Perhaps they believe that the attitudes of Cuban-Americans who control much of America’s agenda regarding Cuba will soften when Fidel dies.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 1.9 million Cuban-Americans in the US. 70% of Cuban-Americans live in Florida, making them the most geographically concentrated of the 12 largest Hispanic origin groups.

We know that the younger generation of Cuban-Americans voting bloc took a major shift toward the left during the 2012 election. According to Dan Moffett, an immigration writer:

According to exit polls by Bendixen & Amandi International, President Obama got 48% of the exile community’s vote and Republican candidate Mitt Romney received 52%. Four years before, when Obama ran against John McCain, he got only 35% of the Cuban-American vote

Polling done by Bendixen & Amandi was trying to measure the generational shift within the Cuban community. The pollsters found that President Obama in 2012 won 60% of the votes of those Cuban-Americans who were born in the United States. Romney, meanwhile, won 55% of the vote among Cuban-Americans who were born in Cuba.

However, politicians remember that in 2004, John Kerry was able to get only 29% of the state’s Cuban-American vote in losing to George W. Bush. In 2000, Bush got about 75% of the bloc’s vote in defeating Al Gore. Cuban-Americans were
the difference in Bush winning Florida, and Florida was the difference in his winning the White House.

Conclusions:

Thinking that Cuban-American relations could be normalized within three years or when Fidel Castro dies is overly optimistic. It’s really a bit silly that the US continues to hold a cold war grudge against Cuba. The US could most readily help the people of Cuba by opening up trade between the two countries. A communist government with horrible human rights record hasn’t stopped America from dealing with China, so why not trade with Cuba? (Not that the Wrongologist is a supporter of communist governments or states that lack commitment to human rights)

How can trade with Cuba be wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to economic progress and a spirit of international harmony?

The US is happily in bed with the “democracy” that is Saudi Arabia, but cannot abide the Cuban state? Our hard line position is more about those Cuban-Americans who feel that the embargo will eventually return the houses that they abandoned 55 years ago when they left Cuba for Miami.

That isn’t about ideology, or about the human rights of the Cuban people.

It’s time we change our strategy. Our policies haven’t broken the Cuban government in 55 years, so it may be time to give up the sanctions and help ourselves and the Cuban people.

The alternative is for the US to cede that relationship to China.

The US State Department is not afraid of a “special relationship” between Venezuela and Cuba, but a “special relationship” with China will remind our old guard political realists of the terribly flawed geopolitical position the US had when the Soviet Union made Cuba into an economic client.

Yet, Cubans should be careful what they wish for. Fast food restaurants, more high-rise hotels and golf courses may create tin shack shanty towns when American developers are allowed into Havana.

Good luck to the Cubans, lovely people, and a lovely country.

(This is the final installment of the 3-part series on the Wrongologist’s visit to Cuba.)

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