The Evansville, Indiana Courier-Press is talking about the embargo this morning (Annoying registration required) in an unsigned editorial.
It says a battle is looming in Washington between two influential special interest groups - the anti-castro Cubans on one side, and the farm lobby on the other.
The Bush administration, always very attentive to the anti-Castro Cuban-American lobby, is about to tighten up on sales of agricultural and medical goods to Cuba, one of the few exemptions in the long-standing U.S. economic embargo on Havana.
That has outraged the farm lobby, already not too happy with the administration over proposed cuts in farm subsidies.
Boo, hoo, hoo. The huge corporate farms are upset because they may no longer be able to get their government welfare checks paid for by the rest of us. Plus, they are upset because they may not be able to rake in cash (the only form of payment allowed) while propping up a dictator.
In case you didn't read my previous posts, Cuba is now up to number 25 on the list of our trading partners - the whining corporate farmers sell $762-million in goods to fidel, and, I remind you, are paid in cash. And now there are more tears, because the Treasury Department is proposing to make fidel pay cash in advance. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) is threatening to block the Bush Administration's nominees if the measure is imposed.
The farm state fever for fidel is bi-partisan. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho) say they will introduce legislation to stop Treasury from interfering with their feeding of fidel.
The editorial goes on to call the embargo a four-decade long failure (possibly a valid point) kept in place by a conspiracy of domestic politics. It complains of restrictions on travel to Cuba.
The ban on visits to Cuba is a gross infringement of Americans' right to travel where they wish. Maybe aggrieved wheat, meat and soybean producers can win that right back.
I agree that the ban is a gross infringement of the rights of Americans. I also think it prohibits those of us interested in a free Cuba from helping foment revolution there. But the Courier-Press seems interested in travel by wheat, meat and soybean producers and the blood-stained money they may bring back with them.
Then There Are Cigars
ABC News reports that Cuba celebrated its cigar festival last week. It points out that the travel ban has cut down on the celebrities, but it reports there are still many Americans there.
Paul and a group of his American friends were dining at what was once an exclusive beachfront club frequented by former dictator Fulgencio Batista. On the outskirts of a crumbling but still enchanting Havana, the club is now open to foreign visitors.
Paul said 15 of his friends from different U.S. states had come to the festival through Canada. (The American visitors asked ABC News to withhold their last names because they were in Cuba illegally and risked being fined on their return to the United States.)
Paul says five or six of his friends are millionaires.
It was perfect weather. The palm trees swayed and the sea lapped the shore. After a first course of lobster bisque, caviar and oysters, a jazz band struck up a tune as Canadian salmon and caribou were served with wine.
Canadian salmon and caribou for the law-breaking millionaires who have no problem propping up fidel. Of course the ordinary Cubans, the ones actually living in the "crumbling but still enchanting Havana" are starving.
I'm reminded of an anchor I worked with at the Jacksonville Clear Channel television station. Her husband is a big name photographer - Sports Illustrated, Life, etc. He claims fidel as a friend. They went on their honeymoon to Havana. She came back talking about how wonderful the Cuban people live. fidel took care of everything for them and they didn't have to worry.
I asked, "Did you go out and talk to the people, circulate among them and get to know them?"
"Oh, no," said the anchor. "We were afraid we might catch something. We stayed in the hotel and ate pop tarts we had brought with us."
I began to call her pet names - fidelita, commie, etc. I was soon fired. She and her husband had a daughter and named her Havana. I guess they have sweet memories of pop tarts in the crumbling but still enchanting city.