A group of 30 companies and organizations from 19 states wants to open trade with Cuba and plans to fight Bush administration rules tightening trade. The Sun Sentinel reports The U.S.-Cuba Trade Association includes well known companies such as ADM, Cargill, and Caterpillar, plus some groups that are no surprise, such as The U.S. Rice Federation and the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.
The group organized after the Treasury Department decided in February that sales to Cuba must be cash only.
"This action has already disrupted and directly hurt the smooth trade which in three years produced over $1.2 billion in sales by American firms," Association President Kirby Jones said in a statement.
Folks who still believe there is an embargo, take a look at that number - $1.2 billion. I'll admit being conflicted by this topic. On the one hand, I'm bothered by the quote - it seems to show a crassness - a sense that only money is important.
On the other hand, I'm convinced that the Cuban people will never be able to overthrow fidel so long as they have to spend most of their waking days worrying about how to feed their children. I think fidel knows this and purposely starves the petulance. After all, 1958 was a pretty good year, economically, in Cuba.
We've seen in Iraq, South Africa and other places that the elites in a closed society maintain a high standard of living for themselves no matter what economic pressures the outside world enacts. Perhaps it's time to rethink the U.S. policy and flood Cuba with U.S. goods. Such a policy change would certainly deprive fidel of an excuse for the starvation of Cubans. And maybe, Cubans with full bellies may rid themselves of the bearded bastard.
Update - The Miami Herald reports that a bi-partisan group of legislators is forming a caucus to strengthen measures designed to weaken fidel.
The Cuban Democracy Caucus had yet to finalize its agenda and membership late Tuesday. But a draft of a 10-point agenda obtained by The Herald shows the caucus may push for aggressive new tactics to undermine Castro.
Among the moves being pushed:
• Support current U.S. law behind the embargo and fight legislation that would allow U.S. tourists to visit and spend money in Cuba;
• Insist that U.S. interests be allowed to lobby the Havana government as much as Washington allows lobbying by the Cuban government;
• Demand accountability for crimes committed by the Cuban government against U.S. citizens, such as the shoot-down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996, which resulted in four U.S. civilian deaths.
Well, call me contradictory, but I like this too. At least someone is looking at fidel and considering a change in U.S. policy. 40-years of fiddling with a half-assed embargo have not removed fidel Get tough with him, and be serious about it, or overwhelm him with the U.S. economy. Just do something. Maybe including this:
But U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who is calling for an end to travel restrictions to Cuba, argues that increasing travel to the island will do more to bring about democratic change. He and other legislators plan to announce legislation today to lift the travel ban as part of Cuba Action Day, a conference organized by groups opposed to the U.S. embargo.
''Travel has a corrosive effect on tyrannical regimes,'' Flake said in an interview Tuesday. 'Forty-five years later, we still have Fidel Castro in charge. Ordinary Americans have to look back and say, `What are we accomplishing with denying travel?' ''
President Bush says he will veto any legislation allowing more travel.
(Senator Bill) Nelson (D-Fla) and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., are also planning to introduce a bill in the Senate that would authorize the U.S. government to send $15 million in aid directly to dissidents on the island, much like the United States did to support dissident groups in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Today, the United States does not send aid directly to dissident groups.
This really sounds like a good idea to me. Could fidel be better at being a dictator than the Cold War Soviets? Maybe holding an island is easier than a substantial part of two continents, though.
Don't look to me for a definitive answer to this. I'm glad people in the right places seem to be taking fidel seriously now.
Update - Val has a great post here. And Robert at The 26th Parallel comments here.