Political Dichotomy: Cuba – China

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FRIDAY 3-7-08…I had an interesting conversation with my wife, which left me somewhat dumbfounded. It went something like this:

She; “Now that Fidel Castro has stepped down in Cuba, that’s a good thing, right?”

Me: “Uh, well…I suppose so, but his spot is being taken over by his brother.”She: But, at least it’s not Fidel, so that’s a good thing, right?

Me: “Well…not necessarily. We’ll still be keeping our embargo in place.”

She: “Embargo?”

Me: “Yeah, we don’t trade with Cuba and we don’t allow them to trade with us. That’s why it’s against the law to have Cuban cigars on your person in this country. You have to drive all the way to Canada to buy ‘em and then try to sneak ‘em into this country.”

She: “Why do we have the embargo?”Me: “Because Cuba is a Communist country.”

She: “China is a Communist country and we still trade with them. And Vietnam is a Communist country and we trade with them.”

Me: “Uh…well….this is true….but……I think maybe it has something to do with Miami.”

She: “Miami???” Me: “Yeah, ya’ see, there a very large Cuban presence in Miami, and they don’t like Fidel or his brother Raul. If this country started making nice to Cuba, politicians who support the move might get voted out of office.”

She: “So…..it’s really…..all political?

Me: “Yep, you got it sweetie. It’s really all political. Is dinner ready?

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5 Responses

  1. B.S. Notebook is right. Perhaps I can clarify some things for you. The reason we have an embargo on Cuba is because the Cuban government expropriated more than a billion dollars worth of American assets without any compensation to the owners (that means they stole them). This was in the early 1960s and it was the largest such theft of American assets before or since. In today’s dollars the theft amounts to over 8 billion dollars. Cuba has never recognized the debt nor been willing to talk about a settlement.

    Now let’s talk about China. We do trade with China…TODAY. For many years we did not. Remember Nixon and the opening to China? Well that was after about 30 years in which we did not have trade relations with China. You know what else? China also expropriated a few million dollars in American assets when it wen communist and in the late 70s agreed to a settlement. THAT is what opened the door to the kind of trade we have with country today. Our trading partners have to understand that there are rules to the international trade game and they have to be willing to play by them.

    Incidentally Vietnam also settled its debts for expropriation of American assets in that country.

    You know what else differentiates China from Cuba? Well China has completely liberalized its economy. Private property and private enterprise are permitted in China and that is what has spurred the growth of a new middle class in China. A middle class that some of us hope will push for political reforms in that country. In any case the Chinese people are being permitted for the first time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Cuba on the other hand has not reformed its economy. There were some minimal reforms when the USSR collapsed but they were rolled back when Cuba found another benefactor in Venezuela. The reason the castro brothers don’t want to reform the economy is because they don’t want to lose control of it and by extension the political control they enjoy. Trading with China actually helps Chinese people, trading with Cuba only helps the regime because the regime is the only employer and receives compensation from foreign investors in hard currency while it pays the workers a fraction of what they are worth in worthless Cuban pesos.

    “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

    -Mark Twain

  2. As if on cue: George Will compares Cuba to China:

    Link

    U.S. policy toward Cuba should, however, be conditioned, and perhaps haunted, by U.S. policy toward China. That policy was supposed to result in steady, slow-motion regime change through candid subversion in broad daylight. The premise has been that the cure for communism is commerce with the capitalist world. The assumption is that capitalism brings, because it requires, an ethic of trust and the rule of law in the form of promise-keeping (contracts). Also, the protection of private property gives individuals a sphere of sovereignty and whets their appetites for a politics of popular sovereignty.

    This has been called “the Starbucks fallacy” (see James Mann’s book “The China Fantasy”): When people become accustomed to many choices of coffee, they will demand many political choices. This doctrine may be being refuted by the emergence of a China that has become wealthier without becoming less authoritarian.

  3. Just last week we saw the New York Philharmonic performing in North Korea. Cuba is the only place on the entire planet for which people from the US need a permission slip from the federal government to go and see it for themselves.

    Cuba and the United States are not and cannot be equal. Cuba’s government certainly does limit democratic rights. But in a situation like David and Goliath, Cuba does what it feels it must to defend itself. Look at Iraq today and you can see what Cuba would look like if it were “liberated” by Washington.

    In Guantanamo, the world can see what legal system Washington would impose on the rest of Cuba if only it could. In Guantanamo, which is United States occupied territory, prisoners are held without trial for years, and are told they could be held indefinitely even if not found guilty there. In this context, Cuba’s defensive measures should surprise no one.

    My father and his parents lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1942. They were German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and not political left-wingers. That family history is where my own interest in Cuba comes from. My dad met my mom in the United States and that’s how I came into this world.

    Cuban society today represents an effort to build an alternative to the way life was under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who ran Cuba before Fidel Castro led a revolution there. No one complained about a lack of human rights and democracy in those days, but U.S. businesses were protected.

    Some things work, some don’t. Like any society, Cuba its flaws and contradictions, as well as having solid achievements. No society is perfect. But we can certainly learn a few things from Cuba’s experience. I think we can learn more than a few. If we want to bring freedom to Cuba, the best thing we can do is practice what we preach.

    We should all be free to visit Cuba. We can visit China and Vietnam, even North Korea, Syria and Iran, why can’t we visit Cuba and see it for ourselves? Cuba is our neighbor and we should simply normalized relations with the island.

  4. Wow, so much garbage to refute. The United States does not cause the castro regime to imprison its own people. The U.S. does not cause the castro regime to violate human rights. The United States has an embargo on Cuba because Cuba does those things.

    Secondly, if any U.S. administration wanted to invade Cuba it would have do so already. If the U.S. were to invade Cuba, with 2 million Cuban exiles living abroad and countless others in Cuba wanting to join them the last thing you would see is an insurgency against American forces. Cubans don’t hate America or Americans. It’s castro and his cadre of abusers that hate us.

    The Castro regime’s abuses predate the use of Guantanamo to house battlefield detainees by decades. Your bringing that into this argument is another typical attempt to divert attention from the real issue, the totalitarian regime in Havana.

    My grandmother taught Spanish to Jewish refugees from the holocaust. One of the untold crimes of the castro regime is how the Jewish population of Cuba has diminished to next to nothing.

    Batista was a dictator and did abuse the people. But he was a typical military dictator of the time of the region. Castro has been much much worse. Batista lasted in power as dictator for about 7 years between 1952 and 1959. Castro has been committing far worse atrocities for 7 times as long.

    In the 1950s travel to and from Cuba was open on both ends and net immigration to the U.S. from Cuba was negative. Cubans weren’t trying to escape their dictatorship en masse. More Americans were wanting to live there than Cubans wanting to live here. Today as I mentioned there are millions living in exile wanting to get away from the “alternative way” that you are defending. The evidence is there.

    You are free to visit whatever country you want, just like you are free to not pay your taxes or disobey the speed limit. The courts have ruled that you don’t have a “right” to violate trade polices set by the federal government which is constitutionally empowered to create and enforce such policies.

    Loser.

  5. i’ve really enjoyed the knowledgable remarks of henry Gomez. The only thing I can add is that Castro has from the beginning presented a very contentious attitude toward the United States. Attitude precedes negotiations and agreements. China has been open and cooperative in attitude. America has been a friend to all who value and respect freedom and peaceful cooperation, even to the point of defending them against tyrants, bullies…and terrorists.

    Advances in relations with North Korea have been largely ignored by the media but the New York Philharmonic performing in North Korea is a result of recent progress whether or not one wishes to acknowledge the fact.

    Shame on walterlx for not realizing these differences.

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