In his move to normalize relations with Cuba, some conservatives complain that President Obama has thrown a lifeline to the enemy—in this case, potentially prolonging the life of a tyrannical regime that is careening toward a richly deserved bankruptcy.
As a strong believer in the potency of what the execrable Paul Krugman calls “free market fundamentalism,” I am all in favor of ending the 54-year U.S. embargo against Cuba as quickly as possible. I believe this would be much more likely to hasten rather than delay the demise of the Castro regime.
I only wish that Obama—in one more didactic if wrong-headed display of his progressive biases—had not presented such a misleading and (from the U.S. perspective) self-damning picture of the relationship between the two countries.
An end to the embargo—requiring Congressional approval—would not mean an immediate end to Cuba’s isolation from the rest of the world (excluding communist or terrorist states) for the simple reason that Cuba’s isolation is not the result of the U.S. embargo. Rather, it is self-imposed.
If there is a “Cuban miracle” waiting to burst forth, we must ask ourselves why it did not happen a long time ago. Cuba has been free to trade and to benefit from foreign investment from every other advanced nation on earth with the single exception of the U.S. Despite the Cuban government’s use of the Spanish phrase “el bloqueo” whenever it mentions the embargo, the U.S. has never blocked other countries from trading or doing business with Cuba.
While President Obama has suggested that the embargo is largely responsible for keeping “Cuba closed off from an interconnected world,” the real truth of the matter is that the Castro government—like every other brutal dictatorship lording it over a poor and cowered populace—has endeavored to keep its own people in the dark. The Cuban people do not have Internet access in their homes because the government will not allow international telecom companies to provide it.
Instead, as Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal observed in her weekly “The Americas” column, “The isolation is caused by the police state, which controls and surveils foreigners’ movements, herding most visitors into resort enclaves.” As O’Grady pointed out, “The regime pockets the hard currency they [tourists] leave behind and pays workers in worthless pesos. Foreigners who decide to reward good workers without state approval can face prison.”
Nevertheless, I don’t doubt that there are tremendous benefits to be gained by the Cuban people through normalized relations and greater travel between the U.S. and the island nation of 11 million people just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
China remains under a communist government, but we have seen how hundreds of millions of people in China have been able to lift themselves out of poverty over the past several decades as a result of the “Open Door” policy and the introduction of limited economic freedom.
We have also seen the rapid progress made by Poland and other former communist states that have fully embraced free-market capitalism.
One of the reasons China was able to adapt as quickly as it has to a global capitalistic economy is through the expediting or mediating influence of tens of thousands of overseas Chinese who helped to spearhead China’s economic resurgence. The same factor—reuniting families inside and outside the country… and bringing the entrepreneurial skills and contacts of the overseas relatives to the aid and assistance of the indigenous population—would come into play in the event of a liberalized Cuba open to increasing trade, travel, and remittances between the U.S. giant and the island nation caught in the 1950s time warp of old cars, dilapidated colonial facades, heroic memorials to the likes of Che Guevara, and ever-present signs of dire poverty and arrested development.
A “Cuban miracle” can still happen. It will be a wonderful thing if it does—advancing both economic and political freedom.