Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban ambassador to the European Union, was our last lecturer in Havana. A professor at the University of Havana, Dr. Alzugaray was a long time diplomat, who served in many countries during his 37-year career, called for “normal relations” between the two neighbors, the world’s greatest superpower and the small island nation that “is not a threat to the United States or its people.”
Dr. Alzugaray recalled how since the early 19th century American presidents have had their eyes on Cuba as a target of America’s sphere of influence. In other words, America’s interventionist foreign policy is more than 200 years old, especially as it pertains to our closest island neighbor. Needless to say, the American trade embargo of the past half-century is another failed attempt by U.S. policymakers who have in effect punished the Cuban people for the “sins” of their leaders, among other reasons.
Although the Castro brothers have not renounced their communist ideals, the reality is that Cuba is shedding many collectivist policies. This anomaly was evident on a billboard (I wish I had a picture of the billboard; it is priceless.) we saw on the way to the Jose Marti Airport for our flight to Miami. The sign, “Los cambios para Cuba son mas socialismo,” The changes for Cuba are more socialism is not true. The economy is being freed up, from small business, to lifting of travel restrictions, to free market agricultural co-ops, etc. In other words, while the spirit of the Revolution is virtually everywhere, the reality is that the Cuban government is shedding the easiest depredations of collectivism.
In California last September, Dr. Alzugaray gave essentially the same overview of Cuban-U.S. relations as he did to our tour group in Havana. In his talk, he praised Ron Paul for his remarks during the Tampa GOP primary debate earlier in the year because he was the only one who called for lifting the U.S. embargo while Romney, Gingrich and Santorum called for more the same. During our Q&A, I mentioned that I had the privilege of representing presidential candidate Ron Paul at forums in New Jersey during his 2008 primary campaign. I also said the Cuban government or Havana University should invite Dr. Paul to Havana and speak with officials, his colleagues and others about lifting the embargo. Dr. Alzugaray said he would take that suggestion to the appropriate ministry. Stay tuned.
The stumbling blocks to ending the American embargo are obvious: the political clout of the Cuban-American community who fled the island before and after Castro nationalized the country’s resources; returning the confiscated property to their owners or heirs would be a goodwill gesture by the Cuban government. The U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay. Having a foreign power occupy a portion of a country’s nation’s territory is a violation of national sovereignty. Guantanamo Bay should be returned to Cuba. Would the American people tolerate Mexico, Canada or any other nation occupying a portion Hawaii, Alaska or any land in our southwest, northwest, and northeast regions of America? To ask the question is to answer it.
The political clout of the powerful sugar interests in Florida who do not want the embargo lifted; more sugar imported from Cuba would lower prices and hence their profits. In short, when a government intervenes in trade, it is virtually certain that there are powerful economic interests who benefit at the expense of the people, both at home and overseas. The Cuban embargo is one such example.
The Cuban embargo is still in place after 52 years and has a New Jersey connection. Former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli, when he was a member of the House of Representatives at the time was able to get the Torricelli Act passed in 1992 putting more economic screws on Cuba. Currently, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey is another New Jersey politician who is a Cuban hard liner and in line to be the next chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Two New Jersey (Democratic) politicians, one disgraced who dropped out of this reelection campaign in 2002 and another allegedly having had sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic and is being investigated for ethics violation for failure to pay promptly for private jet flights to DR in 2010, have been at the forefront of maintaining the American embargo of Cuba.
When I was a candidate for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 2008 I said at one forum that if I were elected I would go to Cuba in order to help normalize relations between our two countries. Although I did not win the nomination and therefore did not have the opportunity to end the illegal, immoral and counterproductive embargo as a member of the U.S. Senate, I have kept my promise to visit Cuba and play a small part in helping to the end embargo sooner rather than later as a private citizen.
Cuba has no income tax, no sales tax, and very few, if any, real estate taxes. In short, Cuban is more in line with my proposal in Tax Free 2000, my 1995 book outlining how to create a tax-free America. Yet, American politicians criticize Cuba as a dreadful society, one that should be punished for lack of civil liberties and a repressive regime. No doubt, Cuba’s civil liberties record should and must be improved. And it will. More interaction with freedom loving Americans will ensure that. Once people to people interactions occur, the liberty genie will be out of the bottle and the Cuban government would not be able to put it back.
The American embargo is holding back the Cuban people’s economic and political freedom. And maybe that’s why American politicians do not want to lift the embargo; maybe they do not want a free market competitor 90 miles away from Florida.
Americans trade with China, Russia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and other regimes that do not have stellar human rights records. Why not Cuba?