All my life, the Cuban exiles in Miami have been waiting for Castro to die. Well, I have a secret to confess: my father is a month older than Fidel, and he’s doing just fine. I can only imagine that Fidel, with all the good doctors in Cuba, will be around a few more years, and so will my father.
I still don’t understand why Bill Clinton or President Obama didn’t lift the embargo. Jorge Mas Canosa, the former head of the Cuban American National Foundation is dead. Orlando Bosch is dead. Communism is dead. Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, the man who co-founded the first paramilitary exile group, Alfa 66, moved back to Cuba almost ten years ago, and little Elián González is all grown up.
These are different times. Most of the exiles who witnessed Castro’s revolution and left Cuba in the early 60’s are of retirement age. And many of their children, who are in their twenties and thirties and even their forties, have never been to Cuba and are more American than Taco Bell.
Cuba has changed. Miami has changed. Cuba has boomed in foreign investment and tourism. The Canadians, Europeans and Mexico have joint concerns: including the Spanish hotel chain Melía, Canadian nickel mining concerns, Brazilian sugar refineries, and Chinese and Venezuelan oil exploration and refineries. Cuba has internet and cellular phones, car dealerships, and a number of shopping centers. Very little of this existed 15 years ago.
Miami is not the small backwater city where exiles planned and staged counter revolutions like the Bay of Pigs invasion or the Contra war in Nicaragua. Miami is a cosmopolitan city with a vibrant business and arts community. So when I read in the news that someone had fire-bombed the offices of Airline Brokers in Coral Gables last month, it just seemed out of place with the times. Fifty years of terrorist tactics, the embargo, the Helms-Burton Act: none of it has led to a single change in Fidel Castro or Cuba.
I’m not for Communism, and I’m not for dictatorships either, but China is the second largest trading partner with the U.S. China is a Communist country with jailed dissidents and censorship and a lack of freedom of press, religion and so on. China is run by a single party government, which essentially makes it a dictatorship.
Another trading partner is Vietnam, a Communist, single-party state and a onetime foe of the U.S. We fought a 10-year war there, which resulted in nearly 60,000 American deaths. And just for the record, we never had a problem trading with dictators like Somoza, Trujillo, Pinochet, etc. As a matter of fact, until recently, the U.S. government loved dictators, as long as they did what we wanted.
So what’s our deal with the embargo and Cuba?
All I can think of is that we don’t like our dictators to be too full of themselves. They can inflict gross human rights abuse in their countries as long as they don’t mess with U.S. business interests. Just look at what happened when Noriega, Trujillo and even Saddam Hussein went astray.
All that said; the situation with Cuba is certainly more complex that what can fit in a short blog. Many, many books have been written offering multiple theories. But in the fifties and sixties, it was in vogue to be Communist, and it was the dream of many Latin Americans to live in a country that was free of Yanqui imperialism. Fidel Castro was the first to attain that dream, and the Cuban people have been paying for it ever since.