Cuba: Personal Observations
1. I was in Cuba in December when Raul Castro and President Obama made their joint announcements regarding rapprochement. It was noted by many that Fidel was uncharacteristically silent on the issue. It is my belief that Fidel Castro is either dead or in a coma. The “Cult of Fidel” is so strong and pervasive in Cuba that those who retain power fear what will happen when the Fidel’s death or incapacitation is announced. They will keep him “alive” if not in reality then in suspense for as long as they can.
2. Despite predictions by some there will be no bloodbath after Fidel dies and the embargo is lifted. There is a ruling oligarchy surrounding the Castro’s that is firmly in place and completely in accord with how the country should run and who should run it. This includes continuing and accelerated moves towards privatization of industry and small businesses. The military, which owns one of the largest tour companies on the island, is firmly behind the oligarchy. While the future may see other problems arise, as happens in most third-world countries, for the present there is no dissent among those in power.
3. It has been my pleasure to know both Cubans on the island and Cuban-Americans. I have found that Cuban-Americans truly believe that THEY are the real Cubans, even if they were born in the U.S., and that those “people” living on the island are traitors or worse. If they were “real” Cubans they would either have 1) left the island, 2) overthrown Castro by this time or 3) be in jail for trying.
4. Cuban-Americans will never admit they might have been wrong to support the embargo. Cubans on the island will never admit the Revolution was a failure.
5. Cuban-Americans will never forgive Castro or those Cubans remaining on the island (unless they happen to be related by blood, in which case they clearly had no choice in the matter, and thank God they didn't try to overthrow Castro and get thrown in jail). Cubans on the island will never forgive Cuban-Americans for supporting the embargo.
6. A Cuban-American correspondent wrote to me, “We remember loosing all of our investments in Cuba. Millions of US dollars were lost to my families. Will they get their monies back?” [sic].
The question is not whether they will get their money back but should they? Cuban-Americans possess a peculiar amnesia when it comes to history. They don’t seem to realize that throughout recorded history there have been revolutions and conquests in which people have lost money, property, and, oh yes, their lives. They never get them back.
Muammar al-Gaddafi seized power in Libya in 1969. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans fled the country, leaving their property behind, losing their investments. Many are now living in the U.S. That was forty-six years ago. Al-Gaddafi is dead, Libya is a republic once again. Is there anyone alive today that sincerely believes that any Libyan that fled the country in 1969 is entitled to having their property or money returned?
7. The rallying cry of Cuban-Americans is “no settlement as long as there is a Castro alive on the island!” What they fail to realize is that there are at least two people living in Cuba that have not lost a single nights sleep over the embargo: Fidel and Raul. In fact, analysis, by our own government indicates that the embargo has done more to keep the Castro's in power than anything else. The twelve million other Cubans have suffered immensely. Cuban-Americans don’t seem to care.
8. The embargo can only be lifted by an act of Congress. Despite his best intentions the most that President Obama will be able to achieve will be an easing of travel restrictions. The next President of the U.S., whom I predict will be a Republican, will call for Congress to lift the embargo and they will comply, probably within his first year in office.
Cuba: Personal Observations