The Cuban Conundrum

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

Watching President Barack Obama announce the opening of an “embassy” in Havana without an ambassador was embarrassing. 

Question: Who benefits from this Castro Cuba fiasco?

President Obama can say he’s abandoning the 50 year-long embargo, political isolation and changing the name of our building in Havana. He can even say he will nominate an ambassador, but he can’t do much of anything other than change the name of the building and name an ambassador-designate.

Only Congress can alter the congressionally-imposed embargo supported by every President since Eisenhower including Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II. Congress is clearly responsible as stated in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8). There are a few Republicans who will support the President. He can’t confirm an ambassador, only the Senate can and there, Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio will call-the- shots not Obama.

First of all, due to congressional exemptions we already sell grains, food and pharmaceuticals to Cuba outside the embargo totaling a reported $300 million dollars. Thus, despite media speculation, dropping the embargo means little; Exception, many Americans want to enjoy Cuban beaches as before Castro, minus gambling and hedonistic partying.

American cars won’t crack the Cuban market because few can afford to buy one on an average monthly wage of 20 dollars. Flat screen televisions made in Tijuana, Mexico for American and Asian companies would cost 25-30 times what a Cuban earns in a month. Cubans don’t need farm-raised catfish or tilapia from Mississippi. They can’t buy slot machines from Bally because casino gambling is illegal in Cuba. They can’t afford $50,000 tractors so sugar will continue to be harvested by hand. They can’t afford computers with which to tap the Internet (which would be censored anyway).

In a few words, other than government-owned hotels and the Cubans that work there, who will make money off of American tourists? Taxi drivers, with secret recording devices to trap Americans who might say something against the Castro brothers? Or just the Castro Brothers who will charge hard currency dollars for two-hundred dollar-a-night hotel rooms or the dollar-a-night maids who will make the beds, do the laundry and clean toilets?

The people who will not profit from American partiers in Cuban hotels will be the “Women in White” who are regularly attacked/arrested for marching and demanding freedom for jailed political prisoners.  The political prisoners will not benefit nor will they be able to even enter the American “embassy” because they will continue rotting in Cuban jails and prisons, some of which were built by the Spanish four hundred years ago. 

Of those who will interact with the forthcoming “flood” of American visitors and traveling salesmen, will any become freer by interacting with Americans?  Will any of these new “democrats” be able to secure visitor visas to Miami? If they do, will any return to Castro’s paradise? Will American visitors be able to openly praise democracy and freedom and call on the Cuban government to release political prisoners?

It seems that President Obama’s “achichinqles” ( ah-chee-chee-n-klehs, gofers) have been prohibited from even asking about political prisoners much less demanding their freedom as part of the negotiations. In fact, our Dear President has not laid out any public demands to Castro; has he even made any in private?

Has he demanded the extradition of the 70-plus convicted American murderers and felons who hide in Cuba to evade American prisons? 

Has he demanded definitive negotiations for payments by the Cuban government to Cubans and Americans whose properties were stolen by Castro after he took over Cuba? Perhaps Obama should be reminded that Mexico pioneered expropriation of American property in 1938. It, however, negotiated buyouts and paid off all the properties including oil properties over 30 years. If it was good for Mexico, why isn’t it good enough for Cuba to do for better relations with the U. S.?

None of these things have been mentioned by President Obama about the ongoing negotiations with Cuba, none. Nor has the President enumerated any real benefits for America, none.

There is one, however, but only one. 

All American professional baseball players who average a million or more dollars-a-year for batting .200 can retire to civil service garbage collection because, to the delight of American baseball fans, here come the Cubans, great baseball players who can team up with Dominicans to raise the level of professional baseball to a major league level unseen since baseball expanded in the 60s and 70s.

Former All-Star Dodger and San Diego Padre star pitcher Fernando Valenzuela (though Mexican) will look down from the broadcast booth and see a lot of people that look like him (though Cuban) and play like he did, like a real history-making major leaguer.

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Contreras is a political consultant and national Hispanic political writer

photo from global memo.org