United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

United States Cuba Relations - Election Day Memo to the President

To: President Barack Obama
From: Tony Martinez, Editor, U.S. Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Mr President, I submit these photos taken on the day of your election to the Presidency in November, 2008.  This was the scene in Little Havana on Calle Ocho in Miami in front of the famous restaurant, Versailles.  The restaurant, which serves great Cuban cuisine, is also the epicenter of the hardline pro-embargo Cuban American exile community.  I was both shocked and ashamed at what I and others who worked tirelessly for your election witnessed when a Confederate battle flag was unfurled at the announcement of your victory and waved by those who cursed the historical moment of that day.  But that is past now.  What is important to remember now is this.  No matter what you did in these four years regarding U.S. Cuba relations, nothing got them to change their thinking about you or the Democratic Party.  You even changed your position from being against the embargo and the travel restrictions to supporting them when you went to get the support of this community as a Presidential candidate.  It did not matter though.  They did not give you their vote then.  They will not give it to you or the Democratic party next year and certainly not to carry you in Florida.  They did give you and the party leadership through Senator Bob Menendez and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz their money to cover their political bets.  Remember the DNC dinner at the home of Gloria Estefan in Miami?  She was on the radio recently on the Howard Stern Show where she shared with the audience that she did not give you any contribution (she did give the DNC a contribution by hosting the event at her mansion ) but that she got to speak with you one on one to discuss U.S. Cuba relations and her support for our hardline policies.  She went out of her way to tell us she is supporting Herman Cain at the moment.  I wonder if she still is as impressed with Mr. Cain today?

[Photos - all rights reserved]

So if this particular community does not support your re-election, did not vote for you to begin with and will not do so next year, why do you listen to them on Cuba?  The Cuban Americans who supported you because you ended the cruel Bush Cuba travel policy for families, and will likely support you again need to know much more from you than they have been shown over the last three years.   Things are essentially stuck on our side when it comes to U.S. Cuba policy.   They deserve better and our nation does too.   Just like immigration needs to be solved in the next Presidential term of office, so does our Cuba policy.

Last month we were reminded by the community of nations for the twentieth time that we have taken the wrong approach towards our neighbor off the coast of  Florida.  Yet, we don't listen.  Why?  The embargo is a failed policy Mr. President.  It is supported by those who do not believe in you or will not vote for you in Florida.  So why continue this failure?  How can our policies with Latin America be any different if we do not seek to end a policy that serves no legitimate purpose.  Our policies with Cuba have neither brought democracy nor improved human rights there.  They just bring misery.   The political purpose it serves of posturing here among our candidates exacerbates the folly that the embargo has become.  Has our policy of denying our own citizens access to Cuba and cutting off funding and access to economic markets in fifty years overthrown the Cuban government or brought any change?  When does our failure end Mr. President?  We all want better days for Cuba and the United States in Latin America.

What about Alan Gross, our citizen convicted and jailed for violating Cuban laws, sent to Cuba on the dubious "Cuba Democracy Program" of USAID?   These programs waste taxpayer money and yield poor results.  The idea that the Cubans will somehow decide out of the goodness of their hearts and free Gross is ludicrous when we hold five of their compatriots, the Cuban 5,  here for violating our laws.  Bill Richardson's unofficial efforts were unsuccessful in part because they were just that, unofficial.   Official negotiations should and must continue even though there are those on Capitol Hill who do not want any negotiation between us and Cuba.  Alan Gross' family is waiting for us to act now.  You have the power to bring this matter to a swift, dramatic, and diplomatic resolution and have Alan home with his family by Hanukkah next month.  Only you are going to have to be willing to confront those in Congress who do not want a solution to this problem, but the fantasy that we are just going to will Gross' freedom.  Whenever you have confronted this do nothing Congress, you have been proven ultimately correct in your decisions.

When you do get re-elected Mr. President,  and barring any major changes in the electoral landscape or a flavor rises from the Baskin Robbins Republican primary collection out there that a majority actually prefers over you and our party, make a commitment to change U.S. Cuba policy once and for all in your second term.  Stop listening to failure.  Do the unthinkable - go to Cuba yourself.   Make a commitment to engage and resolve the outstanding human issues that have plagued the relationship.  Take a stand for a new policy of positive American influence in Cuba and end our failed policy of interference in Cuba.  This means lifting travel restrictions for all Americans and restoring basic trade and commerce.  This is a far better, rational, and more intelligent approach than the stupidity and hypocrisy of the current policy.  There will be cries of protest on a few streets in Miami and Union City and anger at you and the administration for saying enough with the nonsense of our policy that has only hurt us and the Cuban people and embarrass us as a nation.  In Congress, but for the cries of the pro-embargo clique there, most will thank you for putting to rest an issue that has been long overdue and even thank you for the jobs created here and abroad with the end to our national insanity with Cuba.  Democracy and human rights do not come through policies like ours.

In Cuba, well the United States will finally no longer be the scapegoat or the bane of Cuban nationalism that we have been made out to be and a justification for its authoritarianism.  Cuba will undergo its own existential reflection and come to grips with the realities, frailties, and failures of its political system, leadership, and economy, just as we all must do to improve ourselves as a nation and its people.   This is already happening now.