Friday, April 12, 2013

Time to open up Cuba

Pop stars have gone where most politicians won’t, and in so have shown us that where Cuba is concerned, it’s simply time to move on.

Last week, singer Beyoncé and rapper Jay-Z visited the forbidden island, skirting our nation’s 40-year policy of treating Cuba like it doesn’t exist.

Dictator Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 by leading a ragtag band of probably fewer than 200 revolutionaries in the overthrow of mobbed-up dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro took his own revolutionary rhetoric seriously and nationalized the assets of Cubans who had supported Batista and fled to Miami to escape the chaos.

The United States has had 11 presidents since that time. Cuba has had Castro. Initially, President John F. Kennedy supported the overthrow of Batista, but U.S. policy shifted when Castro’s adoption of communism began to take hold. 

Those were the days of the Cold War, and Cuba looked like it could become a toehold in the Western Hemisphere for expanding Soviet influence. American pride was stung further when disastrous advice from CIA Director Allen Dulles and Pentagon generals led to an almost comic failed invasion by anti-Castro forces at the Bay of Pigs and several Castro assassination plots, including one involving exploding cigars that sounded more like the Marx Brothers than Karl Marx.

There is nothing humorous about nuclear threats, as we are sharply aware thanks to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Older Americans remember pondering if the living really would envy the dead when they watched Russian and American ships face off during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s.

The struggle for national influence between tyrannical and freely elected governments continues seemingly unabated. Few could reasonably argue that Castro, with his prisons, persecution of gays and lesbians and discrimination against Cubans of African descent, is to be admired or emulated. After all these decades, other Central- and South-American countries have moved solidly toward democratic policies and away from Castro’s.

Cuban émigrés living in South Florida have dominated this piece of American foreign policy for way too long. Now Castro is sick, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, Soviet Premiers Khrushchev and Brezhnev are long gone, and the U.S. has found ways to do business with China and Russia—and even Vietnam.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s trip exposed the truth that we should stop treating Cuba like a threat and start treating it like a neighbor.

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