Here’s the thing. Castro was a thug, just like any dictator, only he wasn’t OUR dictator. We never liked his revolutionary spirit and feared it might spread. Nor did we much like its alliance with the Soviets – what an embarrassment to the States and to the Kennedys and in our backyard. Gone were the glamorous Havana nights of gambling at the Casino and the sunrises and massages on the beach with a Cuba Libre in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other. As the cold war intensified it nearly all ended very badly in mutually assured nuclear destruction. Oh, the U.S. did try to force reform by ousting and by some accounts even “offing” Castro but he never surrendered or lost grip on power and seemed to even gain strength as the U.S. led embargo deepened the suffering of the Cuban people. The embargo only seemed to make Cuban mechanics all the more creative and the people ever more resourceful without the modern conveniences of life in the 20th and 21st centuries. The cold war produced no substantial reforms and led to the brave escape of a few, the defection of a handful of baseball players and the exodus of over 100,000 people granted permission to leave Cuba for the U.S. on the Mariel Boatlift which included thousands of criminals, mental patients and others deemed “undesirables” by Castro to give the Cuban exiles a bad name.
But I’m glad Obama chose to diplomatically pursue the normalization of relations with Cuba thanks to Pope Francis and the Canadians behind the scenes. Obama can now embrace the Cubans as friends not foes and thumb his nose at Putin who took Crimea by force and pushed on to Ukraine at great cost. Let’s face it though – the embargo was a failure and should have ended long ago, which might have had the effect of ending the Castro stronghold on power. And while the embargo can’t be lifted by executive action, it does appear that the U.S. will allow folks to import a limited number of Cuban cigars. Congress would have to end the embargo but won’t likely do so now that the Republicans have control of both the Senate and the House. But I like the fact that Americans can now travel to Cuba even though such travel is restricted to certain humanitarian categories. No tourists yet. That’ll have to wait until a friendly dictator comes to power and allows U.S. developers to turn Havana into a Little Las Vegas. It won’t be long. Soon Havana will be a trendy honeymoon destination once again.