President Obama’s decision to visit to Cuba and his call to end the U.S. embargo bring me joy. It’s time to “normalize” relationships between our two countries.
But what does normalizing mean between the capitalist super power and tiny island socialist republic 90 miles from the Florida coast? A return to normal or a new kind of normal?
The President’s speech this morning is disappointing. I couldn’t help thinking of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States when he poked the President in the eye in a speech aimed at the American people. This morning Barack Obama did the same in Havana.
The President says he knows the history. He may. But the history he knows is different from the one the Cubans know. When he talks about opening up Cuba, opening up Cuban markets so that Cubans can buy goods and have 21st century jobs, he ignores the reason for the Cuban revolution. The Batista regime was a U.S. puppet. Havana and Veradero Beach were playgrounds for North American capitalists, elites, and businessmen who gambled in the casinos and vacationed on the white sands few Cubans – except for the table-servers, maids, bartenders – ever got to touch.
Cuba was not a democracy under Batista and his predecessors. It was a dictatorship – AND its economy was free-market capitalism with egregious disparities of income and wealth. The majority of Cubans were as poor as the masses in other Latin American banana republics.
An article in The Independent provides the history of the challenges and successes of the post-revolution Cuban government’s literacy campaign and Cuba’s highly praised universal education system.
Will normalizing relations return Cuba to the pre-socialist inequalities that caused the revolution in 1959? Will it mean a return to “normal” – in which the superpower calls the shots while the little brother watches our president embarrass him from center stage?
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 22, 2016