Forces Behind the Cuba Normalization

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

I am happy and grateful that Alan Gross is free at last and reunited with his family. I wish this freedom had come for Gross some time ago, but at least he is now free. Long ago I had argued that the U.S. embargo of Cuba and the lack of relations between the United States and Cuba made no sense. I still believe that the embargo and lack of relations with Cuba makes no sense. What frightened me was that the Cuban government took a hostage in the form of Alan Gross to try and get three of their agents back and also for other purposes. What equally frightens me is that U.S. President Barack Obama seems to have caved in to this blackmail by the Cuban government, and not only gave them the three Cuban spies they wanted back but also the end of the embargo and normalization of relations between the two countries. The United States got back the life of one American, and the Communist Party of Cuba got not only three Cubans but also diplomatic relations and possibly billions of dollars worth of business and investments.

To me this is not the way I would have wanted the end of the embargo and the reestablishment of relations with Cuba. It looks like Obama betrayed America’s national interests and gave into blackmail. Worse, it seems like a victory for the Communist Party of Cuba—they gave the United States almost nothing and reaped a bonanza in return. But I am convinced that there were and are powerful business and political force that want an end to the embargo and for normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. One of these forces are the car corporations. For them, Cuba is a potential new market and has been for some time. They see Cubans with money buying American cars, and more importantly a country where they can establish new car factories to build cars more cheaply than in many countries (plus the fact being only 97 miles from the United States is too big an opportunity to pass up). There are U.S. state governments that want to do business with Cuba. As far back as the George W. Bush presidency, Illinois wanted to open up a business office in Havana and sell millions of dollars in agricultural products. Other state governments are thinking along these lines, and normalization of relations with Cuba would be ideal.

Then there are the travel agencies and tourist companies who see a golden opportunity with normalized relations with Cuba. For the cruise lines, Cuba could be a major destination and a reasonably priced one. For the individual travel companies, it would mean tens of thousands if not hundreds of the thousands of tourists streaming into Cuba and big revenue for them. Since Cuba is a cheap and close destination that few Americans have been to, normalization would be ideal for them. Additionally, there are companies that want to import Cuban goods like cigars, Cuban rum, Cuban agricultural products, and maybe also establish factories where they can manufacture and export their products to the United States. Again the argument that Cuba is a close and cheap place would be a powerful incentive. Finally, there are leading members within the Democratic Party who want and have long wanted normalization with Cuba. In my view, all of this has created for the perfect political storm, and Obama simply saw it as the opportunity other powerful people want for their own ends (that and they are most probably large contributors to the Democratic Party).

As I said before, I would have had no major problem with the end of the U.S. embargo of Cuba and full diplomatic relations reestablished with Cuba. The way it is being done is what I really, really object to. This is happening due to Communist Party of Cuba blackmail. This makes the United State look like it does not care about democracy, human rights or standing up to principle (the Cuban government agreed to release 53 political prisoners. Considering that Cuba has several hundred political prisoners, this number is too small, and who said that the Cuban government would guarantee their freedom?). All of this makes President Obama look like he threw in the towel, and I have to wonder who the people are who helped him make the decision to throw in the towel. The way I see it, it does not matter what I want to see happen. There are forces that want normalization with Cuba, and forces that seem to be opposed to it. The question is which one will win?!

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