Thursday, October 17, 2013

Its Time to End the US Embargo Against Cuba

In response to a threat of Russian nuclear devices pointed at the United States from the island nation of Cuba in 1962 the United States implemented an embargo ostensibly to punish Cuba and the Castro government for their cozy relationship with the commies.  In 1962 that made sense but as time has gone on it has become increasingly more obvious that the embargo that is still in place today hurts only the United States.   It should have been lifted ages ago but politics and hysteria and tradition have kept it in place.  Its akin to the Rural Electrificaiton Administration.  The REA was begun during the 1930s during the height of the Depression.  Its purpose was to provide electric power to rural areas that could not otherwise obtain or afford electricity.  Today is 2013 and there is STILL an REA in the US Department of Agriculture!  Americans are able to communicate with their thumbs on a key board of a phone slightly larger than a match book now but still we have the REA because, well, its always been there.  The same ridiculous view holds for the Cuban embargo.

In 1962 when the Embargo was put in place the human population of the United States was 179,000,000-.  Today in 2013 the human population of the United States is 309,000,000.   Simple second grade arithmetic shows us that 130,000,000 people, fully FORTY PERCENT of the United States was not even born when the Cuban embargo was put in place.  I wonder how many of those 40 percent are incapable of fathoming the issue.  I was in the 6th grade when the embargo happened and I still don’t understand the why behind it.  Imagine someone born in 1970 trying to get their head around it.

Politicians of all stripes, but especially Republicans, wax poetic about the need to keep a heavy thumb on Cuba because it is a “communist” government.  That alone, supposedly, is reason enough to keep horrible policy in place and at the same time hobble the ability of American companies to invest in Cuba and for American citizens to travel legally to Cuba. 

Curiously the American government has absolutely no qualms about maintaining diplomatic relations and numerous business ventures with the communist government of Vietnam, a country in whose own civil war we meddled at the cost of billions of dollars and 58,000 American lives.  Concomitantly the American government has absolutely no qualms about maintaining diplomatic relations and developing business relations with the communist government of China, the largest communist nation on earth.  In fact, the George Dubya Bush administration sold 40 percent of America’s budget debt to China.  So, theoretically, China OWNS 40 percent of the United States.  That communist government is ok, but shaking hands with a neighbor who needs friends 90 miles from our coast is akin to treason.

Every day airplanes flown by Delta, United and American Airlines land in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong China.  Further United Airlines has landing rights for service to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam from Hong Kong.  Yet the only air service from the United States to Cuba is occasional charter flights. 

I have traveled to Cuba twice.  Of the 72 islands in the West Indies that I have visited Cuba ranks in the top four of my favorites.  My travel to Cuba has all been legal because I travel there on a US Treasury Department license, a thing required by the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917  (its real name).  If I did not have a Treasury license I would be in violation of the law.  Hilarious also, because Vietnam WAS our enemy during the Vietnam War and China is no pal (other than owning 40 percent of America) yet Cuba who has done nothing to the US is considered an enemy. Such bullshit.  

Curiously when I traveled to China in 1992 I simply sent my passport to the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC and for a fee they pasted a visa in my passport.  Similarly when I traveled to Viet Nam in 2006 I simply walked my passport over to the Viet Nam embassy in Washington DC and for a fee watched them paste a visa in it.  In a matter of seconds I was legally allowed to freely travel to these countries that were our enemies.  Now they are our pals but Cuba is a threat.  Go figure.

My first trip to Cuba I flew on Cubana de Aviacion, the national carrier of Cuba from Toronto to Varadero, a beach resort on the north coast of Cuba.  Because of the ridiculous embargo we were required by Federal law to fly directly to New York, then 200 miles offshore from the United States south to Andros Island in the Bahamas. There we could make a right hand turn and fly into Varadero. The trip took 5 1/2 hours and we had to do so because it was a Cuban aircraft. Had we flown on Air Canada (that also had nonstop service) we could have flown directly over American airspace the entire way and made the trip in 3 1/2 hours.   My second trip was in 2007 when I flew to Guantanamo Bay from Fort Lauderdale.  I made the trip only because a friend had a connection on the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay and we received permission to travel there - again only after completing a circuitous route to get there and on our return.

Just like me, this Cuban Pygmy-Owl photographed by Mark Oberle on our Guantanamo Bay trip in 2007, is wondering when all of the political nonsense will end and everyone can travel freely again to Cuba.

Today I wrote a letter to the World Trade Organization asking for data on who many American corporations conduct business daily and legally with the communist governments of both Vietnam and with China.  I want to use any data obtained to plead a case with myopic Florida legislators who steadfastly oppose normalization of relations with Cuba.  That letter to the WTO follows.

Ironic isn’t it!  

Today at 2:18 PM
Dear World Trade Organization

I find it increasingly frustrating that the Congress of the United States steadfastly refuses to allow the normalization of relations with the government of Cuba ostensibly because it has a communist government. At the same time, however, the Congress and American businesses fall all over themselves in various business ventures with the communist governments of Vietnam and China.

I have searched the internet trying to find a piece of information that would be useful in arguing against the continued policy against Cuba because of its communist beliefs.  However I have not been able to find that information anywhere.  I'm hoping that the World Trade Organization has that information or could at least direct me to a source that does.

Specifically I would like to know how many American businesses (that we know of) have formal agreements to conduct business (eg maintain offices, factories, etc) in 1) China and 2) Vietnam.

Also I would like to know how many American businesses (that we know of) have entered into Memoranda of Agreement and other formal agreements to facilitate trade between them and the governments of China and Vietnam (e.g., the Jones rice company having an agreement to ship rice annually to China, etc).

Lastly I would like to know if there are any estimates of the amount of money $US) spent by American corporations to develop, support, and maintain their business ventures in China and in Vietnam.

Thank you in advance for any assistance you might possibly be willing to extend.

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