To many of my fellow Cuban-Americans in Miami (scratch “many”; it should read “some”) and their emissaries to Washington DC, here is the message sent by President Obama in his historic announcement on July 1: As of this day, Cuba is just another country in the world as far as its relationship with the United States is concerned.
Both, the American and the Cuban people, are sending a message to this ever-shrinking group of recalcitrant and impotent “freedom fighters” that for around half a century have deluded themselves (and effectively lobbied on behalf of that delusion) into thinking it was their job to free Cuba through the manipulation of the U.S. political system. This delusion led them to play with freedoms of all U.S. citizens — the right to travel, the right to trade — by restricting them with nonsensical and unjust laws. All the talk about “American laws” (Cuban-American laws rather) being violated by the president in engaging Cuba is just that: talk.
We now will have no alternative but to look at Cuba’s laws — as everyone else in the world does — if we want to seek redress regarding all things that have happened over the past 50-some years we, the United States, spent isolated and daydreaming about the extra-territorial reach of our silly Cuba-focused “laws”.
The response from the sponsors of the status quo as reflected in those “laws” also amounts to little more than talk. Where are the fugitives of U.S. law?, asks one of them. Who cares — or does anyone among us worry about fugitives of Cuban law? Does anyone care where Luis El bambi Posada Carriles is? Probably having dinner at the Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, that’s where…
The Cuban healthcare system is a mess, they argue? Tell that to the people in Cuba and see how many of them prefer to pay for health insurance through Obamacare. Housing in Cuba is in crisis? Try to find someone in Cuba who is eager to pay Brickell Avenue prices for a condo. The Cuban education system is woeful? Just talk to anyone in a Cuban street and you will realize he or she is better educated than some of our presidential candidates, say, Donald Trump.
A cursory reading of the transcript of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “The Future of Property Rights in Cuba” held on June 18 leaves you with a feeling of how deep and hopeless the delusion of these folk is. The delusion goes even to the pretense that, if Cuba cannot pay for ALL the losses suffered by ALL Cuban-Americans (even those who were not U.S. citizens or residents when they suffered their losses) and the president insists on pursuing re-engagement with Cuba, then we all U.S. taxpayers should reimburse our fellow Cuban-Americans for their losses. The rambling “arguments” of the politicians in attendance at the “hearing” makes me dread for the future of my grandchildren dealing with life in a country run by such mediocrities.
Sure, the president and others trying to bring a measure of good sense to what is and should have always been a matter of foreign policy and, as such, guided by U.S. national interests (not the parochial political interests of any small group or enclave) still have some business to take care of — namely, getting rid of Helms-Burton, Torricelli and similar laws. And we all know how the politicians who inhabit our legislatures work in the United States, specially in the two houses of Congress: They will combine their best judgment as to what is best for both the U.S. and Cuban people and they will weigh that against their own political self-interest, the latter in the context of the “debts” they perceive themselves as owing to others, mainly their own colleagues in Congress. And then, they will vote.
Some Cuban-American politicians have been able to attach earmarks to bills passed by the House of Representatives. If those earmarks are any valid indication, the resistance these self-proclaimed “freedom fighters” — adamant to keep things unchanged despite the manifestly contrary will of those they pretend to “free” — may delay the establishment of any kind of normal relations with Cuba for a while.
These folk are entitled to keep playing that game for as long as they can. They mostly still see themselves as acting on behalf of their Cuban-American constituents on an issue that is of great importance to those constituents, which is why they stick to their guns. Very few U.S. politicians I know will ever admit to him or herself that the voters might be wrong (do we have a “model” political system or what?).
Still, the president’s brief and very crisp statement announcing the re-opening of embassies after more than half a century hit all the right notes while explaining why engagement with Cuba and its people is best for both the U.S. and Cuban people. In a nutshell: if we want a “free” Cuba, we must first free it from domestic U.S. politics and interests that should play no role in our Cuba policy.
Because, you see — in the end it is indeed the task ahead for ALL Cubans to take a stab at that business of “freeing ourselves,” a task that is ours, and ours alone.
José Manuel Pallí is president of Miami-based World Wide Title. He can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.