For years now I’ve been lamenting out loud: Why Can’t I Go to Cuba? Why? Why is the US Still Persecuting Cuba after nearly 53 long years? I can go to China, Vietnam, Russia, Cambodia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea; just about every other communist or authoritarian hell hole on Earth, except Cuba, a tiny island nation that presents no threat to my country whatsoever.
Well, now at last it appears that I just might soon be allowed by my government to go to Cuba at least once before I die. Perhaps President Obama has been listening to me. Do you think? OK, probably not, but this week he announced that the United States is poised to begin normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
It’s about time.
At long last, we’re going to open a U.S. embassy in Havana and start loosening some of the draconian embargo restrictions that have crushed the Cuban people economically and frustrated most American citizens for more than half a century. We can all thank Pope Francis for his help, and we finally have something to thank President Obama for. After six years in office he got something right.
"Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba," declared the President. "Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that's rooted in events that took place before most of us were born."
"We have to learn the art of living together with our differences in a civilized way," Cuban President Castro said in Havana.
It appears, however, that the only dissenters are the disgruntled Cuban-American politicians who still hold a grudge against the Fidel Castro for overthrowing the corrupt ultra right wing Batista government in 1959 and installing communism Russian style in Cuba. They’ve vowed to block Obama’s plans.
"This Congress is not going to lift the embargo," Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida declared. He has a personal grudge against the Castro’s because his parents fled Cuba to get away from him. "I intend to use every tool at our disposal in the majority to unravel as many of these changes as possible."
"It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips" said New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who thinks the move will set back efforts to bring democracy to Cuba.
Of course, that’s complete nonsense. The Cuban embargo has been a total failure in bringing about democracy for the Cuban people. The restrictions have served only to soothe the feelings of disgruntled Cuban American exiles while punishing the Cuban people and average Americans for no good reason.
I have news for senator Rubio: The cold war is over. We have diplomatic relations with many communist countries. It’s long past the time to start mending fences with our Cuban neighbors. The U.S. lost the lives of more than 50,000 soldiers in the Vietnam War; none in Cuba. Yet today we have normal diplomatic relations with communist Vietnam but still not with Cuba. It’s absurd.
While the President has the authority to begin normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba and make it somewhat easier for some Americans to visit the island, still Congress is going to have to pass legislation to lift the strict embargo laws before average Americans like you or me can finally go to Cuba. It’s not fair but at least my government is finally starting to move in the right direction.
Meanwhile, church bells rang out Wednesday afternoon in Havana and tearful celebrations erupted in the streets of the island after President Raul Castro announced the news in a televised address. Many happy Cubans in the audience threw kisses to Obama and hugged each other. Is there any doubt that the Cuban people want this? Not in my mind.
In Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood angry debates erupted between groups of younger demonstrators who said they supported the move and older protestors who were opposed. More than half of Cuban-Americans surveyed in Miami recently support an end to the embargo and a solid majority of them also favor restoring diplomatic relations with Havana.
George Davila told CNN en Español that the time for change has come. "I represent a generation of Cubans who are very interested in the future of Cuba. We think that the best days for Cuba have yet to come. And we think that in the end, the Cuban people need to stop being pieces in a game of chess," he explained.
I couldn’t agree more... It’s about time.