Finally we can see the end to the bizarre Cuban trade embargo that began by Eisenhower in 1960, but was extended into what it remains by Kennedy 1962. An embargo which deprived many hard working Americans of the freedom to buy Cuban cigars legally, but not Kennedy, he was careful to stock up before signing a ban that remains in place. Does this mean he’s guilty of mild insider trading? Perhaps, but he did believe the embargo would be a short term thing.
I mean, come on, the US had better relations with Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, at least until shortly before his people rebelled and shot him to bits. And he harboured terrorists and early nuclear ambitions, but in 2003 volunteered his nuclear arsenal to be confiscated by the US, and locked away in Tennessee.
Something about the Castro brothers really bothers a certain group of Americans, in a much more visceral way than the starchy white guys waging war with the developing world in the 1960s were bothered by Fidel’s refusal to be assassinated. If one thing need remind us that the CIA can be a prickly bunch of incompetent bureaucrats it is surely the former Cuban President’s continued existence.
The Americans really bothered about him are the Cuban ex-pats, of whom many live in Florida. Enter painful memories of the role of that swing state in Presidential elections. They have managed to have the ears and votes of a critical number of legislators, and prevent all actively pro-normalisation-with-Cuba would-be Presidents from taking their vital votes in the electoral college.
But who can tell me which way Florida went in 2008? And again in 2012? I will spare you the need to thumb through Wikipedia and tell you that it was Obama both times. Now the state is hardly considered a ‘swinger’ at all, and once you have won California, New York, and the north East, it hardly matters. Florida cannot hold an election hostage any more, and that is good news for a President who wants to, you know, govern without prejudice.
However, Obama has moved Glacially on this issue. I could understand putting it off until the second term when you no longer have to worry about being booted out by the people and instead face the boot from the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution (it set term limits). That makes political sense, but now Obama faces the trouble of a hostile congress, and Senator Marco Rubio, who is a Cuban-American, and wants to be president so is incapable of acting outside his own self interest, who will chair the Foreign Relations Committee.
Now if I remember my American politics lessons, the Senate must confirm ambassadors and ratify treaties. So they will be able to derail Obama’s plans of re-establishing a formal embassy. If it is blocked then presumably communication will continue on the current back channel, one the senate is not part of, and Obama can run foreign policy regarding Cuba from the White House. So if Rubio wishes to pull the trigger he is threatening, he will only blow off his own toes. I’m not entirely opposed to that, but am more sympathetic to seeing diplomatic relations restored.
On the matter of the embargo, since it is not a treaty (in fact it is the reverse of one) Rubio cannot affect it. Kennedy extended it in 1962 by executive order, so there it is up to Obama when he wants to sign another bit of paper to end it. Even with the embargo the US is Cuba’s largest food supplier, and its fifth largest trading partner.
If the oxymoronical relations I have so far described are news to you consider the following. The prima facie case for the embargo as expounded by successive US administrations has been that the measures are in place until Cuba makes political changes (liberalisation, gets rid of the one party state) and it makes improvements in its record on human rights. Stop, and try to fathom that. The United States, which to this day maintains a prison in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, infamous for the torture of inmates who have never been charged, is going to use the human rights card as a reason to continue a trade ban that keeps thousands of people in poverty.
Marco Rubio is a self serving dweeb stuck in a political arrangement long past its use by date, and he will use his office only for the advancement of himself. President Obama has moved with such a torpor that I thought he must have slowly petrified, but he’s acting now, even if he’s in a bad position for this fight. At least he’s not yet a lame duck. Change we can eventually believe in, a truer slogan.