As President Obama announces intentions to normalize relations with Cuba, I say it’s about time. Here’s what I wrote on the subject two years ago:
The ban can be traced directly to Little Havana, the Miami neighborhood that’s full of Cuban ex-patriots. I think there are only about 11 original guys who floated to the US on a raft in 1962 and are still alive, but they and their offspring have grown into a powerful special interest group. They still hate Castro so much that you can’t even say his name without their radar picking it up, followed by ginned-up anger and controversy.
How much power to these ex-pats have? They are singularly responsible for the US continuing to have a hands-off policy when it comes to Cuba. You see, Little Havana controls the Spanish-speaking voters of Miami, which is in the electorally-impaired state of Florida, which just happens to be one of the key swing states in presidential politics. No politician on the national stage would dare piss off the ex-pats by softening our Cuba policy for fear of losing Florida and its power-granting electorate.
I’m no fan of Castro or any other dictator, but foreign policy towards his regime (and now his brother Raul’s regime) is completely inconsistent with our attitude towards every other country. Cuba is the only nation on earth that the US forbids its citizens to travel to (except under certain special conditions, or to serve at the base at Guantanamo — in other words, there’s no general tourism from America to Cuba). Meanwhile, citizens of other countries can (and do) travel to Cuba all the time to enjoy its beautiful beaches, because their governments aren’t afraid of blowback from Little Havana.
The US restriction on travel to Cuba is not because it’s a communist, totalitarian state. If that was all it took to create a travel ban, you couldn’t go to Vietnam, a nation we fought a war with! Not only are you allowed to travel to Ho Chi Minh City, but American companies do lots of business there. The same is true for another tiny communist country you may have heard of. Its name is China, and you could fly there tomorrow if you wanted to (and had a visa). You could even go there, then come back and put on a one-man show full of lies about an iPad factory, and our government wouldn’t stop you. American businesses do billions of dollars of business with China, but don’t you dare try to sell Pepsi and Pizza Hut in Cuba!
Why are you allowed to go halfway around the world to Vietnam and China, but not to Cuba? Blame Little Havana.