A New Chance For Cuban Sanity

Like A Phoenix Rising From the Ashes
Thursday, January 15th, 2015
      This Bloomberg News photo shows two huge cargo cranes at Cuba's refurbished Mariel Port 28 miles southwest of Havana and due south of Key West, Florida. The newly deepened port is now a Caribbean jewel. The photo was used yesterday -- January 14th -- to illustrate a major article in The Wall Street Journal written by William Mauldin. He wrote: "U. S. businesses are pressing the Obama administration to offer wider access to Cuba's markets...fearing they could lag behind overseas competitors as the island nation takes steps toward opening up its economy." The long and insightful article reinforced the consensus opinion that normalizing relations with Cuba, as President Obama is bravely trying to do, would benefit most Cubans, most Americans, most Caribbeans, most Latin Americans, and most of America's best friends around the world. Yet, in all likelihood, America's failed, flawed, archaic, indecent, undemocratic, avaricious, and cruel Cuban policy will continue to be dictated by a handful of Cuban-Americans at the expense of everyone else. 
     For example, if normalizing relations between the U. S. and Cuba benefited everyone in the world, but was opposed by a couple of entrenched Cuban-American members of the U. S. Congress from Union City and Miami, it would be the 7.2 billion people in the world who would end up as the losers. It has been that way since 1959 when the triumph of the Cuban Revolution chased the leaders of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship back to U. S. soil, from which, remarkably, they have been unable to regain control of the pugnacious island. While President Obama has certain executive powers, Cuban-American extremists have control of the U. S. Congress. Thus, no matter what brilliant business writers such as William Mauldin opine, they always omit the most salient fact, which is: The Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba both say a helluva lot more about the United States than they say about Cuba.
This map shows the location of the Mariel Port 28 miles southwest of Havana. 
         This 21-year-old right-handed pitcher, Yoan Lopez, didn't have a bank account in Cuba but he now has one in America. Yoan has just gotten an $8.5 million bonus from the Arizona Diamondbacks in America's National League. He turned down a larger $9 million bonus offer from another team because he preferred playing in Arizona, which has a climate not so unlike Cuba's. Yoan pitched for three years in Cuba's top league for Isla de la Juvetud on the island just south of the main island. Because Cuba, per capita, produces far more baseball talent than the U. S., Yoan could have signed with other Major League teams, most of whom already have Cuban superstars. But Yoan preferred sunny Arizona where he joins his best Cuban buddy, Yasmany Tomas.
      This is Yasmany Tomas. He is a 24-year-old outfielder.       Yasmany recently signed a $68.5 million guaranteed contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Yoan Lopez's new team.
     This is 20-year-old infielder Roberto Baldoquin shown on one of his last days on a Cuban baseball field. Last week the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Roberto an $8 million signing bonus. The 30 U. S. Major League teams can risk guaranteeing such money to prospects because of enormous television revenue for sports teams in baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. While Cuba, per capita, produces far more baseball talent than the U. S., the U. S. has far more money -- per capita and, uh, otherwise.
           This is Andy Ibanez, a 21-year-old, 5-foot-10-inch, 183-pound second baseman. Andy recently left Cuba and is now in the Dominican Republic as his high-profile agents and advisers sift through a bevy of offers from Major League teams in the U. S. The Perfect Storm continues: Cuba's gold-mine of baseball talent is endless and pro baseball teams in the U. S. have bottomless pits of television money. Andy, 20-year-old pitcher Norge Ruiz, 18-year-old slugger Vladimir Gutierrez, etc., will soon join a long list of Cuban multi-millionaires playing baseball in the nearby United States.
       This Ramon Espinosa/AP photo shows two Cubans among a crew of workers renovating Cuba's capital dome in Havana. The Cuban government decided to go ahead with the project after the December 17th announcement that the United States and Cuba were trying to normalize relations, a plan that outrages a few powerful Cuban-Americans who believe they alone should dictate America's Cuban policy.
       Cuba's capital building is one of the architectural wonders of the Western World. But like many private and public structures on the island, it is badly in need of restoration. The U. S. embargo against Cuba, in place since 1962, has not only harmed the island's economic viability but it has also prevented badly needed U. S. supplies and construction equipment and material from reaching the island. Such renovation projects in Cuba would not only put many Cubans and Americans to work, they would also benefit both countries economically, architecturally, and in many other ways.
       This is the U. S. Interests Section Building in Havana. Up to 300 Americans and Cubans work on the six main floors. The building was constructed in the 1950s and it is badly in need of repairs, especially the roof that leaks. President Obama, as part of his plans to normalize relations with Cuba, plans to renovate this building in preparation for a U. S. Embassy in Havana. But all those plans, which would help so many Americans and Cubans, are, not unexpectedly, strongly opposed by a small but powerful segment of Cuban-Americans who vow to block any funds needed to open the proposed new U. S. Embassy in Cuba and to block any Ambassador to Cuba that President Obama will name. Odds are, the minority exile forces on American soil who have dictated America's Cuban policies for over five decades will continue to do so in a democracy that, more and more, is susceptible to special interest money.
        Sunday on the CBS program "Face the NationSenator Lindsey Graham said, "If you are being offered the ambassador to Cuba job, turn it down because you don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting confirmed." As a democracy-loving conservative Republican, I have come to firmly believe that entrenched right-wing Republican thugs in the U. S. Congress, as epitomized by Senator Graham, represent the biggest threat to the democracy envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Graham has been in the U. S. Congress since 1995. As an almost-impossible-to-dislodge incumbent from one nondescript area of South Carolina, Graham can make asinine decisions in the U. S. Senate that adversely affect 300 million Americans, 11 million Cubans, and innocent people worldwide. Additionally he can block decisions that would benefit 300 million Americans, 11 million Cubans, and world citizens. But those 300 million Americans and 11 million Cubans are pawns that must live with the likes of a Senator Graham because of a flawed system that allows for such incumbency -- decade after decade. Senator Graham should be a dog-catcher in the tiny town of Central located in the northwest corner of South Carolina, not a tax-paid, PAC-enriched eternal member of the U. S. Congress spewing his onerous right-wing ideology. 
Phoenix, in Greek mythology, was a beautiful bird that rose from the ashes.
Cuba, in Caribbean reality, is trying to rise from the ashes.
This recent AP/Desmond Boylan photo shows two classic cars at Cuba's Malecon seawall.

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