Sunday, July 25, 2010

Havana Here We Come?

Before I get into the issue of travel to Cuba I think it’s necessary to provide a short history lesson. Cuba has a long history of Imperial rule enforced by one nation or another. First Cuba was a Spanish colony. Then, after the Spanish-American War, Cubans were under the rule of the United States through various Laws and Acts, most notably the Platt Amendment. This Amendment gave the United States the authority to intervene in any foreign or domestic situations that they saw fit. It also gave them access to certain military bases and territories, such as the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

After Fidel Castro took control of the island nation in the 1959 Revolution, the United States almost instantly feared the new leadership. The US has a longstanding history of interfering in foreign affairs of Latin American nations, where they often have no business being. The United States was actually behind the instigation of Fulgencio Batista, Fidel’s predecessor, as President of Cuba.

For all these reasons, the United States’ long–standing control over the Island, Fidel decided he wanted nothing to do with the US. One of the main reasons behind the embargo between the two countries was that Castro wanted the US refineries in Cuba to process Soviet oil. As this was the height of the Cold War this did not go over well with US authorities.

Now to get to the issue with US travel to Cuba. At the same time that the trade embargo passed there was a hold placed on travel as well. Since its inception certain groups of people have been fighting to change this. Havana could benefit from US tourism. There was a strong US presence in Havana before the Revolution and many wish for the right to return.

Currently there is a movement by various interest groups and some Cuban-Americans alike to get this travel ban lifted. They have done so by backing a congressional bill that would also work towards more relaxed regulations on agriculture sales between our island neighbor and ourselves.

In the US there is still a strong anti-Castro sentiment, especially among most Cuban-Americans so there is naturally going to be a great deal of opposition to any such bill and many will go to great lengths so see that it is never passed. However the cleverness of this bill is that it combined travel and agriculture into one, which allowed for many farm-state lawmakers to be won over. Selling to Cuba could be very lucrative for farmers and thus in this regard many welcome such a bill and it passed the House Agriculture Committee back in June.

It would be monumental for such a bill to pass. If we could restore travel to the island and agriculture sales then perhaps we could work towards a new relationship with the island and her leaders. After all the Cold War has been over for quite some time and it is time to look towards the future, instead of constantly looking to the past.

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