And with good reason….
I generally don’t advertise that I’m a Cuban exile, one who arrived on these shores 49 years ago, seeking freedom. When a friend or acquaintance finds out my refugee status, the question that usually comes up is, “What do you think of the embargo and travel ban to Cuba? Don‘t you think it‘s time for the USA to lift it and resume diplomatic and economic relations?”
The questioner almost always seems to assume that my answer will be in the affirmative. Not so. Some historical background to explain my position, if you please.
The travel ban to Cuba was the undoing of President Ronald Reagan. He re-imposed this “failed” policy in 1982, after President Jimmy Carter lifted it in 1977.
The Left, as well as many well-meaning native-born Americans, often refers to the “embargo” as “failed.” They have it exactly backward. It’s this fetish for “engagement” with Fidel (or Raul) Castro, this lust for “rapprochement” with the ultimate Maximum Leader of the Revolution that has failed; time and time again it has failed.
Presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton have tried accommodating Fidel Castro. Every time, the scheme has blown up in their faces like an exploding Havana. Picture Wile E. Coyote after yet another failed scheme to catch Road Runner – blown up, scorched, cinders dropping from his nose – then “Beep-Beep!” ringing in his ears. There’s your Fidel “engagement” crowd to a tee.
President Carter tried a “be nice to Castro and he’ll be nice back” approach to relations with Cuba by lifting the travel ban in the spring of 1977, barely a couple of months after his inauguration. Fidel reciprocated by sending thousands of additional crack Cuban troops to spread Soviet terror and poison gas in Angola. Also, more pronounced internal repression, and goodness knows how many psychopaths, killers, and perverts allowed to infiltrate the Mariel Boatlift.
“Beep-Beep!” went the Fidelistas; North American Castrophiles blown up and scorched, Coyote style.
A few years earlier, in 1975, President Gerald Ford had yielded to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s insistence that he relax the embargo. The president allowed foreign branches and subsidiaries of U.S. companies to trade freely with Cuba, and persuaded the Organization of American States to lift its sanctions.
Castro proceeded to reciprocate by starting his African invasion.
Early in his first term, President Reagan himself explored a deal with Fidel Castro. Perhaps it was Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s initiative – not unlikely because of Secretary Haig’s long-time affinity to Henry Kissinger. The secretary traveled to Mexico where he met with Cuban Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez to feel him out. Then he sent diplomatic wiz-kid Vernon Walters to Havana for a meeting with the Maximum Leader.
The thing came to nothing. Mr. Walters had Castro's number. He came back reporting Castro wouldn't budge an inch on anything. Castro was hell bent on exporting revolution to Grenada and Central America. Jimmy Carter would have smiled his toothy smile and proceeded with his rapprochement, while Walter Mondale wouldn't have missed a step. Fortunately, we had clear-eyed, hard-nosed men at the helm back then. "Suit yourself, Fidel," snorted Mr. Reagan and his team.
Within a year, Castro's troops got thoroughly stomped and booted out of Grenada. It may not have been pretty, but it was certainly effective. Reagan administration aid to local anti-communists continued the rollup of Castroites through El Salvador and Nicaragua until all Central America was cleansed of Marxist-Terrorist scum.
Castro's groupies and agents at the United Nations, Organization of American States, the National Democratic Party, Hollywood, Congressional Black Caucus, Congress, New York Times, Washington Post and the Ivy League all squawked to high heaven. Fidel, however, knew better than to try anything cute – not during Reagan's terms.
He saw what happened to his buddy Moammar Gadhafi in April, 1986. That loudmouth ended up literally like the earlier description of Wile E. Coyote. You'll notice he remained rather mum after the incident, and tried nothing cute himself for many years.
The 82nd Airborne and a squadron or two of F-111’s seem to have a very salutary effect on uppity dictators. "Beep-Beep!" from the USA this time.
Alas, come 1992, the political pendulum swings and we elect a different administration. Time to play nice again. Time for more "cultural exchanges," etc., with Cuba.
In 1993, Mobile, Alabama, set up a sister-city deal with Havana. Much cooing and gurgling ensued from Mobile's “Best and Brightest.” The wonders of "people to people" contacts, the glories of "engagement" were hymned over oceans of cocktails and mountains of hors d’oeuvres, possibly taxpayer-provided. Respective officials went back and forth on friendly visit after friendly visit. Much toasting, smiling and bantering.
Then whoops! Turned out the charming Cuban official responsible for the heartwarming arrangement, this witheringly simpatico gentleman who charmed the Guccis and Capezios off Mobile's glitterati, was unavailable to attend the 10-year celebratory bash earlier this year. What happened?
Well, Oscar Redondo was his name, and he'd been fingered by the FBI and booted out of the U.S. for espionage. Even better, as Castro defector Juan Vives tells us, a priority for Cuba's intelligence agency is to capture, with mikes and cameras planted in hotel rooms, the nighttime cavortings of all of Cuba's visiting "friends."
"Beep-Beep!" went the Castroites to Mobile's “Best and Brightest,” whose smiles were looking more like grimaces as they went damp on the forehead.
To be continued…