DANIEL RUTH | Tampa Tribune
If come this November, President George W. Bush loses his bid for re-election and the culprit eventually turns out to be a narrow defeat in Florida, he may well attribute his fate to a lousy, stinking $117.
Over the course of 10 presidential administrations, one strategy after another has been implemented to undermine the regime of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
For more than 40 years, we’ve seen everything from the Bay of Pigs invasion, to attempts to poison the dictator’s cigars, to economic (ooooooooh, verrrrrry scary) sanctions.
Not one of those strategies has worked to topple Castro.
Nine presidents have ridden off into the sunset and some into their graves, and yet there sits Fidel Castro down in Havana, ruling over the largest collection of 1956 Chevrolets man has ever seen.
And so this latest effort to dislodge Castro is notable for both its simplistic naivete and its political dunderheadedness.
A few days ago, the Bush administration implemented a series of tough and completely useless travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans wishing to visit their homeland.
Amid the draconian insanity is a new rule limiting to $50 the amount travelers may spend a day in Cuba, down from the previous limit of $167.
That’s a difference of $117 a day, or 27 electoral votes.
As well, Cuban-Americans may take only 44 pounds of luggage with them to the island and just $300 in walking-around money.
Visitors may not bring back to America any merchandise purchased in Cuba, and trips are limited to 14 days. Before the new rules, Cuban-Americans could make unlimited visits to the island.
And, in what is perhaps the most cruel restriction, Cuban emigres may return to their native country once every three years.
Ahem, just exactly how did the Bush administration arrive at the conclusion that the surefire means to bring down the 45-year rule of Fidel Castro was by creating onerous travel restrictions on innocent Cubans who merely want to visit and help support their loved ones?
So much for family values.
Or from a more mercenary point of view, where is the political upside in alienating a huge block of otherwise supportive voters by creating a sort of Guayabera Wall between them and their friends and families a mere 90 miles away?
Fine, fine, fine, fine. Let’s all stipulate that Fidel Castro is - ALTOGETHER NOW! - a bad chap, a tyrant, evil personified.
However, even Castro’s most ardent enemies would have to grudgingly concede this guy is one of the more resilient heads of state in the history of oppressors.
After all these decades, does anyone - with the exception of the White House and its myopic apparatchiks - believe Fidel Castro is quaking in his combat boots over the prospect of losing some American dollars?
If U.S. economic sanctions on the island have had all the deleterious effect of Bill Gates losing $1 in a vending machine, what makes anybody think depriving Cuban- Americans of the ability to send more than $300 a quarter to immediate family is going to reduce Castro to a tub of whimpering goo?
Indeed, when you think that Americans can freely travel to places like Libya, or Vietnam, or China - none of these places bastions of Jeffersonian democracy - the double standard applied to visiting Cuba looms as all the more ham-handed.
The only people who are going to be damaged by the new travel restrictions are the Jose Six Pack Cubans who depended on the kindness of friends and relatives in the United States to help ease the burdens of life on the island.
The irony is that restricting Cuban-Americans’ access to their families will not hasten the end of the Castro regime by one day, but it could limit Bush’s time in office.
So much for being a uniter rather than a divider.