By: D. Jeff Christenson | Publisher | Harrison Daily Times | March 17
The first time I saw 2nd District U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder’s (Dem. Little Rock) picture all buddied-up with Fidel Castro in Havana and plastered all over the USA Today newspaper, I was shell-shocked.
“What the heck were you thinking?” was my reaction.
The state paper crawled all over it, as was expected, and there were numerous letters to the editor (both pro and con) concerning his visit to the outlaw country just ninety miles south of Key West, Fla.
That was over a year ago, and the more I think of it today, “what the heck was I thinking?”
At this juncture, Cuba is not much more of a threat than say - Jamaica. Well, actually Jamaica might be more of a threat since they openly peddle drugs to Americans or any other visitors willing to stop by.
Now, I’ll admit, my fascination with Cuba didn’t start with this column. I have spent time studying the history of Cuba for a long time. While the U.S.’ buddy-buddy relationship with Batista in the 50’s might have come back to haunt us today, Cuba today is ten notches lower than Iraq in terms being a threat to us.
Cuba has depended on the rest of the (shrinking) communist world to prop it up since Castro took control. Much of the communist block and support no longer exists. It’s the U.S. economic embargo that has dominated Cuba’s economic status for over four decades. Their people drive junk cars, of which parts are not available, have little petroleum products and must endure spartan medical treatment for the masses.
There is little reason to think those conditions pose much of a threat to the U.S. All right I’ll admit it. I want to visit Cuba, especially Havana.
Understand, I could go to Cuba today as a working journalist since that is allowed by both governments. But that is not the way I’d like to see Old Havana. I want to be a typical tourist.
I’d like to stroll the streets of the 15th century city on my terms, taking pictures and talking to the locals for no other reason than because I want to hear what they have to say - hear what they have to say about my country and their’s.
Having been lucky enough to spend a few days in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a few years back, I imagine Havana to be much the same.
Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba in 1492 and claimed it for Spain, thus the predominant Spanish Colonial influence. The U.S. completely severed ties with Cuba in 1962 during the Cuba Missile Crisis.
When the U.S.S.R. came to the aid of Cuba and sent additional missiles to the island, Pres. John F. Kennedy ordered a Naval blockade to prevent those missiles from reaching the island. It was a gutsy call, and one that could have led to a nuclear war between the two superpowers of the world.
After several days of standoff and worry of war (boy, does that sound familiar) the U.S.S.R. backed off and we began sanctions and a loathing of Castro.
That was 41 years ago, and Cuba is a faint resemblance of its former self.
Many Americans are interested in normalizing relations with Cuba.
Castro is 77 years old and not likely to last too much longer. With his departure Cuba would have a realistic chance to return to a free and democratic society; one that the U.S. would surely embrace.
So, why not go ahead and start the normalization process now and be a leg up when that day comes.
Here’s an interesting thought: when we go to war with Iraq, topple Hussein and control his vast oil reserves, we could then annex Cuba and take over their vast rum production.
Unrestricted oil and plentiful rum. Now that’s an idea in the making.