Cuba and the ‘forever’ blockade

Published September 9, 2021, 12:04 AM

by Gemma Cruz Araneta

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Gemma Cruz Araneta

When Pres. Joe Biden decided to extricate the United States of America from Afghanistan, he said it was to end the “forever war” in that distant land. He does not want to send more American soldiers to their death. After 20 years of military intervention and attempted nation-building, the Afghanistan project flamed out spectacularly, so American policy makers are finally convinced that they should learn from their mistakes. Never again should the United States of America venture into nation-building.

American elected officials and their constituents may have forgotten that the one and only successful nation-building project of the United States of American was the Philippines. Officially speaking, it took them 50 years to accomplish that objective. Whether or not the project was sustained after they left is another story.

Pres. Joe Biden could have decided to give the “Philippine model” another chance and spend 30 more years in Afghanistan to build a “show case of democracy.” Did he toy with the idea of sending shiploads of Thomasites to teach English? Was he informed about the efficacious pensionado program that converted a selected group of young Filipinos into harbingers of American culture? Did he research on the building frenzy of the Department of Public Works? Corporate military contractors should have been instructed to build spectacular provincial and town halls that conveyed the power and glory of America.

A Bureau of Education headed by an American could have constructed school houses by the hundreds each with a vegetable garden and outdoor gym in the hills and vales of Afghanistan. The USA did form an army like they did in the Philippines, but it failed; a government was set up, but its president was the first to flee. What did the USA not do in Afghanistan? I am being facetious.

The only nation Americans should build, or continue building, is their very own USA. As the original showcase of (western) democracy, alarming cracks are appearing on its glass façade. Followers of Donald Trump disparage President Biden at every turn. His gratuitously combative enemies have passed laws to restrict voters’ rights; they are bent on discrediting the Select Committee investigating Jan. 6. They are beating the dead Afghan horse for their self-centered political ends. They want to impeach Pres. Biden or force him to resign. At this writing, Biden’s enemies threaten a repeat of Jan. 6 on Sept. 18.

After unilaterally and boldly ending USA’s “forever” war in Afghanistan, will Pres. Joe Biden lift irrevocably the “forever” blockade on Cuba? He is the only one who can do it. Cuba is a deeply visceral issue for the Cubans who fled their country when the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista’s government in 1959. The majority, if not all of those who fled are now US citizens. I think most of them live in Florida where they have formed quite a formidable political force. One thousand five hundred of them joined an invasion force assembled and trained by the CIA in Guatemala. They launched a surprise attack on Cuba on April 17, 1961, at the Bay of Pigs, but after less than two days of fighting, they were defeated and imprisoned. However, a pragmatic Fidel Castro freed them in exchange of millions of dollars worth of baby food and medicines.

A “quarantine” or naval blockade was imposed on Cuba in 1961, after the Soviet Union (USSR) installed some missiles on the island republic. The USSR was Cuba’s economic scaffold until it imploded in 1991. Then, in 1996, the US congress passed the Helms-Burton Act which tightened the blockade; among other things, it prohibited the sale of properties in Cuba owned by Cuban-Americans. However, Pres. B. Obama loosened restrictions and American tourists flocked to Cuba, enjoying the charms of El Viejo Habana, the vintage cars, Havana Club rum, exquisite cigars. Hemingway’s estate and his favorite haunts became must-see destinations for old gringos. Donald Trump put an end to all that.

Should President Biden lift the “forever” blockade on Cuba? Definitely, he is the only one who can do it. Will that turn the state of Florida on its ear? Yes, it undoubtedly will. What if he ordered the prison in Guantanamo closed? What if he suddenly lifts the threat of trade sanctions so Cuba can interact freely with all nations? I must be dreaming.

“Even if no bombs are falling on Cuba, we are the only country in the world suffering a blockade imposed by a world superpower,” declared the head of Cuba’s delegation to the Asia Pacific Regional Solidarity Conference held in Manila, in 2017. Food is strictly rationed in Cuba, but education is available to all and so is medical care. Cuba sends its doctors, health care workers and teachers whenever disaster strikes in Africa and South America. My wish list for Cuba is getting longer by the day.

([email protected]) gemmacruzaraneta.com

 
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