Administration after administration has perceived Cuba as an irritant inside our hemispheric shell and coated it with layer after layer of economic and political nacre, which unlike mother-of-pearl, has not created value. In fact, U.S. policy has rendered Cuba nearly irrelevant.
Fidel, of course, has been the focus of our sedimentary relationship, one that has hardened into clay, unmoving through ten U.S. presidencies. But with the announcement that Castro is stepping down after nearly 50 years, turning stewardship over to his brother Raul, the U.S. has an opportunity. Will the next president step out of the clay and back into the mud where things are sticky, sloppy, murky, but once again movable?
Ex-pat Cubans in Little Havanas throughout the U.S., still yearning for a return to the pre-1959 “freedoms” under the military regime of Gen. Fulgencio Batista, will lobby for a continuation of embargoes and isolation. But this may be a classic guns-or-butter situation. Cuba is poor, but could be a viable Caribbean connection. The Communist threat that was perceived to exist under USSR hegemony has been blown away by our non-trade winds.
The timing seems propitious. We’ll have a new administration in January, and 77-year-old Raul Castro (even with Fidel perched on his shoulder) may be looking for a legacy of his own. Next year will our new Decider open up communication and normalize relations? Will we create new trade agreements that seduce the Cuban population with consumer goods?
How about a Major League Beisbol expansion team?
Andale Havana Perfectos!