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All I Want for Christmas

by BENJAMIN WILLIS

Dear Santa,

I just wanted to shoot you off this quick note to ask you for a gift this Christmas before tomorrow in case something catastrophic happens. I know that this year has been especially challenging for your crew as far as figuring out who’s been naughty or nice. I’m sure the nice list is getting shorter and shorter.

With that in mind I ask this one present from you- Please take Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list!

It’s the only thing I really want. I’m bored with my Cold War embargo board games. The tires are falling off my Helms-Burton red wagon. I’m sick and tired of my Cuban-American congressional cabal doll set. Ileana’s frowns and cackles scare my friends and Marco Rubio’s stuffing is coming out of his ears. Bob Menendez keeps running off with Hooker Barbie and not paying while hiring sex offenders and illegal immigrants to keep the toy chest in order. It’s just not fun anymore. I’ve grown out of these children’s games.

For all the bellowing of how Cuba is a sponsor of terrorism by these congressional members you would think that there would be more incriminating evidence to prove such allegations. The State Department’s own website only can really cite a few very tangential relations with terrorist organizations. The latest country-by-country report came out on July 31 of this year and compiled all of 2011’s information on connections with terrorist groups. Chapter 3 of said document includes a cursory entry for Cuba. As has been the case for at least twenty years, allegations against Cuba pale in comparison with the other nations that have appeared on this ignominious list including Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, North Korea and Libya. Chapter 5 has six subsections concerning “terrorist safe havens”. Cuba isn’t even mentioned. Cuba’s supposed transgressions involve harboring members of the FARC. With the historic peace negotiations last month between this group and the Colombian government held under the auspices of the Cuban government there is going be one less ticky-tack infraction on the State Department’s paragraph on Cuba next year.

Oh Saint Nick! You signed the Nicene Creed!

Surely, you can tell that the missive indicting Cuba is nonsense.

For someone who spends the whole year preparing lists it should be easy for you to tell the difference between a country that assists in kidnappings, assassinations, money laundering, and wholesale violence with a nation that sends doctors around the world to the most impoverished communities, hosts peace negotiations, and excels at music, literature, and baseball. Cuba may not meet your definition for “nice”- but it definitely doesn’t belong on the “naughty” list!

I know, I know. It’s a process. There isn’t a single solitary present that would deliver me a declaration by president Obama to Congress that the U.S. State Department is taking Cuba off the Sponsor of Terrorism list.

However, there are a few material objects that you could bring on your whirlwind journey around the planet that would help:

1. A desk – for John Kerry in the Secretary of State’s office at the State Department. From there he can continue to criticize the role of USAID in Cuba and lambast the boondoggle that is Radio and TV Marti. His leadership on Cuba would be greatly appreciated and a State Department run by him would take a different approach to dealing with the island.

2. A chair – for Chuck Hagel to sit on at the cabinet table as Secretary of Defense. His straight-forwardness on Cuba is refreshing and he’s called our policy with Cuba “senseless”. Hagel would know the difference between a real terrorist threat and a pariah.

3. A guayabera – for Bill Clinton. We want him to look good when he steps off the plane in La Habana to begin formal talks with Cuban officials. No more delegations of Senators and Congressional members to be dispatched to the island for all sorts of menial assignments. Let’s send in a heavy-hitter with the gravitas of Clinton to talk about forging a new future in relations between the two nations. Now that Hillary will no longer have a position that handcuffs the former president from being a leading diplomat for the U.S. it’s time his charisma and experience were put to good use. The election campaign proved that he’s still got a lot to give. Proponents of engagement with Cuba would be grateful if he were given the task to finally begin a process of normalization.

4. A pair of reading glasses – for president Obama so he can read all the reforms that have taken place in Cuba recently. Cuba’s new immigration reforms alone are cause for further investigation by our leader. He’ll also need them to pore over the lengthy statements generated by the U.N.’s annual vote to denounce the U.S. embargo of Cuba that just happened in November.

5. A crate of stationery- for the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) so they can start issuing more people-to-people licenses for American citizens to visit Cuba and learn for themselves how “dangerous” Cuba isn’t.

6. A bag of dirt – All the dirt on Bob Menendez! It seems as though the Senator is embroiled in one or two scandals recently and an endless stream of bad press leading to his ouster would be a perfect present to put underneath the great Tannenbaum of Normalization. One less threat of filibuster in the Senate is what is going to be needed to eventually repeal the Helms-Burton Act.

For Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Dan Burton, Albio Sires, and all the other members of Congress that would continue to play the same “reindeer games” in order to perpetuate our retrograde policy with Cuba – a lump of coal in their stockings is what they deserve! Or blobs of tar sands, whichever is easier for you.

Hopefully, the dawning of a new age will bring with it true changes. The world already has enough to worry about from real threats of terrorism, vicious hate, and senseless violence. Taking Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism would show that we understand which nations mean to harm us and which don’t.

This is all I ask this year Santa. It doesn’t necessarily need to happen immediately. If you need to put one or two items on layaway until later in the year I’ll understand. But please, no more of the same crap that we’ve been given for years.

Thanks!

Ben

P.S. Enjoy the Cuban coffee and casquitos de guayaba con queso that we left on the table. Hopefully, one of these years we’ll be able to (legally) leave you a nice glass of Havana Club and a robusto to enjoy during those transoceanic flights.

Benjamin Willis is a musician in Queens and is a founding member of CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement).

 

Benjamin Willis is an activist living in New York who has worked with the Cuban American community in bringing about engagement during the Obama era. His book reviews are available in the International Journal of Cuban Studies. He is Co-Director of the United States Cuba NOW PAC.

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