FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Americans Often See Cuba Upside Down

President Obama’s historic trip to Havana, Cuba — the first American president to visit since Calvin Coolidge in 1928 — opens the door to a new era in relations not only with Cuba, but also with our neighbors across the hemisphere.

Extensive press coverage of the trip will feature the President’s meeting with Cuban leader Raul Castro, the Tuesday baseball game pitting the Cuban national team against Tampa Bay, the president’s meetings with business leaders and with Cuban dissidents. We’ll get pictures of aged Chevy’s held together by duct tape, of lovely but crumbling Havana mansions, of Cuba’s lively culture and its widespread poverty.

Cuba surely is a poor country. Its government, while still enjoying popular support, is a far remove from a democracy. Freedom of speech and assembly are greater than most realize, but still severely policed. But much of what we think about Cuba is upside down, and inside out.

First, in many ways, the president’s initiative to normalize relations with Cuba isn’t so much ending their isolation as ending ours. Cuba has enjoyed good and growing relations with our neighbors across the hemisphere for years. In recent years, those countries have threatened to exclude the U.S. from hemispheric meetings if we continued to demand that Cuba’s exclusion. We have sought to isolate Cuba for over 50 years; we ended up isolating ourselves.

Second, for many across the world, Cuba, not the U.S., has been on the right side of history. Cuba stood with Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress while the U.S. was supporting the apartheid government and labeling Mandela a terrorist. When South Africa invaded Angola in the mid-1970s to block the independence movement there, it was Cuba, not the U.S. that sent troops to force South Africa’s withdrawal. One of the first visits Mandela made after he was freed was to Havana to thank Fidel Castro for his support, hailing the Cuban revolution as “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving peoples.”

Similarly, for many across Africa and Latin America, Cuba is known for supplying doctors and teachers, aiding in the development of nations emerging from colonialism. America, too often, has been either allied with the former colonialists or hostile to the emerging independent movements.

Third, while some of Cuba’s poverty is self-inflicted, some is also the direct result of 50 years of the embargo. Cuba is a small island, 90 miles off our coast, without its own oil. Before the revolution, tourism was a leading industry; foreign investors were central to the economy. The revolution upended that order. The embargo severed those and any new ties. In the Cold War years, the Soviet Union alone provided a lifeline for the regime. Since the end of the Cold War, more and more countries have chafed at the American embargo and begun to deal with Cuba.

Fourth, most popular leaders in South America see Cuba as an example of proud, national independence. In many ways, our hostility to Castro elevated his stature across the world. Emerging populist leaders in South America don’t plan to imitate Cuban socialism, which is being slowly reformed. But they are envious of Cuba’s health care and education systems, which provide Cubans with a standard of health and educational opportunity far above most developing countries.

Fifth, Cuba has not been closed to us; we have been closed to Cuba. The Cubans have been looking for a dialogue for years. When I went to Cuba in 1984, I met with Fidel Castro and even took him to church. We negotiated the release of 22 American and 26 Cuban political prisoners. He was ready for a dialogue then, but the U.S. continued its no-talk policy until President Obama finally launched his historic initiative.

Reform will come slowly in a Cuba that is still proud of its revolution and anxious to preserve its gains in health care and education. Its foreign policy will remain proudly independent. The regime remains on guard against U.S. efforts to undermine it from within.

But reform will come slowly here also. To this day, Congress refuses to lift an embargo that punishes a small neighbor off our coast. To this day, our arrogance and ideological blinders make it hard for us to see Cuba whole. The president has opened the door. Increased travel, cultural exchanges and the beginnings of business investment will push it open further. Most Americans already support normal relations and an end to a policy that has failed for over half a century. And one day, we can hope, even the ideologues and zealots in the Congress will get the message.

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail