United States to Overhaul Cuba Policy


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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74 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Cuba libre.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Revamping our relations with Cuba makes sense. The embargo and lack of diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba has ceased to have any real effect accept keeping Cubans poorer and giving the Castro regime a propaganda report. We should have done this at the end of the Cold War in 1991 but at least we are doing this now.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    Great idea a few years overdue. The R’s, sorry but you know its true, will have yet another frantic conniption over this. The speeches write themselves at this point. This was one of those bits of change we ( O voters) wanted from him. Sadly for political reasons, among both parties, its taken this long to do something so sensible. But at least he finally made the move. It’s a Hanukkah present to all of us.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to greginak says:

      “The R’s, sorry but you know its true, will have yet another frantic conniption over this. ”

      My favorite liberal blogs suspect this was a motivating factor.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to LWA says:

        Wrapping up a good week (Thanks Ted Cruz!) with a victory roll? Decided to troll the GOP and get himself a nice Christmas present in the form of shrieking conservatives, all red-faced, over an issue that nobody (aside from a very, very, very tine group in Florida) really cares about?

        Eh, I’m sure that wasn’t considered a down-side. But I don’t think that’s why — I think he’d have done this back in 2009, but he kept trying to cooperate.

        No point in even pretending to try, at this point.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

      Good week when it comes to Cuba and appointments. (That’s a good week, the first because the old policy was idiotic, the second because sitting President’s ought to be allowed to place their damn picks). Bad week tho for Obama’s immigration policy. Unconstitutional!Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Stillwater says:

        I just wandered over to Volokh and saw the commentary on that opinion.

        Nobody seemed to think it was good. Even a few people who think it’s unconstitutional think this reasoning is atrociously bad, even by hack standards.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Thanks. I’ll check it out.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:


        Yeah, the Volokh article makes paste outa the judges argument. I wonder if it was really that bad, tho?

        At Balkinization I read a brief history of the executive action, one which gives it a cleare – tho by no means constitutional – grounding. Fascinating in it’s own right.


      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Stillwater says:

        I wasn’t even talking the Constitutional case, but even delving into the reasoning where the judge basically twisted the case and forced the issue into play for no reason whatsoever.

        The defendant didn’t qualify for the program, period. Both the prosecutor AND the defense attorney agreed. So why was it in the scope of the ruling?

        Well, because he really wanted to rule on it. And even then, it gets into some weird twists and contradicts itself. It’s strange.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Stillwater says:

        Yeah, we had a Federal Judge give the “opinion” that Obama’s immigration solution is unconstitutional. Never mind that neither side had asked him to rule on this… (and that Obama’s solution isnt even terribly relevant to a known “criminal”).Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    The sooner the better and Rubio can go jump into the Carribean.Report

  5. Avatar Mo says:

    Looking at the list of countries we have normal trade relations with, e.g. KSA, Qatar, Pakistan, Columbia, China, pre-Crimean invasion Russia, I see no reason why Cuba belongs on the bad list aside from Florida’s electoral votes and a 60 year old grudge. It’s not even like the policy was effective.Report

  6. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Long overdue. This could be one of the highlights of his administration.Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am looking forward to the appearance of Cuban Rum near me.Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe says:

    We won’t have to worry about surge pricing on Studebakers anymore.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Is there a more cynically argued stance on an issue over the past generation than the Right’s anti-Cuba stance?

    There are so many positions on various issues from both sides where I think, “I think you’re nuts to have the position you do, but I get why you have it.”

    But Cuba?

    Every time I hear someone argue to me the importance of not having relations with Cuba while simultaneously arguing for everything else in the Right’s foreign policy playbook, I assume they’re completely full of s**t and hoping I’m stupid and not paying attention.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Let’s see, we have
      1) the second term of a Democratic administration
      2) a ticked off Florida Cuban ex-pat community
      3) a Bush running for the Presidency
      4) a left wing that’s not completely satisfied with Clinton

      History is not only rhyming, it’s using an identical rhyme.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe says:

        If you’re thinking there’ll be another Nader like event I think you need another hit of Coke. Now HCR or whoever the Dems nominate could lose but I simply can’t imagine that after two terms of Bush minor and the state that the right is in now the left would honestly be willing to risk some kind of insurgency.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Kolohe says:

        North – If I was an American, a good third party left-wing candidate was running, and Hillary Clinton was running for the Democratics, I would definitely vote for the third-party candidate. She’s far too hawkish and too supportive of the national-security state for me.

        Sometimes you just can’t stomach voting for the ‘lesser evil’.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe says:

        That may be Katherine, but Nader is (probably unfairly- I blame Gore) perceived as having inflicted Bush minor on us and memories from 2000 are still kindof bitter.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

        @North & @katherinemw I agree, North, that too many people have the memory of Nader 2000 seared into their memory for a splinter faction to get more than maybe 1% of the vote (compared to the nearly 3% for Nader). But I also think the Democratic party aparatchiks have the same memory and will make sure that people like you, Katherine, get a better hearing through this cycle’s nomination process than the one Bradley provided for you in 2000.

        Hillary Clinton in 2016 will be more left wing than Hillary Clinton in 2008 (or Senator Candidate Clinton in 2000 & 2006), but perhaps not as left wing as Hillary Clinton in the early nineties – and definitely not as left wing as the Hillary Clinton in the glurge of right-wing talk radio & internetReport

      • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe says:

        A good point Kolohe. Hillary has been making noises leftward now for a while. Jeb represents an interesting wrinkle: if he actually gets traction and does so by speaking moderation to the GOP that’d suggest an actual and genuine play for the middle which could complicate things enormously for Hillary.
        That said Jeb first has to actually get the nomination with his name and while speaking moderation to a base that has, for the last several cycles, had no patience for such things.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

        Potential Jeb Bush campaign slogans:

        Third Time’s A Charm!

        Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad

        I Can’t Possibly Be Worse, Right?

        Dick Cheney Doesn’t Even Know My Phone Number!

        You Don’t Have to Distinguish Me By My Middle InitialReport

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kolohe says:

        he could always go for the classic:
        “I’m White!”
        (man, that quote is hilariously apropos so long as you take it totally out of context).Report

  10. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    And the rest of the Cuban Five get to go home! I’m very happy with this policy change – it’s long past time. The embargo won’t be lifted, because Obama cleverly* waited until the Republicans had retaken Congress before making this move, but at least it’s a step forward.

    And even if you absolutely loathe Castro and communism, it’s still good policy, because faster Internet connections in Cuba and more travel from the US to Cuba mean more connection to the rest of the world and more communication between Cubans and Americans. If you want people to change their system of government, keeping them isolated and poor is precisely counter to your goals.

    *This is sarcasm.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to KatherineMW says:

      I agree with this. And Cuba is so close to the mainland U.S. that it will eventually get flooded with American tourists and that…will…be…that.Report

      • Avatar Francis in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        The Key West boat lift?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        “And Cuba is so close to the mainland U.S. that it will eventually get flooded with American tourists”

        This did provide some impetus to Casto’s revolution. Wealthy American-based resort owners (and sugar plantation owners) built up a lot of private (and racially segregated) resorts that excluded both economically and socially vast swaths of Cuban society, including the middle class. Thus alienated in their own country, it was not a stretch to throw their support behind someone that promised a more equitable and fair arrangement.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to KatherineMW says:

      I’ve long wondered why it is that blue jeans and the Rolling Stones were able to bring down the Berlin Wall and fragment the Soviet Union out of existence, but starving Cuba into submission via embargo would be the way Castro’s regime would fall.

      I thought it was even sillier when a lawyer I worked with, to this day one of the most conservative Republicans I know, told me a story about buying Cuban cigars in London to bring back to the U.S.: the tobbaconist removed the Cubanos from their box and carefully placed them, one by one, in an empty cigar box labelled “Made in Jamaica,” and advised my colleague that he could truthfully tell U.S. customs that the box had indeed been made in Jamaica.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The Cubans who moved to the US are almost uniformly right-wing and former Batista supporters.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Besides what Saul said, Castro did have a fair amount of popularity and legitimacy among Cubans for decades. The Cuban government also allowed for a more liberal culture than other communist regimes. The Eastetn European communist countries were very puritanical and had strong opinions about how people should spend their leisure time. Castro seems much more relaxed on this issue.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I think Burt is criticizing the efficacy of sanctions, not the legitimacy of Castro, FWTW.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Besides what Saul said, Castro did have a fair amount of popularity and legitimacy among Cubans for decades.

        Seeing people who said “I don’t like Castro” get two in the dome helps clarify legitimacy, after all.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

        No love for Castro here.

        How I was so hoping that this comment was expressing surprise that nobody had come to Castro’s defense in the comments yet…Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Dictators are a dime a dozen, and we have normal trade relations with most of them.

        Cuba’s the weird sort of outcast, because in terms of tyranny he’s far from the worst we happily deal with (heck, we spent most of the 80s selling military equipment to far worse!), and in terms of threats to the US he’s…not one.

        So why the embargo? What was the point after the USSR fell? It wasn’t the fact that Castro was a bad man — we routinely dealt with bad men, climbed happily into bed with them and did each other favors (and hey, these days, we’re the bad men!). Back in the day, we could worry about soviet’s basing out of Cuba — but those days ended long ago.

        After the USSR fell, whatever fig leaf of a point the embargo had disappeared. It’s only taken us decades to maybe, sorta, get rid of it.

        It’s just been kept up out of inertia, to pander to a few small groups, and probably due to some lobbying from people who wouldn’t like Cuba competing. (Cough. Cough. Corn Lobby. Cough. Cough.)Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Didn’t you mean Sugar lobby Morat?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Nope. Corn, which is used to make HFCS. Which is used in the place of sugar, even though you need quite a few more calories of HFCS to get equivalent sweetness.

        Seriously, the corn lobby needs to die in a fire. It’s not any one thing, it’s just…everything, taken together. Let’s make ethanol — but from corn! (Dumb, dumb, DUMB. Corn is an awful choice to make ethanol from. It’s very energy intensive. There are a number of other easily grown plants that can be turned into ethanol at a fraction of the energy cost).

        Let’s ban, tariff, or otherwise make sugar more expensive — so we can sell HFCS! They’ll need twice as much (and it’s awful for your health!) but it’s great for corn growers!

        Ugh. American farming is a bloody mess. Don’t even get me started on fertilizer companies. I’ve seen research indicating you can replace the bulk of fertilizer with a simple 1 in 4 fallow year of clover (which you can feed to cattle) and actually save money (the costs of a fallow field are LESS than the amount of fertilizer and such you don’t have to buy, since clover fixes nitrogen back in), but heaven forbid anyone do that.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko says:


        One of the farms I hunt on plants corn every year as cattle feed. They used to spend a lot of money fertilizing in the spring so they didn’t have to rotate crops. Then two years ago they started planting radishes in late winter. They completely replace all of the nutrients the corn strips out of the soil, plus they break it up when they start to surface and it makes spring plowing much easier. Roughly the same cost but a much more natural solution.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko says:


        You can bet that “Oh, hey, crop rotation actually works pretty darn good” is not a prime selling bit of research. 🙂

        I’ve been heartened by some of the work some of my friends do (two are in ‘sustainability’ for very large chemical companies). It’s surprisingly profit-oriented (and there’s a lot of PR in there too), but it’s a lot more profitable to find someone who wants to buy and use your waste products than paying to have it tossed in dumps.

        So half his job is reducing energy/materials needs while keeping output the same, and the other half is basically waste disposal — and they really want to find uses for their waste. It’s just better all around (the environmental benefits are just a bonus for PR purposes).

        Crop rotation for farmers isn’t just cheaper — it’s a heck of a lot more environmentally friendly. But I’m perfectly thrilled with them reducing waste, run-off, and the like for profit than for keeping things tidy.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to KatherineMW says:

      And the rest of the Cuban Five get to go home!

      I’m not sure why that’s a good thing, as opposed to just a pragmatic thing.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to James Hanley says:

        The Cuban Five went to the United States to investigate terrorism by Cuban expats against Cubans, which has been extensive, and at times has been state-sponsored by the US government (for example, the involvement of Luis Posada Carilles with the CIA). The US deliberately harboured and took no legal action against terrorists operating out of the United States, but they arrested the Cuban Five for investigating and seeking to prevent terrorism.

        If the US was in a comparable situation to Cuba, they’d have invaded the offending state sponsor of terrorism or ordered drone strikes. The Cubans sent five people to investigate, and the US arrested them and gave them life sentences.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        They were not mere investigators. They were spies and probably accessories to the killing of of people trying to help Cuban refugees escape to the U.S.

        Getting arrested is the probable fate of intelligence agents. Cuba arrested ours, we arrested theirs. That’s the game they put themselves into.

        I have no hatred of them, and don’t begrudge their release. But likewise I have no sympathy for them and see no reason to celebrate their release. It’s a business deal, no more, no less.Report

  11. Avatar dexter says:

    Everybody spends a great deal of time bashing Cuba’s government. I would like to ask the people here: if you were poor and told you had to live in an Hispanic country which one would you choose? If was told I had to move south I definitely would choose Cuba over Mexico.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dexter says:

      I’d probably pick Chile, myself.

      I imagine that, once the truth starts coming out about what Cuba did under Castro, a lot of folks will start saying “oh, I didn’t know *THAT*.”Report

      • Avatar dexter in reply to Jaybird says:

        Once that spawn of satan croaks, also known as Kissinger, and goes back to hell I am sure there will be a large number of graves dug up in Chile.
        Don’t forget that you are poor, probably don’t have the money or the iq to major in philosophy. Costa Rica is where I would go if I had money. One can’t go wrong in a country with no military and lax laws regarding weed.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Funny you pick Chile and complain about a horrible dictator, but I guess it’s OK if you let Milty Friedman visit and privatize Social Security.

        Also, Chile has one of the highest levels of inequality in the world that led to mass student protests in the past few years, but I guess you’re assuming you could afford one of the good private schools for any kidlets.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        If you care about inequality, I imagine that Cuba looks pretty good. Everybody is poor and afraid of the secret police.

        Additionally, Chile doesn’t have Pinochet as president today. I imagine that it’d be in poor taste to bring up Erich Honecker if one happened to say that one would prefer to live in Germany if one lived in Europe. (Huh. Honecker left East Germany to live in Chile. Ironic.)

        If what happened to Pinochet happens to Castro, though… would you complain about that?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Don’t forget that you are poor, probably don’t have the money or the iq to major in philosophy.

        Anybody can major in philosophy. It was “Pop Culture” 2500 years before “Pop Culture” was a degree. If I had the gumption to move anywhere I wanted, why wouldn’t I want to live in the US?Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird says:

        “If what happened to Pinochet happens to Castro, though… would you complain about that?”

        What, being lauded by right-wingers and libertarians for years, while getting rich?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:



      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        No, I mean dying during house arrest after being deposed while waiting trial for human rights abuses. You remember that he was deposed and then put on trial, right? Then he died in disgrace, right?

        I mean, if I’d be moving to Chile, it’d not be because Pinochet was in charge but because I’d be living among the folks who deposed Pinochet.

        Checking the Wiki, I see that Chile’s immigration numbers have been growing for a while. As I’ve said, I can’t find Cuba’s immigration numbers.

        I imagine that 20+ years after Castro dies, we’ll have better numbers. I’ve no doubt that those numbers will go up once the dictator has been deposed like what happened in Chile.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        What I really like about you, Jesse, is that you can always be counted on to raise the level of discourse.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Castro’s old enough that if he can manage the same amount of delay before being charged (let alone tried) as Pinochet, he has nothing to worry about.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:


        Ah, that hoary old lie! Thanks for repeating it, so I remain under no illusions about what type of person you are.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to dexter says:

      If I was poor and had to live in Latin America, I’d pick Cuba. It’s the only country in the region where poor people have universal access to a high-quality health care and education system.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to dexter says:

      Heh, you’re all wrong, every single one of you. Two words: Turks & Caicos. Easy answer there.Report

  12. Avatar Van_Owen says:

    By Satan, this is overdue. Nothing props up a regime like having the mightiest polity in human history 90 miles away and devoted to messing with you. Give ’em a good taste of FREEDOM TM and with any luck we’ll have a Havana team in the MLB in 2034.

    I’m gonna need a new subject to drunkenly rant on for future Fourth of Julys, though.Report

  13. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Yesterday also begins the 8 year countdown to the first article on how Capitalism has destroyed Cuba.

    But seriously, one shouldn’t oversell this too much, though. The biggest of the big ticket items, trade and tourism, are being expanded very, very, modestly for the former and not at all for the latter. (i.e. you still won’t be able to go to Cuba just for kicks).

    It’s an almost certainty that the first big moves into Cuba will be the result of semi-corrupt deals between a sizable multi-national conglomerate and the ruling regime, enriching both. (I think there are some such deals currently in place where hospitality companies run resorts that cater to foreign tourists that are allowed to go to Cuba – and spend hard currency). It’s what happened in China and Vietnam, so it’s an easy projection to see it happening here.

    These deals (and the ones that have followed) have indeed made the quality of life objectively better for the mass majority of the population of those countries. What they haven’t done, now going on 25 years, is broke the monopoly of the political power the ruling (legacy) Communist party has on them.

    (on the other hand, both China and Vietnam moved on politically from the Great Man founder of their respective revolutions prior to the transition to authoritarian capitalism; Cuba has not, and that might make a difference.)Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe says:

      Yeah, I was thinking that the people worried about Golden Arches destroying the pristine “shabbiness” (as Will Wilkinson I guess aptly if also a little uncharitably put it) of the country might be getting a little ahead of themselves. I’m assuming Raul will still be saying whether and where franchises of American retail chains will be opening up in the country for the foreseeable future.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Raul is 83.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        We can’t foresee Raul’s death, so he’s not exactly wrong.Report

      • I mean, are we just assuming that’s it for the government when he croaks?

        Regardless, it seems like people are getting ahead of themselves on the impact of this (specifically these actions) for the face of Cuba for the foreseeable future.

        “Getting ahead of themselves” doesn’t mean “they’ll never be proven right” (on their basic prediction, leaving aside their evaluation of it), it just means getting ahead of themselves.

        When do you guys think the fifth McDonald’s will open in Havana? The tenth?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Wikipedia says that Raul has announced he’ll be stepping down in 2018 (I just learned that, trying to figure out if he’s got a logical successor, which I can’t find.)Report