THE BLOG

The Importance of Being... Cuban ?

On the afternoon of September 3, 2009, OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) finally published the final rule amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, which allows for the implementation of the Presidents; initiative of April 13th to "reach out to the Cuban people." Basically what this means is that the rules and regulations that have been valid since the year 2004 are no longer going to be enforced.

Past history

During the Clinton Administration, and after signing the Helms Burton Bill into law, President Clinton had the initiative to start what some might like to call a trend. This is to say, he established a "people to people" policy which enabled citizens from the United States whether they were of Cuban decent or not to travel to Cuba under all sorts of licensed permits. These ranged from the arts and culture to academia, almost every single field of science, and of course family-related and humanitarian trips. For the most part the idea was to "help" the Cuban people better understand how a real democracy works by giving them the opportunity to hold exchanges with citizens from the United States. All in all, and if we go beyond any narrow minded ideas of paternalism, it wasn't a bad idea.

Not to say that Cuba or its people really necessarily would learn a whole lot from the United States or anywhere else about democracy, but yes, and I am sure that many would agree with me on this: exchange amongst all peoples is always a step in the correct (swap of word intended) direction.

This whole plan was working rather well until one fine group of legislators from the Cuban American community in South Florida and New Jersey along with other lesser Cuban legislators urged President WH Bush to eliminate these exchanges entirely. But the then President went one step further, he also took it upon himself -- granted, he probably didn't do it all on his own -- to redefine the meaning of the word "family". And so it was that from the year 2004 up until today, a Cuban family was defined as parents, children, husbands, wives and sibling's, everything else was off limits. But it got worse, not only was the definition restricted there were also limits on time travel, controls on money spent and of course a whole lot of Catch 22 in the process. You could only travel down once every three years, spend a maximum of 15 days and not exceed around more than 100 to 150 US dollars -- depending on the area in the country -- per night which of course included all foods, transport and lodgings. This economic and schedule "punishment" was two fold: don't give any money to the Castro Regime, make people down in revolt. The first part makes some sense, the second not so much. The Bush administration was "kinda sorta" expecting Cubans on the island to revolt against the Castro government because a specific US administration hates that government so much that it was willing to punish Cuban citizens? That doesn't quite make sense, but I may be wrong.

So, now, today, the Treasury Department has finally gotten its OFAC to put in print the deregulations of the previous constraints, or at least the better version or a lesser evil. Still, there is something failing in all of this. Now Cuban families will be broader in concept, now trips will be more frequent, and the influx of whatever cash anyone happens to have left over in a pretty messed up world wide economy will be able to reach the Cuban shores, but what about that other family concept? What about the fact that Cubans and Americans have been "related" in one way or another dating back to the 19th century? What about friendships established In the meantime between then and now? What about the new relations that could flourish? What about getting all of the peoples from both sides of the shores and from all of the states and province limits and having one huge town hall meeting to discuss and exchange ideas about all sorts of issues important to the entirety of the 350 million over there and the 11 million over here?

Wouldn't that be an effort worth taking into account and talking about, albeit, crowded?

The governments of Cuba and the United States have a long history of conflict, both physical and verbal. That is the one most people hear about, but the peoples of two nations also have an entire history together that unites them. In the fields of science, the arts, agriculture, architecture, academia, medicine the list is so long it's almost scary. Collaborations between both countries would be formidable in this day and age and especially now, when Cuba is open and the United States seems to be willing. Contact between both and all peoples from both nations is equally if not more important; whether they are Cuban or not.