It’s been a messy history between Cuba and her neighbor to the north, chock full of gut-wrenching boatlifts, a nuclear threat held at bay, and a liberation attempt stopped in the Bay. Left in in its wake are 11 million people who, for more than 60 years, have not tasted freedom, despite thirsting for it.
The stories from Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest island, are as chilling as they are unrelenting, fashioned by a government that moved from human liberators to communist dictators.
Yet, for the first time in generations, Cuba is not ruled by a Castro — and despite our misgivings, it offers America a golden opportunity to jettison the past in favor of a headlong rush into the future.
As the Cuban people strive to weather another life-threatening shortage of food, and endure another life-sapping round of state control to prevent loss of control, the government has once again put the word out they are seeking major investments from abroad.
Instead of dismissing this as disingenuous (which it may be) or doing nothing different than we have since the 1950’s, let’s authorize an all-out invasion… of American capitalism.
Do that, and America can replace the embargoes, short-fused rhetoric, and dated diplomacy with a modern strike of economic might.
First, send in our “entrepreneurial military” bearing weapons of innovation and transformation — Apple and Amazon, Hilton and Marriott, CVS and Walgreens, Walmart and Costco, JP Morgan and the Bank of America.
If we’re serious about helping those who pine for freedom, let’s give them a full-plate helping of it. Once that genie is out of the bottle, she’s not going back — nor will the Cuban people.
Next, fly in the airlines — American, Delta, Southwest — to establish a beachhead at Jose Marti International on the outskirts of Havana. If we can’t command the airwaves (it remains under tight-fisted state control), let’s at least fill the air with ticketed passengers bearing dollars and democracy.
Finally, sail in the “velvet navy,” the cruise ships of Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean, embarking from American ports. These floating ambassadors can show the Cuban people how it feels to be embraced by the citizens of the world.
On the flip side, do nothing and we could soon risk a far worse development: the Cuban government could turn to China, Russia and others all too willing to curry favor there.
The combination of COVID-19, dwindling financial support from Venezuela, and increasing isolation by the world, has made life in Cuba a nightmare. The “big brother” state is growing more insular, with street cameras on nearly every corner, and eyes on every neighbor.
And free elections? When Party-backed “winners” regularly exceed 90 percent of the reported vote, that’s not an election but a coronation choreographed by despots.
Unless you believe Cubans are collectively afflicted with a variant of “Stockholm Syndrome,” so conditioned to economic peril that they embrace it, they’ll cheer an invasion of free enterprise — from Havana to Holguin, from Hemingway’s House to the Plaza de la Revolucion.
The good news: the status quo would be no match for history, demographics, or an American capitalist army.
History bears witness to the fact that Cuba was once governed under one of the most liberal and popular constitutions of its time. The Spanish Constitution of 1812 provided for freedom of the press, free enterprise, a parliamentary form of government, and national sovereignty.
More than a century and a half later, Cuba’s 1976 Constitution included freedom of speech (Article 53) and the right to assemble (Article 54); and the prevailing one (passed in 2019) calls for free markets, private property, and “a free, independent, and democratic homeland.” Let’s call them on this, with a force of freedom they’ve never felt.
Demographically, fewer than 20 percent of the population were alive when Fidel came to power. As that memory dims, it can be replaced with one more flush with hope and incandescent with opportunity.
Economically, the failures of Castroism are as legion as they are unconscionable. Yet, on behalf of 11 million freedom-starved innocents, today the battle can be won, not with warships but with the formidable force of Fortune 500 might.
Viva la nueva revolution!
Fresh food on aisle 4, household goods on 5… freedom in the whole store.