Henry G. Delforn (*)
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 9 – The U.S. moved one step closer to ending the “slant” in the 50-year Cuban embargo with the February retirement announcement of Republican congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. In his words, “One of the achievements of which I am most proud was the codification, the writing into U.S. Law of the U.S. embargo on Castro.”
Now correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t the U.S. have an embargo on the country of Cuba and not the person of Castro? Hence, the origin of the “slant” is revealed. The mention of Castro is a hint of the congressman’s personal involvement in codifying this law. The 17-year congressman has lobbied for the release of Cuban exile terrorist Orlando Bosch in the 1976 airplane bombing.
The congressman has also been affiliated with CANF whose members were involved in the 1961 Bay of Pigs which prompted dislike for President Kennedy and his family. Now, with the retirement of congressman Patrick Kennedy representing the first time since 1962 that a Kennedy has not held office in Congress, Diaz-Balart can retire.
The question is, will his brother Mario (also a congressman) will continue to advocate along the same lines: for the obsolete naval blockade against Cuba; for defending Velentin Hernandez (who murdered a Cuba negotiator supporter); and for trying to block former President Carter’s 2002 visit to Cuba?
With this personal slant against Castro one may ask: Where is the personal connection? Well, Lincoln’s father was a Cuban exile who died in 2005 who was Cuba’s minister of interior and was elected senator but did not serve due to Castro’s rise to power in 1959. Lincoln also has an aunt named Mirta Diaz-Balart who is a Cuban exile and also happens to be the first wife of Fidel Castro. Their son, Fidelito, has been fought over not dissimilar to the Elian Gonzalez custody case. Add to this that Castro’s revolution appropriated Diaz-Balart property upon exile and what you have here is one big family feud.
But some may feel that the one step forward from the retirement may proceed with two steps back with Tuesday’s elections which placed Cuban-born Republican representative from Miami Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as the chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee who is a fierce defender of sanctions against Cuba. “It makes a big difference”, said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas and a founder of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba campaign.
But that’s not a sure thing. No longer can any one representative be seen as an overly overt fierce defender of sanctions against Cuba. This is especially true with the Committee’s current agenda which includes the following order of priorities: Iraq; Afghanistan; Pakistan; Iran; Israeli-Palestinian; North Korea and 13th down the list is the Western Hemisphere which includes Cuba policy. In addition, the Senate and Administration remain democratic. Nothing overly overt is expected out of the House Committee which will have a slight Republican majority.
Here’s another slant of the law. Of the countries with a significant GNP having U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions, Cuba alone is in the unique position of not having a stock or commodity exchange. OFAC sanctioned countries with exchanges include: North Korea; Balkans; Belarus; Burma; Ivory Coast; Iran; Lebanon; Somalia; Sudan; Syria; Zimbabwe. Without a stock or futures exchange there is no substantial financing base.
But there’s more to the slant. What stops Cuba from obtaining significantly more external financing is a politics that goes beyond Helms-Burton or Torricelli Laws, what stops Cuba is the slant. It is the slant of telephone calls to the businessmen, threats, pressures of the American ambassadors, and pressures of the State Department on any institution or government that tries to have the most minimum contact with Cuba.
The slanted law also affects the U.S. Take the estimated 1 million Cuban exiles in Miami who strongly dislike Castro if for no other reason than it is the expected thing to do. Well, their slanted representation in Congress has sustained an embargo in opposition to the U.N.(the world), widened U.S. trade imbalance, and impeded the economy in terms of jobs. Less than 1% of the population pushing around the other 99% all because at the root of it all is a family feud. And the consequences transcend generations not dissimilar to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Forget the economic or commercial blockade because the United States is already the fifth largest exporter to Cuba (6.6% of the imports of Cuba is from U.S.). The focus should be on the slant of the financial blockade. Mind that Cuba has to pay imports in cash, mind that Cuba does not have credit, mind that Cuba does not have a finance infrastructure (which robs prosperity), and what you end up with is a country filled with decaying buildings preserved by UNESCO along with automobiles of another era.
(*) Henry G. Delforn is an electrical engineer (Cuban-born U.S. citizen) who lives in Carpinteria, California.