Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cuba, Sí! Obama, Sí!

Next on President Obama’s travel schedule should be, “Cuba, Si!” The time has come and we have the right president to go to Cuba with hope and change. The question is not whether President Obama should re-establish US relations with Cuba but how. In this 60th year of the Castro revolution, here are suggestions for a visit that would have bi-partisan, all-American support.

Like his hero Teddy Roosevelt in 1899, let President Obama lead a charge up San Juan Hill. Let the purpose be the same—the liberation of Cuba from tyranny—but let his troops wear sandals instead of boots and let them be tourists and journalists and business leaders.

From that symbolic site where Roosevelt braved flying bullets, let President Obama brave what might be a barrage of words. Let him begin with praise Fidel Castro and his successor brother Raul Castro for inviting the Congressional Black Caucus to Cuba and with them honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Let President Obama stand on San Juan Hill and dream of a time when the highest ranks of the Cuban government will be open to Cubans of African descent. Let him remind the Castros that among the many Americans who died on San Juan Hill were America’s Buffalo Soldiers, the men of the all black 25th Infantry. In their honor and King’s honor, let President Obama challenge the Castros to liberate Cuba once again as they promised to do 60 years ago.

Now let the Obama friendship tour of Cuba begin. At the inevitable presidential reception, let him raise his glass in a toast to the future and offer to remove all restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba as soon as Cuba removes all restrictions on Cubans traveling to America. Just as our Congressional Black Caucus recently traveled to Cuba as Castro’s guests, let him ask Castro to allow Cubans African descent to visit the White House. He should include among those Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet whom the Castros condemned to 25 years in prison for political protest.

Biscet has already been granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, so let President Obama use his faith in coalitions and the UN and remind the Castros that the United Nations called on them in 2005 for the immediate release of Dr. Biscet.

Let President Obama visit the shining new tourist hotels and promise that as soon as Cuba ends its racist hiring policies in these places, the US will allow unrestricted tourism.

Let him visit a prominent newspaper or publishing house and promise that as soon as political censorship ends in Cuba, he will encourage American firms and individuals to advertise in Cuban media.

Let him go to a Cuban radio and television station and promise to lift all bans on Cuban advertising and media ownership in the US as soon as Cuba allows truly independent radio and television and unrestricted reception of foreign media in Cuba.

Let him go to a Cuban post office where citizens can connect to the Internet and offer to send computers to any Cuban school or citizens’ organization if the government will allow uncensored connections to the World Wide Web and to such communications channels as Skype and YouTube and other social networking sites.

Even before he was elected, President Obama had brought hope and a little change to Cuba. Visiting journalists reported signs and graffiti appearing with the Cuban version of “Yes, We Can.” (A phrase the Obama campaign originally borrowed from the Spanish of Latino farmworkers striking with Cesar Chavez.) So, when President Obama is wrapping up his Cuban tour, let him stand side by side with Fidel or Raul Castro or both of them. Let him raise their hands with his and let him say his message as Cubans say it, “ se puede, coño.” (Yes, it’s possible, dammit.)

(Footnote: he might want to omit coño which is somewhat stronger than dammit, giving the phrase more the sense of, “Yes, it’s possible, f**ker.” and we suspect that if the President said only "Sí se puede" the Cuban people would fill in the rest. )


  1. Well now, here's an idea. Maybe Obama could just stop restraining Americans from what they want to do (visit, do business with Cuba) in the name of freedom and liberty. Is he (are you?) really any different from Castro -- restraining individual liberty in the name of some kind of "morality"? Maybe the presence of all those fun loving and capitalistic Americans in Havana would have some salutory effect that politics has (obviously) been unable to produce.

  2. Yes, I'm different from Castro, besides being younger and not having a nation to rule. More to the point is that the unrestricted flow of Canadians and Europeans have done nothing but strengthen the regime. The Castro management of tourists has also been effective propaganda by way of his showcases and diverting travel from revealing places. American tourism to Nicaragua didn't work either, though granted, Nicaragua didn't have the fine beaches.

    So the consideration is not simply more liberty for Americans, but whether more liberty for Americans might assure less liberty for Cubans.

    That said, I'd go with the liberty-maximizing policy. Mr. Obama, of course, will not. He's a liberal, and more importantly a politician. Politicians, in general, exist to restrict liberties. In the name of a greater good, of course.