Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 14, 2009

     President Obama has lifted some of this country's sanctions against Cuba.  Americans with family in Cuba will now be able to visit there as often as they like and send as much money as they like.   American telecommunications companies can try to bring their technologies to the island.  Personally, I wish he'd gone further and lifted all the restrictions first imposed back when Dwight Eisenhower was president and Fidel Castro's revolution was young.

     I'm prejudiced, I admit.  I like the place, the people.  The first time I went doesn't count.  Mikhail Gorbachev, I think it was, was going to visit so a lot of American reporters went.  But Gorbachev canceled; there'd been an earthquake back home.  We each filed one story which began "Had he come he would have seen...." and then went home.   The second time was when Pope John Paul II visited in 1998, and that was better.
         I got to do several stories, got to get out of Havana and see some villages, and I learned some things. The first was that the Cubans had figured out their government and how to work around it.  Lobsters, we'd been told, were strictly a government crop--no private selling.  But several of us went to supper at one the family restaurants--Cubans run them in their homes and are limited to a dozen or so guests.  The entree was lobster, of course, and yummy.
     Another time we were in a rural market and they were auctioning some farm animal--pig, cow, whatever.  The farmers politely asked us not to shoot that;  it was illegal.  We politely agreed.  They had learned, obviously, to get around the rules.  They didn't hate us either;  they seemed to like Americans.  I have no idea why.
     That visit was cut short too.  I remember coming back from a shoot and being told, "Get on the next plane back to DC!! There's this White House intern...."  Hi, Monica.  Thanks a bunch.

     Still, I came away liking the Cuban people after a week in their country.  It's hard to see why having normal relations with them,  exchanging ambassadors and tourists and all that, would hurt either one of us.  The sanctions go back almost half a century to the height of the Cold War, fear of Communism and all that.  It was a long time ago, and the Communist Empire no longer exists.

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