August 8, 2007
For years, I have advocated normalizing relations with Cuba. I went there with an Ag delegation 4 or 5 years ago. We have tried to get our politicians (both parties) to wake up to reality. Cuba is no threat to us. The 40-year embargo against Cuba is a relic of distant history.
In the meantime, we have fought a war with Viet Nam. And now, we trade, have an Ambassador stationed in Hanoi, and do business with our old enemy. Turn to China, where our doors are open for business, so much so that we have a huge trade deficit with them. We welcomed them into the World Trade Organization. Those countries both still have socialist (Communist) governments. So, what is wrong with Cuba? Politics. Both of our political parties are afraid of losing the Cuban vote in Florida if we recognize Cuba.
Maybe there is still hope. Since Fidel Castro's illness a year ago, his brother Raul has been Acting President. Raul is much more willing to do business with the West and accept foreign investment. He made that very clear in a recent speech where he declared that Cuba is considering opening to more foreign investment. He went on to say he looked forward to the 2008 U.S. Presidential election and an end to what he called President Bush's "erratic and dangerous administration." He also said, "the new administration will have to decide if they will accept the 'olive branch' we offer."
With Fidel out of the picture, Raul is reaching out. This is an opportunity. Cuba has hundreds of miles of spectacular coast line. Cubans are hard working people and well educated. And yet their average worker lives on 30 dollars per month. There is a lot of upside potential. They could be a very good market for us some day.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.