Cuba at Last

December 25, 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. This is a time to be grateful for our blessings. I know, for some, life can be a challenge. However, just look at the world and all the suffering and chaos. The Middle East is burning. Ukraine can’t escape the heavy hand of Russia. We read about the poverty in Africa. All I can say is, “Thank you God that I live in the good old USA, even with all of our shortcomings.”

We received an unexpected gift just in time for Christmas from President Obama, announcing that he intends to establish diplomatic relations, expand trade, and travel with Cuba. That is a positive step for the U.S. and the Cuban people. The Cuban people are euphoric. It is a wish come true.

I have been to Cuba with agricultural groups twice in the last 10 years. President Obama’s action opens the door to an expanded agricultural market. Although President Bush made a modest move to allow food and medical sales to Cuba, the agreement required that they pay cash in advance, and this made trade more difficult. Opening the door to all private business is what we need to do. Maybe we can sell them some John Deere tractors.

Having just returned from Cuba in 2009, here is what I reported on my radio commentary then. “Cuba is an island country of 11 million people only 90 miles from Florida. They are warm, friendly, and educated. Their citizens are healthy, but their dogs and cows are skinny. They import 80% of their food. Normal relations with the U.S. could be the first step toward a better life for them, but until they embrace the principles of capitalism like China and Viet Nam, it won’t happen.”

Fifty years ago, Fidel Castro took over Cuba and confiscated everything – homes, farms, businesses. It’s a long road back. For all of those 50 years, we have tried to isolate Communist Cuba while the rest of the world has had normal diplomatic relations with Cuba. After trying to change a country for 50 years by isolating them, and it has not worked, maybe it’s time to try something different. I compliment President Obama for his courage to try something different. President Nixon opened up China. We have full diplomatic relations with Viet Nam after fighting a war with that Communist country.

The transformation of Cuba will not be as simple as it sounds. President Obama can’t do it alone. The Congress needs to pass legislation to completely end the embargo. And the Congress is not unanimous in support of that idea.

Anyway, I’m happy we have taken the first step.

That’s it for this week. If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com. Have a great weekend. Until next week, I am John Block in Washington, D.C.