I've been doing a bit of soul searching the past few days, ever since Marta Beatriz Roque asked President Bush to ease restrictions. The chorus coming from the island is nearly unanimous in asking that some aspect of the embargo and/or restrictions be lifted. I almost could have gone along, as- contrary to some opinion we are sentient beings- when I read this post by Henry, and I remembered.
I might be persuaded to back the softening of measures, even at the risk of enriching the coffers of the Havana Dons, but a few major issues stick in my craw. One is that quite a bit of American- not Cuban American- property was seized without compensation by the Cuban Capos. What are the odds that the Mendicant of the Antilles can or will pony up funds? If we lift the embargo, we are signalling other tin pot despots that American investments abroad can be seized with impunity. This I can see a way around, as long as the Havana High Commission can see its way to paying a surcharge on every commercial transaction (cash only, please) to be deposited in a fund to pay claimants. The real sticking point for me here is the release of political prisoners. Any dialogue, any softening has to be tied to the liberation of individuals languishing in Cuban jails for "thought crimes."
I can anticipate the rejoinders, what about China and Russia? It is a false parallel. In many of these countries the case could be made that bad as the government was the mass of the people were at least slightly better off. Cuba has the distinction of having been dragged back into the third world. But the real objection has to do with the level of support the criminals will get. Face it, how many people wanted to sunbathe in Siberia or really get down with Bulgarian salsa? By dint of propinquity, climate, and culture, Cuba is bound to be a hot destination. The take from the regime's "skim" will be enormous; the pressure on Cubans to play "happy natives and assorted prostitutes" despite their education and culture, inordinate; and the financially beneficial myopia; irresistible.