U.S. and Cuba to Start Talks on Normalizing Relations
December 17, 2014 8:11 AM   Subscribe

In an unexpected move, Alan Gross is being exchanged with the (remaining) Cuban Five and the US and Cuba plan to start talks on normalizing relations.

Here is the NYT's timeline of Alan Gross / Cuban Five developments.

Before this announcement, US-Cuba relations were in the news for all the wrong reasons. The US set up a "Cuban Twitter" to try and undermine the government (previously) and tried to infiltrate the Cuban hip-hop scene.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles (204 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can just *imagine* the right-wing uproar over this.

Just in time for JEB '16!
posted by symbioid at 8:19 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm just glad I managed to see Havana before the hordes descend and everything gets un-ruined.
posted by Flashman at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


Dave Weigel: Lame duck president normalizes relations w/ Cuba the day after a former Florida gov enters the prez race. Trolling achievement: Unlocked
posted by spaltavian at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2014 [80 favorites]


Wow. Obama seems to be in "fuck it, I'm a lame duck, I'll just do the right things now" mode. Also yay for New Pope!
posted by octothorpe at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2014 [29 favorites]


American officials said Mr. Gross’s release was made on humanitarian grounds and not directly part of a prisoner swap. Instead, the United States traded the three Cuban spies for what officials called an “intelligence asset” who has been imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years.
posted by scatter gather at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2014


¡Babalu!
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is it *really* the right thing? I suppose it's the "right thing" to some degree, but I worry about the implications for Cubans being subject to US Imperial interests now. That said I do think it's the right move, I guess I just distrust US motives in general for everything these days.
posted by symbioid at 8:26 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


NYT editorial from a month ago calling for a prisoner swap
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:27 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is it *really* the right thing?

Yeah?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Is it *really* the right thing? I suppose it's the "right thing" to some degree, but I worry about the implications for Cubans being subject to US Imperial interests now. That said I do think it's the right move, I guess I just distrust US motives in general for everything these days.

That was my first thought, actually - watch out, Cubans, your healthcare system will be marketized inside five years. I know how horribly harmful the embargo has been and I hope more good than harm comes out of resumed relations, but at the same time, I worry that what will actually happen is "let's get rid of those benefits provided by the Cuban system while also importing all the drawbacks of American practices", kind of like post-Soviet capitalism.
posted by Frowner at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


In an unfreezing of relations between the US and Cuba, you distrust the US? Funny.
posted by feste at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


but I worry about the implications for Cubans being subject to US Imperial interests now.

The Cuban government and the American government imprison similar numbers of people, so...
posted by Nevin at 8:30 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


In an unfreezing of relations between the US and Cuba, you distrust the US? Funny.

Why yes, out of two dubious states, I do distrust the greater power more, funnily enough, particularly in the wake of NAFTA. If Obama is doing this because of morality rather than because there's some incredibly dodgy benefit for the US, I will eat my hat - the itchy wool one, too.
posted by Frowner at 8:31 AM on December 17, 2014 [19 favorites]


If Obama is doing this because of morality rather than because there's some incredibly dodgy benefit for the US

What a strange framing, as though they are mutually exclusive.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


In an unfreezing of relations between the US and Cuba, you distrust the US? Funny.

Yeah, there's absolutely no historical basis for mistrusting the motives of the US in any area where Cuba's concerned ..... that's funny, all right ..... hardeharhar .....
posted by blucevalo at 8:34 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Why yes, out of two dubious states, I do distrust the greater power more, funnily enough, particularly in the wake of NAFTA. If Obama is doing this because of morality rather than because there's some incredibly dodgy benefit for the US, I will eat my hat - the itchy wool one, too.

Reading this makes me know what moderate Republicans feel like when Sarah Palin shoots her mouth off.
posted by feste at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2014 [43 favorites]


That was my first thought, actually - watch out, Cubans, your healthcare system will be marketized inside five years.

This is a very good point and actually why the US does not have diplomatic relations with Canada -- if they were to do so, Canada would be crushed under the ideological might of our ramshackle health insurance system and in two years they would have privatized everything.
posted by indubitable at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2014 [105 favorites]


What a strange framing, as though they are mutually exclusive.

Of course they're not necessarily mutually exclusive, but historically, when the US has made "morality-based" interventions in small-state situations, it's almost always been in the service of fucking things up in US interests. (Various interventions in the Phillipines for ever, Central America (in the service of el pulpo!), Haiti, Panama, god knows Iraq, etc). So when people start breaking out the "oh, we are doing the right thing because Obama is a lame duck and now can express his real morality" line of reasoning, I am deeply deeply skeptical. As much as I would like it to be true and as much as I am, like virtually everyone, sort of kind of charmed by New Pope.
posted by Frowner at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


The idea that normalized relations are going to be the thing that gives the United States the ability to screw Cuba is what's funny here. I don't think that's stopping us. And Cuba is already in the process of slowly disassembling some socialist aspects of its economy, though there's no sign that health care would be one.

There are plenty of "best case" and "worst case" examples of post-Soviet privatization out there, and I don't see a need to jump to the "worst case" just because the U.S. might open an embassy and sign a trade agreement.
posted by AndrewInDC at 8:39 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's clearly the right thing to do. Whether people in Cuba will benefit is, it seems to me, a separate question.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:39 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Let's skip all the big political/sociological questions and get to the meat: Does this mean I can buy Cohibas now?
posted by valkane at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Folks you do realize that any company doing business in the US - say, European banks - are subject to our Cuban sanctions and hence Cuba remains an economic basket case?

So normalization would be a net good regardless of the US's actual intentions. That said, people should definitely get there before its regooded.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Hopefully people in Cuba will benefit by receiving more aid from and be able to visit with relatives, at the very least.
posted by maryr at 8:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


The US and Vietnam normalized relations during the Clinton administration. I think that worked out okay?

It's clearly time to work with Cuba, and this is a good first step. No need to freak out about the immediate political theatre around it, establishing relations again is going to make more change inevitable but not necessarily quick.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


More information at Vox. Seems like a good deal for anyone who doesn't have a vested interest in hurting Cubans because they don't like Castro.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:46 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


To the conservative critics: Remember Nixon's trip to China?

Kudos to Obama. Since he's got nothing left to lose, he's using the power of his office to the max. A deal with Iran is in the works. Some resolution with Russia over Ukraine is inevitable. Maybe next up, shut down Guantanamo? Some real action on climate change?
posted by beagle at 8:47 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


If Obama is doing this because of morality rather than because there's some incredibly dodgy benefit for the US, I will eat my hat - the itchy wool one, too.

This is not worth losing what is probably a very warm hat over
posted by clockzero at 8:47 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, if nothing else, maybe they'll be able to get parts for their bikes and Yank tanks...
posted by jim in austin at 8:48 AM on December 17, 2014


Lame duck president normalizes relations w/ Cuba the day after a former Florida gov enters the prez race. Trolling achievement: Unlocked

Jeb Bush announced what...?

*googles*

Oh for Pete's sake.
posted by notyou at 8:49 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well it's about frikkin time!
posted by freakazoid at 8:50 AM on December 17, 2014


This is a very good point and actually why the US does not have diplomatic relations with Canada -- if we were to do so, Canada would be crushed under the ideological might of our ramshackle health insurance system and in two years they would have privatized everything.

Okay, and after this I'll stop: Canada is large. Canada is wealthy. US strategic interests in Canada are very different, historically speaking, from US strategic interests in Cuba. And seriously, do you really think that if the US government could wave a magic wand and instantly privatize the Canadian healthcare system that they wouldn't do it? The US has made all kinds of financial, diplomatic and propaganda interventions all over the world in an attempt to weaken various welfare state provisions in other countries. It's not desire that limits us, it's power.

Look, seriously, consider the consequences for Mexico of NAFTA. Consider the collapse of corn prices, the public health consequences, etc. That's how the US operates - that's how any great power operates when it can. Consider the long, long list of exports of dodgy US economic practices in the service of the state - Chicago School economists, all that post-Soviet stuff. (In particular, consider the attempts to open Haiti up to US capital - not very successful attempts, but it struck me as so weird back in the late nineties - surely Haiti was so small and marginal and such a mess that making it easier to open sweatshops there wasn't going to be a big US priority?)

I get the desire to believe that someone somewhere is engaging in diplomacy for good and sincere reasons rather than for dodgy advantage, but that tends not to be how things have worked.

And I don't think this means that you have to be a big cheerleader for the Cuban state (neither Washington nor Moscow, please) or that you can't hope that more good than harm will come out of this.
posted by Frowner at 8:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


So if the U.S. doesn't normalize relations with Cuba it's a calculated sop to a small, mostly conservative, political constituency heavily invested in an outdated and harmful policy, and if the U.S. does normalize relations with Cuba, it's a calculated sop to commercial interests within the U.S.

Jesus Christ.
posted by echocollate at 8:52 AM on December 17, 2014 [37 favorites]


Totally! Normalizing relations is a good thing. Let's be normal! Let's speak to each other like grown-ups!
posted by feste at 8:54 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Some resolution with Russia over Ukraine is inevitable.

I take it you haven't been paying attention in the last 48 hours? The Russian economy is cratering, and Putin is getting desperate. And not the kind of desperate where he wants to play nice, but the bad kind where you worry about how much of Ukraine he wants to take and how far he's willing to go to do it.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:55 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


At last.

We normalized relations with Red China more than 30 years ago, for crying out loud, not to mention that it was Fidel Castro's old age and ill health, not the pointless embargo, that finally got him out of office.
posted by Gelatin at 8:56 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


So when do we normalize relations with Iran?
posted by Small Dollar at 9:00 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wow. I must say it never occurred to me that when the US finally normalized relations with Cuba there would be bitching on the Left about it. I cannot recall ever, once, seeing a left-identified commentator doing anything but lamenting he ill-effects of the US embargo against Cuba. And I can recall many complaints against Obama precisely for failing to take this step earlier. If you ever wanted a clearer example of "damned if you do and damned if you don't" it would be hard to know where to look.
posted by yoink at 9:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [71 favorites]


indubitable: Canada would be crushed under the ideological might of our ramshackle health insurance system and in two years they would have privatized everything.

Might I point out that Canada's beloved Tim Hortons has just been annexed by Burger King with nary a peep? The invading army just steamrolled into town, painted a dick on the Mona Lisa, and nobody noticed.

I give Canada five years, tops.
posted by dr_dank at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Reading this makes me know what moderate Republicans feel like when Sarah Palin shoots her mouth off.

I agree. This news has to be 100% good or bad. Ambivalence with respect to normalization makes you as dumb as Sarah Palin.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


I take it you haven't been paying attention in the last 48 hours?

I have, but I take the opposite view. Putin's a billionaire, and he's getting hurt in the pocketbook. He's going to look for a way to settle. From the very article you link: "Putin could afford to invade Georgia and Ukraine when oil prices were comfortably in the triple digits, but not when they're half that. Russia can't afford anything then."

Ironically, the relatively mild sanctions against Russia are working within months, while an all-out 50-year embargo against Cuba failed.
posted by beagle at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Obama seems to be in "fuck it, I'm a lame duck, I'll just do the right things now" mode.

War on Drug next, please.
posted by dry white toast at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I give Canada five years, tops.

You haven't met the Quebecois.
posted by maryr at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Alan Gross is home
posted by jbickers at 9:06 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I must say it never occurred to me that when the US finally normalized relations with Cuba there would be bitching on the Left about it

It took away a decades-old talking point and defeated expectations. No greater crime than that.
posted by shivohum at 9:06 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


indubitable: "...watch out, Cubans, your healthcare system will be marketized inside five years.

This is a very good point and actually why the US does not have diplomatic relations with Canada -- if they were to do so, Canada would be crushed under the ideological might of our ramshackle health insurance system and in two years they would have privatized everything.
"

They're working on it. Don't doubt the power of Harper and his allies.
posted by symbioid at 9:07 AM on December 17, 2014


Of course they're not necessarily mutually exclusive, but historically, when the US has made "morality-based" interventions in small-state situations, it's almost always been in the service of fucking things up in US interests.

The "Intervention" here is the insane, broken, and totally failed embargo itself, and its related total absence of normal relations. This is about ending a "morality-based intervention," not starting a new one.

You can be skeptical of US activities abroad, especially as they relate to small states, but sometimes things are actually good. You don't need to get all reverse-Polyanna here and assume it's got to be somehow worse just because the US is taking a step to undo one of its most unambiguous foreign policy disasters.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:07 AM on December 17, 2014 [28 favorites]


As I said, I support ending the embargo, I'm just wary of the goals/ultimate reasons.
posted by symbioid at 9:08 AM on December 17, 2014


Were you wary of the goals/ultimate reasons for the embargo? If so, then by some simple algebra, your wariness can be cancelled out and all we have left is the ending of the embargo. Yay!
posted by gwint at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


So when do we normalize relations with Iran?

Well, the Pope might not be as much help.

Seriously though, there is just a ton of stuff that gets in the way in the domestic politics and foreign policy concerns of both nations. I'm glad Obama has made an effort at least.

I must say it never occurred to me that when the US finally normalized relations with Cuba there would be bitching on the Left about it

It took away a decades-old talking point and defeated expectations. No greater crime than that.


Bashing and criticizing "The Left" as if it were a monolith whenever possible for every minor sin is of course not at all a similarly tiresome routine.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


I just love that this will send both Marco Rubio and Nicolás Maduro to sit alone and shed a few tears of lonely rumination on living a clown's life.

Progress drives both wings nuts.
posted by ethansr at 9:12 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


.
posted by oddman at 9:12 AM on December 17, 2014


Are they going to start cashing the gitmo rent check we send them every month? We may need to transfer some funds into that account.
posted by cmfletcher at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think the ultimate reason is that this was a stupid policy that was only being maintained for domestic political reasons that are no longer really relevant. The normal state of affairs is for countries to have diplomatic relations and freedom of movement between each other. There is absolutely no good reason that Cuba should be singled out for different treatment than every other country in the world.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah, for the record, I think this is long-overdue good news. The embargo hasn't worked to make Cuba any better for the working Cuban. I just don't think it's totally idiotic to be suspicious of great powers even when they do the right thing.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:14 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


but I worry about the implications for Cubans being subject to US Imperial interests now.

Step 1: Credit
posted by phaedon at 9:16 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man, this is the first time I've been thinking I should go someone OTHER than Metafilter to discuss reactions to a news event.

Look. When I was born, there were two Germanies and one Soviet Union, South Africa was under apartheid, Northern Ireland was in the midst of The Troubles, and we were on shaky terms with China, Vietnam and Cuba. Those were all just sort of Facts Of The World, just like the Cold War and the Arms Race and MAD were Facts Of The World.

And in only 40 short years, I've seen the Berlin Wall come down, the Cold War end, Nelson Mandela become president of South Africa, Northern Ireland achieve some measure of peace, and relations start normalizing with China and Vietnam. And now this.

Let good news be Good sometimes, for the love of Pete.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on December 17, 2014 [86 favorites]


Red State: Since John F Kennedy, Presidential foreign policy towards Cuba can be summed up in one sentence: Let my successor be the one who has to be the guy that let Fidel Castro win. Well, guess what: Barack Obama volunteered to be the poor, stupid sad sack that has to eat the pavement on that. CNBC reports: “The U.S. is starting talks with Cuba to normalize full diplomatic relations and open an embassy, according to U.S. officials. The expanded relationship would also open imports of Cuban cigars somewhat, according to a CNN report.” We get cigars and some political prisoners released; Cuba gets to win.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have not even read the other comments yet but I am SO EXCITE. Part of my family are Castro-era exiles and some of them really want to see the island again before they die and I am just jubilant for them.

Also, thanks Canada and the Vatican! Excellent diplomacy-ing!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


This news has to be 100% good or bad.

The embargo was 100% bad. OF COURSE there might be problems going forward, but how can anyone who isn't a conservative fuckwad read about this and not think ending this horrible Cold War relic is anything but 100% good news?

The reactions of some people in this thread are fucking crazy. It's like reading some shitty conservative parody of a leftist conversation.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


Let's skip all the big political/sociological questions and get to the meat: Does this mean I can buy Cohibas now?
posted by valkane at 11:43 AM on December 17 [1 favorite +] [!]


Normal tourism will not be allowed as of yet. Educational tourists, and families visiting Cuba can bring back up to $400.00 worth of goods including cigars. No idea if "normalizing" will include businesses being allowed to import cigars, rum, etc.
posted by Gungho at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much revenue Canadian cigar shops with shipping are going to lose with normalized US-Cuba trade? I know the two I work with say almost 75% of their business are USians. They'll certainly be losing business from me, as I have friends in the trade in Cuba.
Mmmm, Upmanns.
posted by Dreidl at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2014


To the conservative critics: Remember Nixon's trip to China?

The one that boned our economy? Yeah that was great.

Luckily I don't think Cuba can really be the recipient of a continent's-worth of offshoring, though. Except for the Honduran cigar producers, I suspect it's sort of a win-win.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Normalizing relations ≠ ending embargo

Of course republican-controlled congress will end the embargo, right?.... and not make it into a big whipping stick to get Florida's lobbies to give money to Jeb, right?<
posted by lalochezia at 9:27 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]




Television plot reified: time follow the script for a fictional lame duck President battling with a hostile congress, queue in West Wing's Ninety Miles Away...
posted by mfoight at 9:27 AM on December 17, 2014


The expanded relationship would also open imports of Cuban cigars somewhat...

That "somewhat" is making me nervous.
posted by valkane at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2014


As a Floridian I can honestly say that when I read the headline I got goosebumps. The expats in Miami must be losing their minds right now while their grandkids shrug and ask what's the big deal.
posted by photoslob at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Bashing and criticizing "The Left" as if it were a monolith

Yes, that would be tiresome, only it's not what I said or what I'm doing. So far as I can see most people on "the left" are, rightly. celebrating this entirely good and happy news. What surprised me was that there should be any self-identified left-wing commentators who would carp and cavil at the news. So, you know, the very opposite of seeing the left as a "monolith."
posted by yoink at 9:29 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is it *really* the right thing?

Yes. And if you don't believe me ask one of the thousands of people who's floated through the Florida straight on some scraps of lashed together wood for Miami.
posted by photoslob at 9:31 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


This thread is just embarrassing. It's just knee jerk anti-Americanism, and I though metafilter was more thoughtful than that.

Secondly, what are the new travel rules and when can I visit?
posted by empath at 9:33 AM on December 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


Frowner: ""oh, we are doing the right thing because Obama is a lame duck and now can express his real morality" line of reasoning, I am deeply deeply skeptical."

You don't think Raul Castro is looking at the rolling catastrophe that is Vladimir Putin's Russia and his return-to-Soviet-ideals and going, "Oh, HELLS no. Wonder if that warm-up with the US is still on the table. Worked out pretty well for Vietnam and China ..."? There's more than one party at the table here, and Castro clearly thinks it's in his country's interest as well. The world has changed. It's ridiculous to have no diplomatic relations with a country 90 miles off the coast of Florida. It's just ridiculous.

Gungho: "Normal tourism will not be allowed as of yet. Educational tourists, and families visiting Cuba can bring back up to $400.00 worth of goods including cigars. No idea if "normalizing" will include businesses being allowed to import cigars, rum, etc."

It sounds like these are the trust-building baby steps that will get some working relationships started before diving into the harder questions of full economic normalization. (They are going to allow direct bank interfacing, I read.) Like they're going to spend the next year or so getting all this going and building up some embassy staff who have actual relationships and stuff, with the idea of tackling bigger things once the small things go well.

And yes, someone in Miami tell us the reaction down there. Miami is like its own Cuba news bubble so I imagine it is going INSANE.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:34 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


OK - so getting away from the issue of "is this good or bad" (feel free to call it 100% unabashed good, that's fine, you have your opinion, I'm not telling you how to feel. I have concerns about what this means in terms of Cuba's economic sovereignty, you disagree and think it's a stupid concern compared to what they're dealing with; you think I am saying it's 100% bad or something, whatever...)

Domestically, what photoslob said, and what I alluded to before what I would consider a derail that sorta set the tone of this (and I apologize, I guess that it took off so hard on that turn ,as there's a lot of things to discuss in this)... Domestically, does this mean that the power of the old school Cuban immigrants are waning? Does it mean that the Dems have given up on Florida as any sort of battleground and ceding it?

What's the domestic political optics of this, and was there any political thought that went into this from Obama's perspective (or rather, from you, as a commenter's perspective on what you think Obama's perspective is)???

How about we talk about that instead of just arguing about the good/bad dichotomy.
posted by symbioid at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2014


Can anybody name a single US policy enacted in 1961 that is still relevant today? Even if I knew nothing about Cuba and history the fact that we've followed teh same course for over 50 years would be enough incentive for me to support a change.

And I don't even smoke.
posted by COD at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2014


Mod note: Folks, if you really want to talk about how People On Metafilter feel/discuss/etc. something that kind of needs to be a Metatalk discussion, not metacommentary in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:38 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I support human rights in Cuba. I think the embargo did the exact opposite. Whether that is because the Castro family is stubborn or for whatever reason, after decades, it was having no affect on human rights and was penalizing the people of Cuba. I think the best way to support the Cuban people is to open relations, lift the embargo and let the market dictate our interactions. To me, the way to influence the Cuban government is to drive the economy.
posted by 724A at 9:39 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Normalizing relations ≠ ending embargo
lalochezia

That's true, but Obama just called the embargo a failure. It seems clear he wants it ended, though you're right that the Republican Congress likely won't work with him on it. He's doing what's in his power to do about the situation.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:41 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


And yes, someone in Miami tell us the reaction down there. Miami is like its own Cuba news bubble so I imagine it is going INSANE.

I just checked the Herald site and they already have a predictable image of the expat wing nuts yelling and screaming outside Cafe Versailles.
posted by photoslob at 9:43 AM on December 17, 2014


From the White House: Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba
posted by indubitable at 9:43 AM on December 17, 2014


Does it mean that the Dems have given up on Florida as any sort of battleground and ceding it?

Doubtful. Obama won Florida both times, and the only reason Scott got re-elected is because the Democrats weren't able to nominate anyone better than Crist to run against him. Keeping the embargo up, especially in the face of all the evidence that it just doesn't work, just isn't that important to that many people anymore.

I am not going to miss this particular tail wagging the dog at all.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Classic US car collectors must already be booking their tickets. They are going to depopulate Cuba of half it's cars in 2 months flat.
posted by PenDevil at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Can anybody name a single US policy enacted in 1961 that is still relevant today?

It'd be cool if we sent people to the moon again.
posted by Gelatin at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


I guess I should have worded that "enacted in 1961 and still in force today.."
posted by COD at 9:47 AM on December 17, 2014


He's doing what's in his power to do about the situation.

Along with immigration reform, it also turns more Latino voters away from voting Republican in 2016. Finishing out a lame duck term, it seems fair to assume Mr. Obama is getting something from the DNC in return that he can use for his presidential legacy, but it's not clear yet what that is.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:47 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


So normalization would be a net good regardless of the US's actual intentions. That said, people should definitely get there before its regooded.

America is the only country doing an embargo. Cuba isn't a hermit kingdom, it already has 2 million tourists annually.
posted by spaltavian at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeah, but expect that number to explode once the travel restrictions are lifted. Havana will look like Cancun or Vegas in a dozen years.
posted by empath at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow, I remember talking about this with friends in college, in the mid-90s, about how the USA was just weird about Cuba and pot legalization, both things I felt were harmless things that have been shown to be mostly harmless, but that we had to wait for a generation or two of people in power to die before ever re-examining the official US stance on them.

Cuba was dangerous in the 1950s and 1960s, but after 50 years of sanctions, and Castro long gone from power, there's virtually no danger there and it's cruel to keep everyone in that country suffering as a result. And heck, if you look at a map it's practically part of Florida already and would be very easy to get to.

I'm also reminded of every time I'm in Canada, whenever you walk past a travel agency in any major Canadian city, there are giant posters for GO SEE CUBA everywhere and it seems like no big deal to travel there as a candian tourist, so I'm guessing it won't be too bad if they start letting more americans go there. I've always wanted to visit, maybe I'll apply for a journalism trip someday there in order to document the change in photos.
posted by mathowie at 9:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Given the US-connected excesses that the Castro revolution was a reaction against, not to mention the imperial dick-waving that the US has been engaged in since 9/11 the fall of the Soviet Union the two world wars the Spanish-American war Mexican Independence the Revolutionary War forever, you might forgive a bit of suspicion about United States motivations during the next phase of its Cuban relationship, even if the moronic half-century embargo being lifted is a great thing.

Much as the excesses during the entirety of the Castro regime demand the thawing process happens with a suspicious eye to what emerges from the ice.

Why, it's almost as if there are false binaries confusing the reality of Cuba/US relations!

Celebrations are absolutely due, as are some hard looks at what happens next, and to/for whom.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Probably worth tuning into C-SPAN for the confirmation of the Cuban ambassador.
posted by sammyo at 9:53 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


As long as developers don't mess with all that sweet, untouched Art Deco, okay!
posted by Scram at 9:55 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, normalizing relations isn't the same thing as returning control of the country to the United Fruit Company and organized crime; if Cuba was prepared to become a corporate colony again there are plenty of non-US corporations and multinationals that would have done it.

All the same, when people talk about how bad things are for the ordinary person in Cuba, which ideal states in the region are they comparing it to?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:55 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Secondly, what are the new travel rules and when can I visit?

From the WH fact sheet:
General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
But no plain old tourism. However, if you can't get yourself there in one of those 12 categories, you're not trying very hard.
posted by beagle at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been to Cuba, when the International Math Olympiad was held there in 1987. So there have always been ways to get there for educational/competitive purposes. But maybe now you'll be able to get there on a regular passenger jet instead of waiting in a back corridor at the Miami international for a sketchy dude in camo to walk you across the tarmac to his prop plane.
posted by escabeche at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2014


sammyo: Probably worth tuning into C-SPAN for the confirmation of the Cuban ambassador.

Given Obama's love for nominating centrist Republicans to high-profile executive branch posts, he has to at least offer the job to Jeb as a courtesy, doesn't he?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


It is about time
posted by Flood at 10:01 AM on December 17, 2014


First news to make me crack a smile in far too long. Yes, I have my concerns, but damn, any move to end that spiteful embargo feels like progress.
posted by skybluepink at 10:01 AM on December 17, 2014


after decades, [the embargo] was having no affect on human rights and was penalizing the people of Cuba

The embargo has never been about human rights. The embargo was enacted because the US was butthurt about Castro and friends overthrowing the US-supported dictator on the island (and, compounding that, the Cuban regime's embrace of Communist ideology and cozying up to the USSR after the overthrow). The embargo is a "failure" from the US government's perspective because it has hitherto failed to overthrow the Cuban government. If the US truly cared about the welfare of the Cuban people, it wouldn't have done things like bomb their airplanes or invade their country or attempt to assassinate their head of state or set up fake cultural programs, just for starters.

Just to be clear, I unequivocally celebrate the news of normalization of relations between US and Cuba, and the prisoner exchange, and I hope that the embargo, which has brought severe economic distress to the Cuban people -- not helped them! -- will be lifted soon.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 10:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


There was always an educational carve-out, so I knew a few friends that were always looking for web/art/design conferences in Cuba so we Americans could use it as an excuse to visit. I do remember flying there was a difficult, you had to connect through Canada or Mexico to fly there in a larger plane, so hopefully that gets easier if this goes through.
posted by mathowie at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2014


Having spent many years working in export control, this is way overdue. And if you work at a company with offices in Canada as well as the US, this is going to make your life a lot easier as well.
posted by tommasz at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2014


As long as developers don't mess with all that sweet, untouched Art Deco, okay

Exactly, that location will be perfect for an authentic atmospheric small plates restaurant for an imported celebrity chef, just a short walk from the new 5 6 star hotel for corporate meetings, just a 10 minute flight from Miami on your private jet.
posted by sammyo at 10:04 AM on December 17, 2014


It's hard for Republican dudebros to claim that Obama is the lead schoolmarm of the nanny statists when he just legalized Cuban cigars.
posted by jonp72 at 10:05 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's extremely selfish of me, but my first sentiment as a Canadian is that the one place in the world where we don't get confused as Americans is about to disappear.
posted by furtive at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


This is a very good point and actually why the US does not have diplomatic relations with Canada -- if they were to do so, Canada would be crushed under the ideological might of our ramshackle health insurance system and in two years they would have privatized everything.

I had heard of you people, those unsullied by the spectre of Harper. You lucky, lucky bastards.

Tell me, please, how to travel to your world. I have near-misses with bouts of gibbering fear when I think about the prospect of Harper winning the next election. It's not necessarily likely but it's possible and oh god oh god oh god oh god

Maybe next up, shut down Guantanamo?

That requires action by Congress. The people who wouldn't let him shut it down in 2009 when an executive order to do so was the first or second thing he signed after taking the oath.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:07 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Their new tourism slogan: "Hey US, yeah we'll take some of your drunk kids' money"
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


What's the domestic political optics of this, and was there any political thought that went into this from Obama's perspective (or rather, from you, as a commenter's perspective on what you think Obama's perspective is)???

I think Charles Pierce is right on this. Obama is trying to fuck with the GOP's ability to rebrand itself as a kinder, gentler, less racist, Hispanic-friendly party in time for the 2016 election.
posted by jonp72 at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Normally listening to Rush Limbaugh ranks somewhere below going to the DMV on my list of things I look forward to doing, but I would love to hear the apoplectic fit he must be having today. I am sure the prospect of his beloved Cuban cigars being easily availaable to the unwashed masses doen't help.
posted by TedW at 10:15 AM on December 17, 2014


I find the Rubio v. the Pope angle interesting. On SA someone posted that he said, "I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy."

This is not the first time he has gone against a Pope on the issue of Cuba. I'm a major critic of how beloved Francis is considering how many terrible Catholic policies he still supports, but that admiration is widespread and real and just got a major new (and valid) justification behind it. Rubio looks small and ignorant and like he is playing political games.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:15 AM on December 17, 2014



Guantanamo Bay is a military base on the Cuban island that has the indefinite detention / torture center as only one component. Obama proposed moving that component (and the inhabitants) to the continental US. Obama has not, nor has any other influential US politician, so far as I know, proposed returning the entire base to Cuba -- although Castro would certainly support that.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 10:16 AM on December 17, 2014


Just missed Wolf interviewing Rubio, did not sound like a happy politician.
posted by sammyo at 10:16 AM on December 17, 2014


It's extremely selfish of me, but my first sentiment as a Canadian is that the one place in the world where we don't get confused as Americans is about to disappear.

As a Canadian it doesn't bug me that much. For example, there are very few Canadians who can tell the difference between Laos and Cambodia. And there are few Canadians who can tell the difference between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Everybody knows who Americans are. I was lucky to have a lot of American friends and coworkers during my time working overseas I don't mind the mixup at all.
posted by Nevin at 10:17 AM on December 17, 2014


Here's a factor: Cuba has potentially a significant amount of oil reserves in its territorial waters. Until recently, this was largely being explored by Russian firms. How long until Anadarko and MAR and others get to bid on those contracts?

This may not go down well in Miami, but I guarantee there are boardrooms in Dallas and Houston that are full of twitchy noses, sniffing for new deals.
posted by bonehead at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been wrong about this sort of thing before and I may well be wrong again, but I'd be surprised if ths is an issue that the Fox news machine can really get people worked up into a lather about. Sure, the Cuban expatraites in Florida will go into full-on froth-at-the-mouth mode, but Cuba as some sort of threat to the US is such old, old news that I think most people just won't be able to care. The old Cold Warriors risk making themselves look ridiculous, I think, if they trot out the rhetoric of the 1960s to argue in favor of the embargo.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out, though.
posted by yoink at 10:41 AM on December 17, 2014


Bonehead is correct. Cigars are small potatoes compared to the truly big interests that are itching to get to Cuba: oil, the resort industry, the cruise ships, and last but not certainly least, Major League Baseball.
posted by Ber at 10:42 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Finally!
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on December 17, 2014


Major League Baseball

How long until there's an MLB expansion to Havana?
posted by bonehead at 10:45 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Sure, the Cuban expatraites in Florida will go into full-on froth-at-the-mouth mode

One thing I think most people don't know is those hard liners don't represent the majority Cuban-American opinion, which favors normalization and ending the embargo. The younger generations of Cuban-Americans are much less hard-line than first generation Cuban-Americans.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 10:46 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


@EliClifton: "Obama should have ended with: 'I'll see you all in Havana. First round of mojitos is on me.'"
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:48 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, the prisoner swap also involved an unnamed Cuban national, now in the US, who helped expose the Cuban Five to the US government.

By the way, here is a fact sheet of the actual changes that are going to be implemented.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 10:50 AM on December 17, 2014


How long until there's an MLB expansion to Havana?

Assuming no embargo, I would say a long time to never, actually. Per capita income just isn't high enough in the medium term. And baseball's slow fade in the American public's mindshare means the current 30 teams may already be too many.
posted by AndrewInDC at 10:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


One thing I think most people don't know is those hard liners don't represent the majority Cuban-American opinion, which favors normalization and ending the embargo. The younger generations of Cuban-Americans are much less hard-line than first generation Cuban-Americans.

One thing that article didn't break down was how they were defining "Cuban American." When I referred to "expatriates" I meant people born in Cuba who fled to the US. I take it, though, that those poll results include people born in the US to Cuban parents. I'd be interested to know specifically how the results break down if you separate those groups out. Clearly US-born Cuban Americans support normalization by quite a large margin. But what do Cuban-born Cuban Americans think?
posted by yoink at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2014


I don't know if there will ever be a MLB expansion to Cuba but right now thirty general managers are nursing four hour erections thinking about the talent pool just opened to them.
posted by Ber at 10:57 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I would say a long time to never, actually.

Bah, practicalities. Besides petro-pesos can solve everything.
posted by bonehead at 11:05 AM on December 17, 2014


Looking forward to a several year recession coming soon to the rest of the Caribbean when a big chunk of Americans decide, "let's go to Cuba this year!"
posted by snofoam at 11:19 AM on December 17, 2014


A few reactions to this very exciting news.

1. Many countries will be sad (including Canada) to see this happen; Cuba is one of the few places that's largely free of American tourists. It's pretty cool to go to a place with beaches in North America and not have any obnoxious Americans (oh, there are still obnoxious tourists, don't get me wrong, but not obnoxious Americans). I've been telling my American friends to go visit Cuba before this event occurred and Cuba gets changed forever.

2. This makes perfect sense... The political power of the Cuban expats has been waning. The children and grandchildren of the Cuban immigrants aren't as passionate about their hatred for the Cuban regime. Similar generational changes are taking place in Cuba that makes this more palatable to them.

3. Obviously this move is for political/geopolitical/self-serving reasons, but that doesn't make it inherently bad. Every country on the planet pursues its foreign relations with their own self-interest in mind.

4. Even as Cuba opens itself up to US investment (they already have foreign investment that allows partnerships for some of their resorts), that doesn't mean the US can/will simply buy up all of their assets. Many countries have restrictions of foreign ownership of land... And I wouldn't be surprised if Cuba disallows exporting it's classic cars.

5. Speaking of Cuban exports; while people are mentioning Baseball and Cigars, they're forgetting the most important thing - Cuban rum. Oh, there's some good stuff, ya'll should be excited about this (and watch Cuban rum prices rum in Canada as a result).

6. Sadly Cuban mojito's aren't as good as I would expect - I've never had great Cuban mojito (wtf, guys, seriously, you should be ashamed).

7. [I'll leave this for metatalk, but I too am surprised at the general tenor of this conversation thusfar]
posted by el io at 11:22 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


My last comment was presented in a lighthearted way, but when Cuba opens up for US tourists it will potentially wreak havoc on the economies of basically every other island in the Caribbean, and I think the development of Cuba will probably happen very quickly. I assume most multinational hospitality companies already have warehouses of resort-building supplies just waiting in Miami.
posted by snofoam at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, when Cuba allows unfettered tourism - Canada can kiss cheap Cuban vacations goodbye (or expect they'll cost 50% more anyways; they'll still be cheap). Seriously, you can get round-trip airfare, all inclusive hotel (bad food, surprisingly good generic beer) for 500$ if you get it at the right time.
posted by el io at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2014


you might forgive a bit of suspicion about United States motivations

I think this sentiment is what's rubbing people, myself included, the wrong way in this thread.

No shit. We're not morons.

No one is laboring under the delusion that Obama, moved by the Spirit of Christmas and a pure love for all mankind, decided to do this. Of course there are many factors that likely went into this decision. Of course there are many potential outcomes to worry about.

Everyone knows this, but knowing this, we can just be happy for a moment that a good thing happened. This public hang-wringing comes across as ideological wankery to show how progressive one is.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:30 AM on December 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Obama, moved by the Spirit of Christmas

If you squint, it looks like "Spite for Congress."
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:32 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


That works too.
posted by feste at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I suspect Hyman Roth is behind this.

Actually, when I lived in Kendall FL most of the younger Cubans I knew, while not fans of Castro, were not like the old hard liners either.
posted by jonmc at 11:39 AM on December 17, 2014


ending the embargo would probably destabilize the Cuban economy (and by extension the Castro regime). There are a whole host of commodities, food being the most prominent, that there is demand within Cuba to import, but probably the highest value export Cuba has is medical doctors and medicine, both of which are rigorous protected in the US from free trade.

American businessmen used to be able to fuck teenage prostitutes who were *almost* white in Cuba when Batista was in power, but the memory of this is passed on so that even two or three generations later we still haven't forgiven Castro, even though ending the embargo would end Castro, for being forced to go the Dominican Republic (see Rush Limbaugh.)

of course, this policy change by Obama merely reverts relations to that of the Clinton era, obviously another muslim communist Castro supporter.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:39 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Obama, moved by the Spirit of Christmas

If you squint, it looks like "Spite for Congress."


I joked elsewhere that this isn't so much a "Lame Duck" as a "Mic Drop".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:41 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Is it *really* the right thing?

It depends. Does this "normalizing relations" mean we don't take refugees anymore? Or that they'll stop preventing their professionals (doctors) from leaving?
posted by corb at 11:49 AM on December 17, 2014


Certain people are fond of using per capita GDP as a way of measuring a country's prosperity; an absurd measure given the distortion of income inequality; but for those who like to use it that's a feature, not a bug. But even given that, Cuba's per-capita GDP is better than that of, for example, neighboring not-embargoed Dominican Republic, and with lower income inequality that translates to a shitload better median quality of life. Cuba's human development index is the fourth highest in the Americas: behind only the U.S., Canada and Chile.

There's no question that liberalizing trade and development will increase wealth for some. But I think we all know that "a rising tide lifts all boats" is a bullshit metaphor, unless you figure that most people don't have boats. For Cuba to become more like its neighbors is not necessarily an unalloyed good for all Cubans. Yeah, it's a shitty place to be gay or a political dissident, but you can be shot dead for writing a newspaper editorial in at least half of the hemisphere's countries. There are a lot of ways for a country to suck, and more kinds of military dictatorship than Communist ones. The situation isn't simple, and the net effect of this change and whatever follows on the actual quality of life for Cubans is really not obvious.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:55 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am so thrilled to see this happen. It wasn’t too long ago that John Oliver brought the embargo up on his show and I definitely did not feel any shred of anything resembling optimism about it. Fast forward to this morning and I’m pretty stoked.

I would not be surprised, however, to eventually read about Cuba being taken advantage of in the same subtle ways that large, wealthy countries tend to take advantage of smaller ones every day of the year. It's too bad that similar sentiments come across as posturing.
posted by Chutzler at 11:59 AM on December 17, 2014


If anything, this has been worth it to see some friends of mine back home in the US navigate their FB feeds as their older relatives eagerly spout THEY'RE ALL COMMUNISTS YOU SHOULD BE MAD ABOUT THIS rhetoric. Basically, they're responding, "Give it a rest, old man."
posted by Kitteh at 12:08 PM on December 17, 2014


Lindsey (Huckleberry Butchmeup) Graham is already needing the smelling salts over this. I'd say that Obama trolled this one pretty well.
posted by Ber at 12:08 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think normalizing relations is fabulous. Cuba is one of the nations where Americans can't collect social security, maybe this will change. I am glad to see this, I would like to see a Guantanamo memorial, and then the whole defacto cold war, ended. I am glad to see doors open.

I am no cockeyed optimist, but a lot of great things could go both ways. I tend to spend my tourist dollars in my living room, but knowing we did this right is wonderful.
posted by Oyéah at 12:09 PM on December 17, 2014


I convinced my partner that we should do a 'Farewell to Cuba' tour this year because I figured this was going to happen soon, and that when it does it will alter Cuba drastically. Interestingly enough, he already did a 'farewell to Arab countries' tour, going to Egypt, Morocco, Turkey etc., a few years before the Arab spring hit. I wonder where to go next.

Jumping into the Cuban medicare discussion - Cubans have done an excellent job of educating and healing themselves, with very little resources too. When in Cuba I had an allergic reaction to a farm animal (long story) and ended up at a hospital in Havana. In the span of 1 hour I saw an emergency doctor and a specialist, and was given my meds. Total cost? $40. Including meds. I just can't see the US competing with that kind of care. In this regard, Cubans have organized themselves very well and don't need the US to do it for them. They're not backwater folk here.

What the Cuban people don't have is stuff. That same stuff that we complain about. The crap that we buy, and then declutter 5 years later. You know when you walk into Home Sense or Walmart or Target and you're like: wow, look at all this crap! Cuban's don't have that crap. Their best stores are like glorified dollar stores. I'm not kidding.

Cubans need stuff, Americans have too much stuff, but they sure like to sell as much of it as possible. Done well, done respectfully, this could be a good partnership. Done poorly... and the Americans could get kicked out again in 50 years!

PS. About the art deco, Cubans have been investing tourist dollars back into rebuilding their infrastructure and it shows. They're doing a (slow but sure) good job repairing Havana.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:13 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Looks like Bob Menendez is running on spite as well. To be fair, he should be more angry at Carlson for biting on a blatant plant.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:13 PM on December 17, 2014


High-level American officials said Canada helped the U.S. and Cuba begin their reconciliation by hosting a series of meetings dating back to June 2013.

>> 6. Sadly Cuban mojito's aren't as good as I would expect - I've never had great Cuban mojito (wtf, guys, seriously, you should be ashamed).

Depends where you've been drinking. Bad resort == bad mojitos but I've had some damn good ones in Havana
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:25 PM on December 17, 2014




But what do Cuban-born Cuban Americans think?

A friend of mine is married to a Cuban expat, and the whole-family selfie they just posted to Facebook is adorable. I have seen fewer families that look happier than theirs, today.

That said, they are NYC-based, the Cuban expat in question is of a different generation, and this resolves a lot of specific practical issues for their family. Not least of which is that their kids can finally meet their grandparents.

I'd imagine that a 70 year old Republican within the Miami Cuban-American enclave and a 40 year old liberal with young children living in culturally cosmopolitan NYC would have very different ideas about what this all means.
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just can't see the US competing with that kind of care.

Holy cow, I hadn't even thought about medical tourism. One of the things that keeps US citizens in this jacked-up medical hell is the lack of really good options; there are decent doctors in Costa Rica and Mexico if you know how to find them, but not enough to make a difference, and Canada just doesn't have the numbers and their costs for private care are not all that much better.

But Cuba trains great doctors in large numbers; possibly enough to show Americans what is actually possible in a merciful universe. I'll bet even at this moment the lobbyists for US health care incumbents are shrieking to keep medical tourism off the list of permitted activities.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:43 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


What is the current state of Cuba's agreement with Russia regarding naval docking and access, for that matter, any military access agreements? I remember hearing about the Viktor Leonov, a Soviet-era intelligence ship docking there in late February last year, supposedly the first time since the end of the USSR in 1991.

I don't think the presence of a Russian naval vessel is of great importance in the big picture other than Russia just doing it because it could, for the reason that it likes to make the US military edgy as a posturing tactic, but I'd love to know more about how the relationship between those two countries have changed since the cold war.
posted by chambers at 12:43 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cuba is one of the few places that's largely free of American tourists

Buh whaaaaa?????

Pretty much the entire world is free of American tourists. Most Americans don't even have passports, and the few who do mostly use them to travel to the anglophone parts of the Caribbean and certain Mexican resort towns.
posted by Sara C. at 12:49 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Man oh man am I glad I'm not in Miami today. The old folks will be rioting. They have this completely irrational belief that someday the sanctions will finally topple the regime and they can go back to being the antebellum plantation owners they all think they were. They despise being a little fish in a big pond. Their only wish in life is to go back to being on top of the heap before they die, which they will never be here.

It is true that their kids, aside from the opportunists trying to break into politics, don't give two shits about Cuba, but their kids don't vote.
posted by wierdo at 12:54 PM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]




metafilter: The old folks will be rioting
posted by el io at 1:08 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pretty much the entire world is free of American tourists.

International tourism expenditure in 2013
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:09 PM on December 17, 2014


Pretty much the entire world is free of American tourists. Most Americans don't even have passports, and the few who do mostly use them to travel to the anglophone parts of the Caribbean and certain Mexican resort towns.

Uh yeah, as a traveller, I can tell you IME that this is simply not the case. But it's easier to make it sound as though all Americans are slack-jawed yokels who can barely tie their shoes much less manage to fill a passport application.

(Though, to be fair, I am the only one in my family who has a valid passport. Everyone else has those pass card thingies for land/sea travel.)
posted by Kitteh at 1:13 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


metafilter: The old folks will be rioting

More of Fox News tagline.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2014


Golden Eternity: Looking at a per-capita expendature though, it looks like Slovenia spends more money on vacations than America does (US ranks 37).
posted by el io at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The vast majority of Americans do not travel internationally for multiple reasons, but there are a lot of wealthy people here who can afford to so it's not surprising Americans would be a common sight around the world.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:24 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Caribbean gets about ten percent of International trips by US Citizens right now, while Mexico gets 32 (2013) to 35 (2014 Q3), Canada 20 and Central America about 4.

I think the point is that Cuba is a place where someone speaking English with a North American Accent was not assumed to be from the US and was often assumed to be Canadian.
posted by soelo at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a very good point and actually why the US does not have diplomatic relations with Canada -- if they were to do so, Canada would be crushed under the ideological might of our ramshackle health insurance system and in two years they would have privatized everything.

Canada already has a lot of privatized healthcare. The government pays but the majority of Canadian health care is privately provided. It's complicated but mostly it is private-public partnership with government financing and oversight over private provision.

We joke about being socialist but we are not really. We're just not as fucked-up as Americans.
posted by srboisvert at 1:30 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just caught a friend's Facebook chatter about this: He's unironically psyched that Havana will have a Hard Rock Café soon. Sorry, Cuba!
posted by whuppy at 1:30 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Domestically, does this mean that the power of the old school Cuban immigrants are waning? Does it mean that the Dems have given up on Florida as any sort of battleground and ceding it?

I saw an analysis a couple of hours ago that said that the older Cuban immigrants are aging, their kids and grandkids don't care so much about the policy towards Cuba, and Florida is now getting loads of people in from Puerto Rico and they aren't going to be too concerned with the Cuba policy. So now the votes from the hardliners in the anti-Castro Cuban community aren't as important as they once were.
posted by dilettante at 2:11 PM on December 17, 2014


To everyone decrying this: which other nations should we exile from the global economy for their benefit?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:12 PM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


dilettante: "I saw an analysis a couple of hours ago that said that the older Cuban immigrants are aging, their kids and grandkids don't care so much about the policy towards Cuba"

I just moments ago got a text from my Cuban-exile relative, who left the island in the Pedro Pan airlift, and who is VERY anti-Castro and always has been (with a bonus overlay of childhood trauma and "Castro took my mom" and so on) and she is OVER THE FUCKING MOON. She has already called all her daughters to find out what vacation time they have in 2015 and 2016 and is already starting to plan their vacation. (On the assumption this is all going to go great!) She has always wanted to visit Cuba again before she dies and to take her girls to see it. They are to clear their calendars and NOT BE PREGNANT because EVERYBODY'S GOING TO HAVANA NO MATTER WHAT.

I think, just from talking to her about this in the past, she's realistic about how little the embargo has done to change the situation in Cuba, and she's for several years been hopeful that the internet would help bring more freedom to Cuba, so I imagine she's excited about that part. She's pushing 70, and she's no dummy, and I think it's a combination of understanding that the embargo isn't working (and that the Castros will die before it does, and that is not so long off now -- for them or for her) and over the decades how much more powerful her longing for the chance to see her home again has become, and her desire to see some relatives still in Cuba, and to take her husband and children there.

I know for other Cuban exiles it is a situation of NEVER AS LONG AS A CASTRO IS IN POWER; and I also think that for historical reasons those are some of the loudest voices and those that fill many "official" roles in the Cuban-American community. But I think a lot of Cuban-exile Americans have really complicated, mixed feelings about the whole thing, like my relative.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:43 PM on December 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


...the President called me into his office in the early evening.

"Pierre, I need some help," he said solemnly.

"I'll be glad to do anything I can Mr. President," I replied.

"I need a lot of cigars."

"How many, Mr. President?"

"About 1,000 Petit Upmanns."

I shuddered a bit, although I kept my reaction to myself. "And, when do you need them, Mr. President?"

"Tomorrow morning."

I walked out of the office wondering if I would succeed. But since I was now a solid Cuban cigar smoker, I knew a lot of stores, and I worked on the problem into the evening. The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8 a.m., and the direct line from the President's office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately.

"How did you do Pierre?" he asked, as I walked through the door.

"Very well," I answered. In fact, I'd gotten 1,200 cigars. Kennedy smiled, and opened up his desk. He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.
-- Pierre Salinger
posted by kirkaracha at 3:53 PM on December 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Great news! Even though I strongly despise the Castro dictatorship, I think it is a good thing that relations are normalized while the old guys are still in power. I've been worrying that they would die, and there would be an American-sponsored counterrevolution, like in the bad old days. That would have turned all of Cuba into Tijuana within days.

I've only been to Cuba once, because I really didn't like it. It seemed to me like a tropical East Germany or Syria. Surveillance and deadly fear was everywhere you walked, and everyone and everything was for sale for 20 dollars (I even got a plane ticket to Madrid for 20 dollars when I wanted out before time).
That said, I met wonderful people there, and also several who explained why they still supported the regime, in spite of the poverty caused by the embargo. They remembered, or their parents remembered, the extreme inequality of the Batista regime. For 90% of the Cuban population, even the deprivations of the current situation are an improvement compared to their families' situation before the revolution. For their sake, I hope Cuba manages to transition into a place where they still have their great education system, their great healthcare, their social security, even as they get acces to more and better jobs, and all the material improvement that brings.

There are plenty luxury hotels and I had the best mojito in my life in one of them. The budget hotel I stayed in was very nice as well. Everything is geared to tourism - internet, credit cards, car services, the lot. The country is just beautiful, and before the crash, the Spanish government invested huge sums in helping the Cuban authorities with preservation plans and education in every field. If the regime loosens up, I'll definitely go back - there is so much I haven't seen yet, and as said, there are great people.

And apropos the derail: I am mostly surprised when I meet American tourists outside the obvious destinations. You guys don't have much holiday time compared to other western countries, and no one seems to have time for going off the beaten track.
posted by mumimor at 4:27 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I just finished drafting a client alert about the today's announcement. The embargo still stands and general tourism won't be allowed. It's just that activities that used to require a specific license from OFAC and the Commerce Department will now be authorized under "general licenses" which, as long as you comply with the recordkeeping and other requirements of the general license, don't need to be specifically applied for. The only real eye-opener, at least from the general overview issued by the White House, is that U.S. telecom firms will now be able to provide telecom/internet services within Cuba itself. That's definitely new (before they could provide linking services between the U.S. and Cuba). Almost everything else described in today's announcement could have previously been authorized by a specific license from OFAC and Commerce, although in many cases, specific licenses are very hard/impossible to obtain. Also the likely removal of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism thing and the opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana is new.

In real terms though, it's obvious that this is the beginning of the end of this stupid embargo. I wouldn't be surprised to see all restrictions lifted by 2020. The current restrictions stay in effect until OFAC and Commerce issue the implementing amendments and general licenses, so don't go booking your plane tickets just yet.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:35 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


What does "(6) religious activities" mean exactly on the White House fact sheet?

Let's say I wanted to see a few local churches but otherwise I just want to tour around?
posted by Drinky Die at 4:47 PM on December 17, 2014


My guess is that it would pertain to, for example, diocesan conferences, ecumenical blah de blah, etc. that American religious professionals would be involved with that would cause them to travel to Cuba. Or potentially some types of missionary work? You could maybe stretch it to, like, someone who is a priest, and someone in Cuba really wants them to travel there to perform a religious ceremony for Reasons?

It's probably not just "hm Cuban churches have cool architecture I guess."

But, as mentioned above a few times regarding other fields, it's probably possible, if you really want to travel to Cuba, to find some religious event to attend that would make you eligible for this particular visa.
posted by Sara C. at 4:51 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The US should have required that Cuba at least pay compensation for property that was stolen from Americans before taking this step.
posted by knoyers at 4:59 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]



What does "(6) religious activities" mean exactly on the White House fact sheet?

27-

Here's the current (and still in effect) licensing guide for travel to Cuba. Check out pages 27-28 for examples of what is covered by the current general license for religious activities. OFAC has not yet released specific guidance re the new general licenses, but for religious activities, the stuff that previously required a specific license (the examples on page 28), will probably now be covered under the terms of the general license. But nobody knows for sure, since OFAC hasn't issued the amending regs yet.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:02 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The US should have required that Cuba at least pay compensation for property that was stolen from Americans before taking this step.

These discussions are inevitably going to take place. It'd be nice if they included examination of whether the manner in which those properties fell into American hands in the first place would be regarded as legal and ethical today, but of course it won't. We're very diligent in pursuing matters of expropriation, but strangely selective.

Also, negotiations about what compensation is just should be arbitrated by a neutral third party. Like, say, Haiti.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:47 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mmmm, Upmanns.
posted by Dreidl at 9:26

I can already see the whole "pre/post embargo cigar" debate!
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 6:12 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]




The US should have required that Cuba at least pay compensation for property that was stolen from Americans before taking this step.

Considering that Americans mostly came into possession of Cuban property through collaboration with the corrupt, illegitimate Batista dictatorship, I'd say this would be nothing but spitting in the face of the victims of Batista and his American accomplices.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:44 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or you know, to put it another way, requiring Cuba pay Americans for property "stolen" from them in the revolution would be every bit as morally corrupt and bankrupt as France's threatening to slaughter the Haitians unless they were paid the value of every Haitian slave freed in their revolution.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:46 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


So I was watching some Miami TV news today and it was surprisingly balanced. One station did a telephone poll and the results were around 64% for normalization of relations. That was also very surprising to me.

They were able to find a few old guys who claimed this was spitting in their face (I stand by my assertion that they just want their plantations back, but fail to realize they are now someone else's, as often happens..after all, I want my lakefront property back, but I ain't getting it regardless of the legitimacy of the sale) and there were some relatives of some people whose plane was shot down in the early 90s who seemed to think that the Cuban spies who supposedly enabled the shootdown deserved far more than the 18 or so years they've been in prison.

And of course the Republicans were prattling on about Obama being the "appeaser-in-chief" and saying that he has declared himself King of 'Murca, but what else is new?
posted by wierdo at 7:00 PM on December 17, 2014


It's ironic that so many people had everything stolen by Cuba's government, and now some people here (who have no idea) are assuming that they didn't deserve their own homes and personal property because previous governments were also corrupt or because they somehow deserved that fate en masse. It looks like the Cuban government's propaganda has spread far and well. Could those who say that withstand that same scrutiny, living in societies that may be neither very egalitarian nor free of corruption? The seizure of property without compensation is a crime whether done by the Nazis or by communist dictators. This is an instance where there are still living victims and direct heirs who are/were American citizens. The US government should not (and had no pressing reason to) receive Cuba back into its good graces without addressing what was recognized at the time as a devastating crime on a large scale.
posted by knoyers at 7:29 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sometimes nations are held by the utterly despicable few, and the property that is that nation is redistributed among its citizens. Turnover is difficult, three generations later a middle.class forms and things normalize. Things weren't good in order for the turnover to happen. Even a lousy status quo is comfortable, knowable, people can eke out little bits of happiness. Things had to be bad for a long time, for revolution to happen. I hope things normalize between our nations, and that means two distinct nations relating, behaving well. Having relations with the US should not have to be like joining the Borg collective.
posted by Oyéah at 7:42 PM on December 17, 2014


wierdo: "(I stand by my assertion that they just want their plantations back, but fail to realize they are now someone else's, as often happens..after all, I want my lakefront property back, but I ain't getting it regardless of the legitimacy of the sale)"

Dude, the children who were ten years old when they were airlifted out of Cuba as part of the Pedro Pan airlift in 1960 are now SIXTY-FOUR YEARS OLD. Castro's contemporaries, any of whom managed to keep their property through the Batista revolt, are 88. The people who owned plantations are mostly dead, and a lot of the people targeted by the Castro regime were judges and other lower-level government officials. Batista was a bad man, but Castro was also terrible. Cuban-American exiles don't object to the Castros because they want Cuban property back -- I have never met one who thinks that is a reasonable option -- but because Fidel Castro executed people indiscriminately, destroyed families, used children as bargaining chips.

I support ending the embargo, but Castro is AWFUL and people who are pissed about this are pissed because of MASS MURDER, not because they want to own a slave plantation.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:58 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


knoyers: "The US should have required that Cuba at least pay compensation for property that was stolen from Americans before taking this step."
"For lands taken over compensation was offered in the form of Cuban currency bonds to mature in 20 years at 4.5% interest.[5] Bonds were based on land values as assessed for tax purposes.[5] During Batista's reign American proprietors had lands assessed at very low rates.[5]"
-- Wikipedia : Agrarian Reform Laws of Cuba
posted by symbioid at 8:23 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's worth looking back at this moment I think. The negotiations were already under way in 2013. It wasn't just symbolic outreach, it was a hopeful stage setting.

Barack Obama celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela with his own gesture of reconciliation at Tuesday's memorial ceremony in Soweto: a historic handshake with Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

It was the first such greeting in public involving a president of the United States since the Cuban revolution, although Bill Clinton shook hands in private with Raul's brother Fidel during a closed-door United Nations lunch in 2000.

Though initially unclear whether Obama and Raúl Castro's meeting was orchestrated or happened by chance, the symbolism of the moment helped set the mood for the unprecedented gathering of world leaders.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:37 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Castro is indeed fucking awful. That fact does not erase the fact that Fulgencio Batista was a criminal and a dictator nor that his supporters are/were monsters. If you use the color of law to run a corrupt dictatorship which runs on torture, murder, and the oppression of the working class in favor of wealthy elites, expropriation of your ill-gotten gains is the absolute least you've earned. The idea that opposition to Castro can be divorced from support for Batista is ridiculous and ahistorical.

I mean, seriously- Batista and his accomplices and beneficiaries' property was stolen from the people of Cuba. Accusing Castro of robbing a mugger doesn't sell, so it is necessary to pretend that property ownership under Batista was somehow legitimate rather than a rigged system designed to funnel the wealth of the nation to Batista and his confederates.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:23 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: If it were really about the awfulness of Castro, they would not have been dead set against every policy that had a chance of helping the Cuban people over the last 50 years. For many, it really is anger over having their property exproproated more than anything else. They simply refuse to accept any rapprochement that does not involve returning themselves to being the big fish in a small pond.

They didn't give two shits about the common people when Batista was in power and they don't now.

Not all Cuban refugees are that way, by any means, but that very much is the mindset of those who have been at the forefront of the continued demands to keep the last vestige of the Cold War in place.
posted by wierdo at 11:33 PM on December 17, 2014


Here's what I said the last time this came around. Still a little late for my grandfather, but I'm getting all my ducks in a row to take mom for a return visit. She is over the moon about this. I've very happy for her and my grandmother.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:27 AM on December 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


As I listen to the new about this this morning, I am starting to think that maybe he's finally trying to live up to that Nobel prize he was awarded. Certainly seems like a good start to me.
posted by TedW at 3:20 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Might I point out that Canada's beloved Tim Hortons has just been annexed by Burger King with nary a peep? The invading army just steamrolled into town, painted a dick on the Mona Lisa, and nobody noticed.

I give Canada five years, tops.


You know what they say in Canadian politics: As goes Tim Hortons, so goes socialized medicine.
posted by duffell at 3:48 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]




It's weird to think that my son will probably grow up in a world where the idea of a Cuban embargo just sounds laughable. I mean, it was laughable before, but it was real for many decades, and now it's just floating away.

...

Uh yeah, as a traveller, I can tell you IME that this is simply not the case. But it's easier to make it sound as though all Americans are slack-jawed yokels who can barely tie their shoes much less manage to fill a passport application.

I don't think Americans are yokels, slack-jawed or otherwise, but I have been surprised at how relatively few fellow Americans I see in some of my international travels. You don't have to go so far off the beaten path, either. For example, when I was on my honeymoon in Northern Italy and Slovenia, I think I encountered one small group of Americans. (Contrast with how Chinese tour groups are E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E.)

So, yeah. I share Sara C.'s bemusement at the idea that Cuba is allegedly one of the few places "largely free" of American tourists. You don't have to go to the ends of the earth to find places with few to no Americlaps.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:15 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is an outrage.

Doesn't Obama know that many people are imprisoned in Cuba while being denied the right to a fair (or indeed any) trial? They put them in orange overalls and then lock them up in cages...
posted by sour cream at 9:17 AM on December 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is an outrage.

Doesn't Obama know that many people are imprisoned in Cuba while being denied the right to a fair (or indeed any) trial? They put them in orange overalls and then lock them up in cages...

Buy anything from China lately?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:26 AM on December 18, 2014


Buy anything from China lately?

The US runs a prison camp there too?
posted by yoink at 10:44 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


At gitmo they didn't get the orange jumpsuits, or was that.Abu G?
posted by Oyéah at 10:55 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Non-compliant" prisoners at Guantanamo Bay wear orange jumpsuits.
posted by bradf at 11:00 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


It happens pretty much every time I meet someone new and they find out I’m Cuban. Have you been? is usually their first question—generally just a way to attempt a polite transition to their own inevitable Cuba visit story. I brace myself for these stories, plaster a polite smile on my face, and try to change the subject as quickly as possible. Many of them come with a sentiment similar to Jeremy Scahill’s tweet yesterday—a kind of perverse, nostalgic desire to witness things “before they change.” I can’t keep track of the number of times someone has recounted this sentiment to me. Last year, it happened at a week-long training I was participating in, and it was the first time there was another Cuban-American present, with whom I could exchange a weary, knowing glance.

I’m sure there are hundreds (thousands?) of people right now trying to figure out if they can visit Cuba before the inevitable surge of change. Miss seeing the crumbling buildings? The fifties-era cars? The Castro government propaganda? I’ve never understood these sentiments. I find them to be so tone-deaf, like this place that has shaped my entire existence is just a type of disaster tourism, a fun stop on a political nostalgia to-do list. They’re sentiments that gloss over and negate all the suffering and loss that has shaped what Cuba is today.
Why I Don't Want to Hear About Your Cuban Vacation
posted by indubitable at 11:11 AM on December 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


I don't know, I have a lot of feelings about the whole notion of "ruined by tourism" idea, most of which are really not germane here, but I agree it's especially sick when we're talking about Cuba.

The first thing I saw on social media about the change in US policy towards Cuba was a friend of mine who is a bit of a resort/package travel junkie tweeting "Cruise to Cuba in 2015?" On the one hand, I want to go, too, and the prospect of travel to Cuba was one of my first thoughts while listening to Obama's speech yesterday. On the other hand, ewwwwww, can we not? Cruises are awful, and that type of package resort tourism is generally bad across the board for small/poor countries where it's rampant.

But I also hate the "go now before it's ruined" thing. Like, if you actually gave half a shit about Cuba, you could have already gone. It's one thing to own just wanting to take a vacation there (which is more the category I'm in, though I'm not interested in a cruise or resort experience), but there's just something so pornographic about declaring that you don't just want to visit, you want to visit first, before it's "spoiled" by modern conveniences. But not really first first, because you also don't want to be slightly inconvenienced by having to apply for a visa or book a slightly more complex itinerary through another country.

Likewise I hate people who think places like India and China are spoiled for tourism by becoming more developed. The first priority for a country isn't to match your romantic notions of what it ought to be like.
posted by Sara C. at 11:42 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


The first priority for a country isn't to match your romantic notions of what it ought to be like.

It's a valid choice for a country to make when it wishes to, though. Tourism is a sustainable industry that doesn't require them to partner with huge foreign industrial contractors.. quite often it's worth it for a city or region to indulge in some preservationism for the bucks that it rakes in.

In Cuba's case, I hope they consider ecotourism as well. Economic isolation has had the side effect of preserving a wilderness that no longer has any remaining equivalent anywhere else on Earth.

From PBS's Nature: Cuba: The Accidental Eden

Stripping it all off for farms and mines must seem enormously tempting, so that, y'know, they can convert to the same economy everyone else has -- a few corporations siphoning most of it off, a small number of very wealthy local middlemen, a token middle class consisting of no more and probably much less than 5% of the population, and the overwhelmingly poor remnant trying to find a place to live in a landscape that quickly becomes just as fucked up as everywhere else. I hope they find their own path instead.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:17 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


knoyers: "The US should have required that Cuba at least pay compensation for property that was stolen from Americans before taking this step."

Sounds good. Can we put this in line right after compensation for descendants of slaves and Native Americans displaced by forced relocation?
posted by edgeways at 1:07 PM on December 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


Oh, I think preservationism is probably important, and I think it would be a damn shame if Cuba was like WOOOO CAPITALISM KNOCK IT ALL DOWNNNNNNNN and then became the new Ocho Rios, Jamaica, or whatever.

But I'm also pretty sure that the people who want to visit before it's "ruined" aren't looking for experiences like New Orleans' French Quarter, Quebec City, Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, etc. They mean they want to see it while it's still derelict and poor and untainted by modern amenities. Meanwhile of course they will all come home and complain about the lack of tourist infrastructure and 21st century conveniences.
posted by Sara C. at 1:57 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


NBC:
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is the latest potential presidential candidate to weigh in on policy changes to Cuba and the libertarian leaning Republican's position splits from other Republicans who are also considering a presidential run.

Paul told Tom Roten of News Talk 800 in West Virginia that the 50-year embargo "just hasn't worked" and normalizing relations with the island nation is "probably a good idea."

"If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship," he said.

posted by Drinky Die at 3:06 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


The US should have required that Cuba at least pay compensation for property that was stolen from Americans before taking this step.

If only modern-day Native Americans and descendants of African slave labor could enforce a similar economic directive on Americans.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:29 PM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


What will this mean for american dissidents in cuba like Assata Shakur?
posted by thug unicorn at 2:47 AM on December 19, 2014


Why I Don't Want to Hear About Your Cuban Vacation

Thank you. I am fucking tired of "authenticity" obsessed hipsters treating a real country of 11 million people like that band they liked before you did.
posted by spaltavian at 6:06 AM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Listening to reactions about this on the news has been interesting, albeit predictable for the most part. One newscast brought up the Helms Burton Act. Too bad Jesse Helms didn't live to see the day a black president took a major step towards opening relations with Cuba.
posted by TedW at 8:41 AM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's not about the quanity of time one spends in Cuba but the quality.

This is great news.
posted by clavdivs at 5:51 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]




I take umbrage with the idea that visiting Cuba is some kind of disaster tourism because Cuba is a success in a lot of ways. Compare it to just about any other place in the Caribbean, or South America. As well as good education, healthcare and nutrition there are the valuable cultural and social traditions that have been assisted by government support for culture. These are the things that I fear will be degraded if the process of re engaging with their enormous, economically dominant, selfish, bellicose neighbour is not managed well. As an old Jamaican once said to me, America is our biggest neighbour, but they are not a good neighbour.

Uncle Fidel may not have been all that avuncular to all the residents, but compared to the dictators and governments that the US has supported financially, militarily and politically in the past 50 years he is practically a saint. Cuba is not a paradise and has plenty of the same problems that other countries have, but they are doing pretty well in a lot of ways that really matter. Unfortunately the things that really matter are not valued by global capitalism and avarice is not something that Cubans are immune to. They want to have gewgaws too. I hope they can find a balance.
posted by asok at 3:17 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]




Jacobin: The Alternative in Cuba
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 10:06 AM on December 23, 2014


« Older Sealioning Explained by The Last Psychiatrist and...   |   Master of Fear Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments