A plan to serve up Midwestern agriculture to Cubans took a symbolic step forward Thursday. The congressional showdown will follow.
A business group a year in the making, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, will begin pressing Congress to lift the economic sanctions on Cuba, further opening trade. Watch how quickly ideology and frozen-in-time attitudes can upend business.
Yet more than in previous years, Republicans appear ready to abandon the foolhardy idea that isolating Cuba is the way to oust the Castro regime.
Sanctions have not worked. That does not mean that there aren’t strong truths to the cries of how the Castros, first Fidel and now his brother Raúl, continue to harm their own people. It’s just that the U.S.-imposed sanctions haven’t eased the pain of Cubans either.
Cuba imports about 80 percent of its food. Cubans receive much of their food through rations, allotments that also fuel a black market. Anemia can be a problem, especially among preschool children.
Many U.S. states already sell corn and soybeans to Cuba, but under heavy restrictions. Exporting is difficult under the U.S. sanctions. Farmers and ranchers expect payment. Yet without credit being extended to Cuba, payment for soybeans, rice and corn must be done upfront. This means third-party banks have to be used.
Obviously, that inflates the supply chain, adding costs. President Barack Obama is allowing for payments to be made when products are delivered. Credit for Cuba is a congressional matter.
As with any endeavor involving the Castros, the challenge will be ensuring that the benefits actually go to the Cuban people. Here is where the middle ground can be reached. The abuses of the Castro regime, including its deplorable human rights record, have to be a part of the discussions, with measurable progress made by Cuba.
Americans are still relatively naive about Cuba. Too often, the view is of an idyllic island romantically encapsulated in the past. Rose-colored tourism. We don’t need to tack on a business-forward view to line U.S. pockets while failing to deliver relief to the Cuban people.
An old joke among Cubans can be a reminder: What are the three successes of the Cuban revolution? Health, education and sports. What are the three failures of the Cuban revolution? Breakfast, lunch and dinner.