Free Speech

Fair Play for Cubans (and America Travelers To Castro's Tropical Prison)

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Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is one of the most principled–and libertarian–members of Congress. His latest gambit that's in line with "Free Minds and Free Markets"? Reintroducing legislation that would, in the words of the Wash Times ("America's Newspaper"!?!), "chip away at the Bush administration's hard-line Cuba policy" by lifting the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba.

Flake is no Lee Harvey Oswald when it comes to Cuba. He's one of the few congressmen who sees past the rhetoric (and the vituperation of South Florida pols) and understands that more, not fewer, ties to the United States always would have been the best way to destabilize the Castro regime and bring something like freedom and prosperity to Fidel's citizen-captives:

Mr. Flake, who introduced his bill with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, said that nearly 50 years of the current policy have "done little" to bring democracy to Cuba.

Instead of aiding democratic reform, the policy has given Cuban President Fidel Castro "a convenient scapegoat for his own regime's failures," Mr. Flake said.

Here's hoping the travel ban is lifted. And then the trade embargo. It's all too little, too late for at least a couple of generations of Cubans. But it's still better than the status quo.

More here.

Flake disses his GOP in the December 2006 issue of Reason here (scroll down).

He talked with Reason in 2001 about being a Mormon missionary here.

Flake gets "purged" by GOP leadership earlier this year for sticking to principles over partisanship.

Reason on Cuba policy here and the reality of life under Castro's horrific regime here and here. Castro vs. baseball historian here.

Bonus: The cover story of our March print issue, on newsstands next week, is about how Castro used The New York Times and other media dupes in his rise to power. If you subscribed to Reason for less than $20 a year, you'd have that story delivered to your door.

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  1. Man, we need to get an exploratory committee together for this guy. Run, baby, run.

  2. Now that HFCS is leaving the American diet, there is every reason to make things nice with Cuba again.

    Communism, prisoner citizens, Elian Gonzalez, South FLA pols, whatever. It’s about the cane.

    I predict Coke will release “Back To Classic Coke” before Castro is cold. I predict it will be a tasty soda, too.

  3. Figures that the (second) most libertarian Congressmen’s name would be “Flake.”

    We just can’t catch a break.

  4. “The other standard lefty line on Cuba is that all the economic woes can be laid at the feet of the American embargo (cf “siege economy”). Since America is the only country that won’t trade with Cuba, this has always struck me as implausible. Does anyone know of any serious analysis of this topic?”

  5. Hey, wait a cotton-pickin’ second. I thought Reason and other Libertarian skeptics have been saying for years that one could not be both a Republican and a principled Libertarian at the same time. Ron Paul was always written off as a “special case” fluke.

    Now Reason is admitting that there is indeed a “Second” Libertarian Republican in Congress?

    Keep going Reason (and other Libertarian cynics). We may just get you all to admit that Dana Rohrabacher, who founded our Libertarian Movement in the late 1960s is also a “libertarian” as are other Republican Congressmen like Tom Feeney of Florida. Don’t just stop at Paul and Flake.

    Geez, imagine that. Maybe all this stuff that the Republican Liberty Caucus has been saying for years about a growing libertarian wing of the GOP might just be true.

    Ya think?!

    Signed Perplexed.

  6. How do you feel about the Bush administrations “hard-line” policy on Cuba? Are you critical like Flake (and his new ally RCD)?

  7. Eric, with all do respect, you may want to read the magazine on a more regular basis. They consistently talk about libertarian leaning candidates that happen to be in the Republican party.

    I would agree with you that, at times, Hit and Run may seem a tad bit Kosian, but the magazine is much better. Weigel’s pieces on Butch Otter and Mike Pence immediately come to mind. I’m sure I am forgetting others.

  8. I’m prepared to endorse a Jeff Flake/Chuck Hagel ticket. Or Chuck Hagel/Jeff Flake. Whatever.

    On the condition that they not enter the race until fall. This is way too frickin’ early.

  9. Why does the clipping on Oswald’s arrest seem to be dated two weeks after the assassination?

  10. That’s handwriting, creech.

    It’s probably the date somebody doing back research found the clipping.

  11. The fallacy that lifting the embargo will somehow help end the suffering of the Cuban people is so hackneyed that it does not deserve much discussion. As noted in the post by “Guess Who” above, the US is the only country that does not trade with Cuba. Moreover, Cuban-Americans send hundreds of millions of $$$ to Cuba each year, making up a large part of the country’s hard currency. The bottom line is that the Cuban government sucks, and they run the economy, and thus, it sucks.
    The big push for lifitng the emabargo, of late, (and I am not saying Jeff Flake is part of this “conspiracy”) has come from a gaggle of midwestern members of Congress (not libertarians I’m sure), who want to sell wheat, corn and other agricultural products to Cuba. Cash sales have been allowed for several years now. So, what is the problem? They want to be able to sell on CREDIT! So guess who pays for that when Cuba is late on the mortgage? Can you say the taxpayer? Puhleeze folks. Let’s see through the bullshit of our elected politicians ALL the time.
    Having said all that, I am a Cuban-American, and I have always been against the embargo, until recently. Now, for just the last few (days or weeks hopefullY) of the Maximum Leader’s life, let’s keep the thing going.

  12. Yeah, the United States is only one country, after all. It’s not as though our economy is particularly important.

    I mean, they can trade with Mexico and Algeria. That’s pretty much the same thing.

  13. Exactly Joe. I hope your rapier wit doesn’t insult any Algerian or Mexican libertatians though.

  14. I mean, they can trade with Mexico and Algeria. That’s pretty much the same thing.

    If you are honest, joe, you’ll admit you just post stupid shit for fun. That is the dumbest thing I’ve read all week. But hey, there’s still 37 hrs to go for you to top yourself.

  15. Canada and Europe trade with Cuba.

    And gave the Castro regime loans to pay for what they sell.

    And get stiffed on repayment.

    Which is why Castro finds it a little difficult to get credit.

    Guess Who:

    Canada’s National Post newspaper ran a series of article about 3 or 4 years back which pretty much exploded every claim that the Castro regime has made concerning improvements to the lives of the Cuban people. (I haven’t got a link, sorry.)

  16. So we can conclude that J sub D has nothing useful to add.

    Let’s play a game, and pretend that America had cut off some third world country from our markets because it allowed the use of a certain pesticide. Or because it violated the terms of a cease-fire.

  17. Maybe I’m missing something here, but how is it possible that the United States has refused for decades to trade with Cuba in an attempt to weaken the country, yet when people point out that it’s worked, suddenly right-wingers decide it’s silly to blame any of Cuba’s economic woes on the US embargo?

  18. i think the point is that the embargo is not the sole reason cuba sucks. cuba sucks largely because it’s a socialist dictatorship.

    that said, the embargo was always a stupid idea.

  19. The embargo isn’t about keeping Cubans from buying US good, but rather about limiting the access to US consumers. So, of course it has damaged the Cuban economy. WTF, you think some Cuban is worried she has to settle for a Honda in place of a Ford. It’s that we can’t openly buy her cigars and sugar.

  20. Two answers to Haywood. One, some right wingers admit that the embargo has hurt the Cuban economy, and they say, good. Others, like me I suppose, don’t know how much it has hurt the economy, or are at least positing the possibility exists that even if we traded with Cuba, lo these many years, the Cuban economy would be just as f’ed up as it is currently, because the weakness in that economy is the reluctance to give up central control. Something China eventually decided to do, leading to that economy’s boom. I want to be consistent, and since I believe in free trade, I object generally to restrictions on that trade. The only point I was trying to make is that the motives of those who want to change a policy should always be closely examined. Thus, when some cornbelt Pol says he feels so sorry for the Cuban people, and wishes his farmers could sell wheat, on credit, to Cuba, I wonder. And Flake may not be in that category. I don’t know his motives. You see Haywood you pegged me right. I am a real far-right winger. I hate taxes a lot. And I see that tax coming down the highway.

  21. Let’s play a game, and pretend that America had cut off some third world country from our markets because it allowed the use of a certain pesticide. Or because it violated the terms of a cease-fire.

    Let’s play a game called actual numbers.

    http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/gnp.html

    U.S. share of world GDP, 32.8%.

    Rest of worlds share 67.2%.

    Yeah the Cubans don’t have a chance.

    BTW I’ve been opposed to the embargo with Cuba for a long time, for many reasons. To argue that it is resposible for Cuba’s economic situation requires the ability to ignore the facts.

  22. Think of the blockade as welfare for companies from more practical countries. I’m sure there will be a tiny piece of real estate somewhere on the island by the time we finally wake up.

  23. Apparently, saying that it hurts a country’s economic if they can’t trade with an economic superpower that controls a third of the world’s GDP is “ignoring the facts.”

    If half the other countries in the world, which accounted for half of the non-American share of the world’s economy, were unable to buy our goods, that would probably have an effect on our economy.

    Just a hunch.

  24. dhex,

    Saying that Cuba’s economic problems are ‘solely’ the result of the embargo would indeed be silly.

    Fortunately, there is nobody here saying that.

  25. joe, don’t forget that country is only 80 miles away from that economic superpower.

    Jesus, God, people. Of course the embargo hurts the Cuban economy. That was one of the goals. It worked. Too well. It’s over. Stop it. For chrissakes.

  26. Q. If we’d placed a similar embargo on a country for using DDT, do you think there would be a single post claiming that the embargo did nothing to hurt their economy?

    A. I don’t know. Are there any well known liberal actors who’ve said nice things about DDT?

  27. joe, i was answering heywood’s question:

    “Maybe I’m missing something here, but how is it possible that the United States has refused for decades to trade with Cuba in an attempt to weaken the country, yet when people point out that it’s worked, suddenly right-wingers decide it’s silly to blame any of Cuba’s economic woes on the US embargo?”

    that said, i’ve never understood why actors – or anyone – would be into castro. at least che had a handsome legend (not that this makes it any less weird to see people wearing che shirts) but castro?

  28. I thought Reason and other Libertarian skeptics have been saying for years that one could not be both a Republican and a principled Libertarian at the same time.

    Not really. Just that there’s no real place for a principled libertarian in the Republican party. And you’re doing your best to make it clear that you’re much more of a Republican than a principled libertarian.

  29. The fallacy that lifting the embargo will somehow help end the suffering of the Cuban people is so hackneyed that it does not deserve much discussion.

    That’s not the reason to lift the embargo. The reason (well, one reason anyway) to lift the embargo is so that Fidel could no longer blame the embargo for all his country’s problems.

  30. “that said, i’ve never understood why actors – or anyone – would be into castro.”

    The Cuban revolution which overthrew the feudal oligarchy the preceded it vastly improved the material well-being of the poor who made up the majority of Cuba’s population. Much of the country was living barely above starvation under that system, and the revolution brought them things like a reliable source of adequate nutrition, literacy, and medical care. That ain’t peanuts.

    Now, certainly, they would have been better off still if they had been so liberated by a democratic-republican revolution rather than a Communist one (both in terms of their human rights and, in the mediumto-long term, their material well being), but since the alleged democratic-republicans were on the side of the oligarchs, that wasn’t much of an option. Perhaps in some alternate history, the American government would have told the rich American elites with business interests in maintaining the feudal order in Latin American countries to go jump in the lake, and we would have adopted the popular, modernizing movements there as our own. But in this world, Castro deserves credit for bringing to an end that period of Cuban history.

    It’s hardly notable that most people, including egotistical movie stars, have trouble with complicated, nuanced political statements. (For example, I’m about to be accused of supporting communism). It certainly is a shortcoming to not realize that there’s a large “Yes, but…” that needs to be attached to any observation about the achievements of the Cuban revolution. It’s also a shortcoming – one facilitated by the cult of personality Castro deliberately cultivated – to anthropomorphize the achievements of that revolution into the person of Fidel.

  31. joe,

    I’d hope that by now you’ve written enough thoughtfully nuanced comments to be able to not worry about being tagged as a commie sympathizer. I understand why you feel that you have to explicitly address it sometimes, though.

    I suppose that some Hollywood airheads grew up in families that admired Castro due to firsthand experience (either with Batista’s regime, or by getting a taste of the “new Cuba” before the sanctions). There’s also the cult of personality around Che that still hangs on to Castro just enough.

  32. Joe: if you are still on this thread, back this statement up.

    Much of the country was living barely above starvation under that system, and the revolution brought them things like a reliable source of adequate nutrition, literacy, and medical care.

    It is a silly statement not grounded in any facts. As a young man, rebelling against my parents, I would hear this kind of ridiculous statement and assume it was true. Then, one day, I went into the stacks of the library at the University of Florida, which has an excellent Latin American collection, and found out that Cuba had, in relation to other latin american countries, a very high standard of living that was improving. Literacy was already very high for its time. The sources were from European and United Nations studies of the time, which had plenty of negative things to say about economic and social inequality to be sure, in the rural areas in particular. And of course, there was the monocrop problem. Something that FC did nothing about, and in fact exacerbated. It is a very complicated issue not to be settled in a blog, but suffice it to say that your statement is inaccurate.

  33. “…in relations to other Latin American countries” isn’t much of a statement, rac. Other Latin American countries were also largely feudal oligarchies. You mean Cuba was more like Mexico and less like El Salvador? That’s underwhelming.

    “Literacy was already very high for its time.” Ditto.

  34. Wow, there is some silliness about the embargo. First, the embargo has obviously hurt the Cuban economy. But the flight of the business class upon the entrance of Castro also hurt the Cuban economy. OK, so we don’t buy sugar from Cuba, but we do buy sugar from Cubans (they live in Miami). We simply recreated many of Cuba’s industries in South Florida. Why would Big Sugar want Cuba back in the market?

    Part of the stupidity of the embargo is that Americans are not free to make money there. Thanks, US Gov’t, for making it illegal to make money. Disclosure: I also believe that Cuba would be a friend today if we had allowed our goods and services to permeate the Cuban marketplace.

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