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U.S. Politicians Should Stop Punishing the Cuban People to Win Florida Votes

December 15, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

HAVANA, CUBA—“Where are you from?”, asked the
20-something as he passed me on the street in Havana. America, I
replied. “I love America” he declared, before turning
into one of the city’s many restaurants. He likely was a
member of Cuba’s growing private workforce.

However, opportunities for young Cubans are too few. State
controls continue to stifle the economy.

Ironically, among the biggest barriers to reform is President
Donald Trump, who seems determined to preserve the fading communist
dictatorship. Increased economic ties to the U.S. are the best
means for Americans to undermine the regime. Yet the Trump
administration partially reversed President Barack Obama’s
opening to Cuba. This switch hurt the island’s many private
businessmen and women, who complained to me on a recent visit that
they cannot get a hearing from the administration.

Among the biggest
barriers to reform is President Donald Trump, who seems determined
to preserve the fading communist dictatorship.

In 1959, Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries swept the corrupt
Fulgencio Batista from power. Alas they proved to be far better at
tyrannizing opponents than uplifting citizens.

Fidel & Co. turned to Moscow, while Washington imposed an
economic embargo. Even after the Soviet Union’s collapse,
Florida’s politically active Cuban-American community blocked
any change in policy. Today the Russians are back and Chinese are
arriving. One of my tour guides observed: “In five years we
all will be speaking Chinese.”

President Barack Obama broke precedent and relaxed federal
controls—many cannot be repealed except by
Congress—allowing more travel and business. He also
reestablished full diplomatic relations. On my recent trip, Cubans
told me how his policy gave them hope for a better future.

U.S. companies entered the Cuba market and tourists visited the
island. The private sector grew to account for an estimated
one-fifth of the economy and an even larger percentage of the
workforce.

Then last year President Trump limited business and travel. The
rules are complicated and confusing. To be safe, tourists can use
groups familiar with the regulations such as Cuba Educational
Travel (CET), which handled my trip. However, many Americans simply
choose to go elsewhere.

Which hit the nascent private sector hard. “A lot of
private business feels crushed,” complained CET’s
Collin Laverty. “So many people opened businesses for
American tourists,” said Julia de la Rosa, who owns an Airbnb
with her husband, Silvio Ortega. “Now there is little
demand.”

Cubans I met complained that the new rules triggered a rash of
cancellations and pushed down future bookings. Also hurt are
“all the people you are going to hire for the restaurant, to
make the beds, etc.,” said Ortega. Restauranteur Niruys
Higueras complained of Washington: “you should know what you
are doing …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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