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Giorgio: President Obama’s Approach to Cuba

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Paul Giorgio

Last week Deputy Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, head of the Western Hemisphere Desk at the State Department traveled to Cuba to begin talks on reestablishing diplomatic relations between the United State and Cuba.  We have not had official diplomatic relations in over 50 years.

The talks follow President Obama’s remarks in his State of the Union Address, in which he said, if a policy hasn’t worked in 50 years, it may be time to try something new.

The fundamental question is why have we punished the people of Cuba for 50 years?

A history lesson about Cuba

There may be no good answer, but a history lesson maybe in order.

If you remember Godfather 2, you will remember the scenes that take place in Havana, Cuba. The scenes open with a revolutionary fighter being killed and quickly switch to the Presidential Palace, where representatives of American industry are meeting with Dictator Flugenico Batista.  It quickly switches to New Year’s Eve 1959 as Batista flees Havana with an estimated $300 million and the rebels led by Fidel Castro take control.  All of this is accurate.

Most of the ruling class flees Cuba and many ends up in Miami, with the assistance of American Industry and organized crime.  It is these Cubans who have had a major influence on U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba for these past 50 years.

In April of 1959 Castro comes to the United States and meets with Richard Nixon and according to reports both men take an instant dislike to each other.  Six months later, President Eisenhower sets up an economic embargo of the island.  In April of 1961 we have the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and in October of 1962 we have the Cuban Missile Crises.

Throw in the Mariel Boat Lift during President Carter’s term in office and Elio Gonzalez during Bill Clinton’s presidency and you have our Cuban policy in a nutshell.

Stop punishing the people of Cuba

For too long this policy has been dictated by the former conservative ruling elite of Cuba who fled the country with most of its wealth.

Our policy has done nothing to topple Castro and has only punished the people.  Cuba today is a country on the brink of economic collapse.  It can no longer rely on its old allies of The Soviet Union, China and Venezuela for economic support.

Why do we have the economic embargo of Cuba?  What has Castro ever done to earn this treatment?  He overthrew a brutal dictatorship.  In doing so he did punish American economic interests who were in League with Batista and who were basically robing the country of its natural resources of sugar cane and bananas.

It is now in our economic interest

It is now in our economic interests to lift the embargo and establish diplomatic relations again.  Cuba has the potential to be a huge market for everything from cars to medical supplies.  Its tourist industry needs a major infusion of capital.

This maybe a good time to do this since we have lived through a 50 year failed policy.  In addition, the older Cubans-the first generation that fled Havana are dying and young Cubans don’t care much about Fidel Castro.  The politics of Florida are also changing, in the sense that more northerners, who tend to vote Democratic are moving into the southern part of the state, while more Puerto Ricans are moving to the Tampa area thus stifling the influence of the Cubans in Miami Dade counties. 

Republicans in Congress are already saying they will block Obama’s latest foreign policy initiative.  Why?

We have diplomatic relations with China, Germany, Italy and Japan.  The last three were our enemies during World War II and caused more harm to us than Cuba ever did.  During the Korean Conflict, China supported North Korea.  Today we have an embassy in Hanoi.

Republicans rail about our immigration policy, but they authored what is known as the "wet foot, dry foot” policy toward Cubans.  The policy is this, if a Cuban reaches dry land in America, they get to stay.  We don’t have that policy for anyone else.

So what is it really about in Cuba?  The reality is electoral votes and Florida being the key to a Republican victory in 2016.

The Republican’s need to start putting America’s interest ahead of Partisan interests. They need to stop worrying about a 90 year old dying man.

It is time to normalize relations with Cuba.


Related Slideshow: 16 Questions for President Obama

With the announcement that President Barack Obama will be giving the commencement address at Worcester Technical High School's graduation in June, GoLocal asked elected officials and community leaders in Worcester if they had the opportunity to ask the President one question -- what would it be, and why?  

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Tim Murray

"Mr. President, you're here to highlight a successful vocational tech high school -- what can you do as President to lead to more voc-tech opportunities for students across the country, and help bring the resources to help make that happen?"

Why:  "As Lieutenant Governor, I focused on these issues.  Oftentimes, vocational schools are overlooked.  I visited all 64 of the schools, and was able to convince the Governor to reestablish an Associate Commissioner position for vocational tech and workforce development.  It's an important issue to me."
Tim Murray, Greater Worcester Chamber of Commerce President
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Tom Finneran

"Mr. President, Democratic and Republican Senators and Congressman describe you as aloof and dis-engaged, more interested in "The View" than in their views. Are you aloof and disengaged?

Why: "The reason for the question is to challenge the President to become more engaged with the legislative branch. If he did so, he could forestall his inevitable slide toward lame-duck status."

Tom Finneran, Former Massachusetts Speaker of the House of Representatives 

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Jim McGovern

“I would ask the President how we can work as a community and a nation to replicate the success of Worcester Technical High School across our region, our state, and the country."

Congressman Jim McGovern

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Tim McGourthy

“What is the role of the Federal government in building an educated citizenry?” 

Why: "As states and school districts debate the adoption of national standards in K-12 education, the responsibilities, resources, and powers of the Federal government in the field of education have been challenged.  While restricted from direct involvement in student curriculum since the 1960s, the Federal government includes a U.S. Department of Education and plays a critical role in coordinating and funding educational policy.  In the President of the United States’ view, what are, and what should be, the limits of Federal jurisdiction in public education?"

Tim McGourthy, Greater Worcester Research Bureau Executive Director

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Chris Pinto

"Ask him why he is allowing the EPA to destroy the upper blackstone economy with ridiculous fines. He should reign them in, as they are behaving like jackbooted thugs."

Chris Pinto, Worcester Republican City Committee

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Tony Economou

"I don't have an ask, it's more of a statement, and it goes towards creating policy for our public schools.  If the President is asking cities and states having to do whatever to conform to education standards, see how it will be funded first, then create policy.  I would broach that respectfully."

Tony Economou, Worcester City Councilor

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Morris Bergman

"I would ask the President why there is no effort being made to look into the skyrocketing cost of private colleges and the lack of commensurate financial aid, particularly for the middle class."

Morris Bergman, Worcester City Councilor

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Gary Rosen

"What actions can the President take to restore the reputation and respect that the USA once commanded across the world?"

Gary Rosen, Worcester City Councilor

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Kate Toomey

"I would ask why he isn't doing more to create jobs."

Kate Toomey, Worcester City Councilor

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Michael Graham

“Dear Mr. President, which of your foreign policy successes makes you most proud?”

Why: "Do you really have to ask?"

Michael Graham, New England Talk Network

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John Giangregorio

"I would ask what he's doing about the economy, and jobs, especially for our inner city youth."

Why: "I don't think the unemployment numbers are a true reflection of what's going on.  There's not a lot of opportunity.  People are giving up."

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Paul Giorgio

"I would ask him the same question I asked President Clinton, which is -- can you change the height and weight charts so that I can be "thin"?

Why:  "Everyone would be asking super serious questions, I'm sure."  

Paul Giorgio, President of Pagio, Inc. 

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Carol Claros

"I would want to ask him why is he supporting Common Core and National standards, doesn't he think the local school boards know whats best for our children and their schools?"

Why:  "As a single mom whose daughter is enrolled in WPS, I am very concerned about common core and the deviation from local control into federal hands."

Carol Claros, Nurse, Former Republican Candidate for State Representative

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Jordan Berg Powers

"Why are your pushing the same failed education policies of the Bush Administration with a focus on privatization and meaningless bubble tests instead of focusing on the skills that will enable our kids to create their job of the future?"

Why: "Worcester Tech is both the best and worst parts of our education system. It shows that providing quality education is not rocket science, schools need to be well resourced, they need to be fun, relevant to what the kids themselves believe will be their future plans.  And Worcester Tech is an elitist institution that fails the promise of universal quality public education that should be available to all."

Jordan Berg Powers, Worcester activist

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David Le Boeuf

"After you leave the White House, what is the primary issue that you will continue to advocate for?""

David Le Boeuf, Initiative for Engaged Citizenship, Democratic State Committee member

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Victoria Waterman

The Girls' Inc CEO, one of GoLocal's "14 to Watch in 2014," opted to let girls in the program ask their own quetions instead.  Here is what Waterman reported for what they wanted to know:

Why is the United States in so much debt?

Do you ever wake up scared that something will happen to your family because you’re the President of the USA?

Why are you sending troops across the sea if it has nothing to do with us or is going to affect our country?

Why are people in debt and what will you do to help them?

What is your life like? Is it fun? Is it tiring?

Is being a president stressful?

Who inspired you to be what you are now?

What inspired you to be the president of the United States?

What middle school did you go to?

What do you like to do in the White House?

How do you sleep at night with everything you have to worry about?

Why did you run for President?

Do you like classical music?

Who do you want your pastry chef to be?

Can you convince my mom to give me an Ipod or a Pandora bracelet?


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