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Havana Daydreamin' In Washington

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While Jimmy Buffett's song chronicles the dreams of a handful of rogues and refugees, a vote in the House this past Wednesday may eventually turn Havana daydreamin' into reality for Americans eager to island-hop to our forbidden Caribbean neighbor.

So join me, if you will, and raise your Cuba Libre on high to the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee's 25-20 vote to lift the ban on travel to the cigar-rolling island of revolutionaries and rum, Cuba.

Salud!

In addition to lifting the travel ban, the Committee endorsed removing hurdles impeding expanded agricultural trade with the island.

This is long overdue; twenty years so, in fact.

In the wake of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the moment was ripe for the US to pursue detente with Cuba. For whatever reason, George H. Bush chose not to capitalize on the historic opportunity, though. One can only imagine what the state of American-Cuban relations might be today had Bush 41 had the intestinal fortitude to boldly move to dispense with what was clearly an archaic relic of the recently-passed Cold War at the time.

Indeed, one must ask if we can trade with and enjoy normalized relations with our former Cold War nemesis, Russia, why can we not do so with their former client, Cuba?

What about the regime's atrocious human rights record? The suppression of religion, imprisonment of political activists and censorship of the press, many rightfully ask. Yes, these are all serious matters. Serious matters they have in common with Saudi Arabia, the second largest exporter of oil to the US and China, who currently holds more than a trillion dollars in American debt and annually runs up record trade surpluses with us. Additionally, each day we import between 800,000 and a million barrels of oil from Venezuela. This in spite of the fact our fifth largest oil exporter is led by the self-styled latter day Fidel Castro, purveyor of the penciled-in constitution and confidant of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez.

So much for the argument that we shouldn't enrich unsavory malcontents and those who oppose us by trading with them. Perhaps if Havana exported barrels of oil or cheap consumer electronics instead of bushels of sugar and boxes of cigars, Washington might be significantly more tolerant of the rhetorical arrows flying northward across the Floridian Straits.

Domestically, the Agriculture Committee's vote lays the groundwork for yet another potentially protracted and bitter debate in Congress. This in an election year that has already seen political passions rise to fevered levels over the Byzantine health care overhaul. Throw on the fuel of President Obama's new found push to pass comprehensive immigration reform and there is little chance the resulting political inferno will burn itself out before Election Day.

Following more than a year after what appeared to be the initial steps in a slow thawing of tensions between the US and Cuba, the vote is the first tangible sign of congressional interest in moving towards normalization of relations.

Despite an exchange of warm wishes between Presidents Obama and Raul Castro last year, there are deep-seeded differences and significant obstacles to be overcome if a lasting rapprochement between the two decades-long antagonists is to be realized. Not least of which is the fiery opposition of Raul's brother and unflagging anti-American icon, former president Fidel Castro.

Nonetheless, join me, as we give warm Caribbean kudos to the House Agriculture Committee for taking the first tentative legislative steps towards normalized relations between ourselves and our Caribbean comrades in Cuba.

Smoke ‘em, if ya got ‘em, faithful readers. If not, you may well in the not-too-distant future.

Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and we see if Havana daydreamin' eventually becomes Havana day tripping.
 
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