What Happened to the Magna Carta?

Monday, December 7, 2009
Britain's Ambassador to Cuba, Dianna Melrose, has taken issue with our recent post about her remarks at a Center for Strategic and International Studies' (CSIS) forum on the European Union's (EU) policy towards Cuba, and has issued a statement in response.

At the CSIS forum, Amb. Melrose said:

"Let's have a reality check. The EU has little to show for its engagement over the past year. There's very little the Cuban government wants from the EU that it doesn't already have: trade and investment, development assistance and continuing opposition to the U.S. embargo. So if there is any external actor that has potential leverage over Cuba, it is the United States."

It was not our intent -- by far -- to get into a tit-for-tat with Amb. Melrose, nor did we in any way assert that Amb. Melrose supported U.S. policy towards Cuba, we simply reiterated the important observation she made.

However, it seems logical that if the U.S. has a policy of sanctions (and by Amb. Melrose's own admission, potential leverage), while the EU has a policy of unconditional engagement (and no leverage), then one policy is clearly more effective than the other.

Yet, Amb. Melorse doesn't specifically re-visit the issue of leverage in her response. Instead, she simply advocates against U.S. law and policy, as if there was any doubt regarding her position.

Considering this extraordinary intervention into the U.S. legislative process by a foreign diplomat, we felt it would be appropriate to address some of her arguments.

First of all, Amb. Melrose proudly states that:

"The UK has full diplomatic and trading relations with Cuba and is the second largest source of tourists here after Canada."

She then proceeds to advocate for altering U.S. law and allowing U.S. tourism to Cuba:

"If [the Cuban people] were able to talk to US citizens, with whom they share so many sporting, cultural and historical links, they could benefit from learning about the civil liberties and economic freedoms which US citizens enjoy. This contact would also help debunk the daily fare of anti-US propaganda they have grown up with in the state-run media."

Does this mean that the millions of British tourists that have vacationed in Cuba since the 1990's have not been discussing the Magna Carta with the Cuban people (during their day-trips to Havana from the Castro regime's all-inclusive beach resorts)?

Furthermore, are the "lessons" taught by British tourists about civil liberties and economic freedoms, which they surely enjoy at home, somehow inadequate compared to those of potential U.S. tourists?

Frankly, we don't believe in British, nor American, exceptionalism. Too many Cubans have been harassed, imprisoned and executed for their ideals -- without being "educated" by foreign tourists -- in order to now be patronized. Moreover, if the Cuban people were given the opportunity to emigrate from the island, more than half the population would make the painful decision to do so, and their choice destination would be the U.S. (so much for their "gullibility" in believing the Castro regime's anti-U.S. propaganda).

Amb. Melrose also embraces some of the economic arguments commonly made by anti-sanctions advocates:

"The arrival of thousands of US citizens would put pressure on the [Cuban] government to allow more free enterprise (more family businesses offering rooms to rent, more privately owned "paladar" restaurants and more taxi licenses)."

We hate to point out that Cuba is not a market-driven economy, it is a totalitarian command economy. As such, when the Cuban military feels that it can't accommodate any more U.S. tourists in their beach resorts, they will simply not allow any more into the island (and proceed to build more hotels). A brief review of the history of the Castro regime clearly shows that it is driven by absolute power and control, not rational economic logic.

She also echoes that,

"The [Cuban] government would have to import more food for the tourism sector, potentially creating new markets for US suppliers."

More bad news. By transplanting a U.S. tourists from one place to another, a new market is not created. It is simply changing the location of where that U.S. tourist is fed, not adding a new consumer. However, you would be adding a middle-man to the transaction (in this case, the Castro regime), which would actually be detrimental to the U.S. economy and to our current account deficit. You can follow the macroeconomic logic here.

Yet, despite these disagreements, let's let bygones-be-bygones and join in a New Year's wish for the Cuban people:

That the spirit and inspiration of the Magna Carta may prevail in 2010.

"IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever."

- Magna Carta, June 15th, 1215