Cuban Cigars in Tampa Can Wait a Little Longer

Sunday, November 2, 2014
A Letter to the Editor of The Tampa Tribune:

On normalizing relations with Cuba, freedom first

The desire by some to open full relations with Cuba seems to be a hot topic that has become a source of dialogue for many in my recently adopted community of Tampa. It seems to me, from the many articles and statements I have read, that nothing short of normalizing relations is acceptable.

What confuses me and alarms me is that I see this push for normalization as a way for businesses to make money in the Tampa area. People forget about the real issues that have changed Cuba from a superbly thriving country into the state of chaos this nation finds itself in today.

It seems that not a week goes by that we don’t see more and more Cubans risking life and limb to escape the island nation. Why? It is because tens of thousands of these folks have realized that Cuba is a closed society run by a government that routinely and purposefully violates the rights of anyone who does not agree with its government credo. It is a government that unjustly incarcerates people to “get them out of the way,” a government that has denied its citizenry access to world media and free movement of travel until very recently, and a society where people can barely make a living to feed and clothe themselves and their families. And this failed attempt at social communism has been going on for over 50 years.

As a person who was born in Cuba of American parents, went to school in Cuba and left the island at the age of 12, I, too, wish that relations were normalized so I could travel back and see where I was born and spent my early, formative years. But I want to do this the right way.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a local and vocal proponent of normalization, has been quoted as saying that “the U.S. is indeed the outlier on this issue” of normalizing relations and that “it is time we recognize this and do more to bring our two nations together.”

Fidel Castro is the one who took power in an illegal coup d’├ętat. It was he who confiscated all private houses and business entities belonging to American citizens without any compensation. It was he who has subjugated the Cuban people for 50 years because of his failed philosophy of communist ideals. It was he who allowed Soviet missiles aimed at the U.S. to be stationed in Cuba in the 1960s. It was he who opened up his jails and sent all the criminals and undesirables on a course toward Florida in order to hurt us. Remember Mariel?

Rep. Castor, let’s open relations with Cuba. First, however, we need to recognize that the U.S. is not the bad guy in this deal. We have opened our doors wide to all Cubans who want to defect and come and live here. The bad guy is Fidel Castro and his brutal regime. Let him begin the normalizing process by telling us what he plans to do about it, since he was the one who stole Cuba from its people. He should start by freeing all political prisoners and opening up the government to true, free elections.

Let Castro grant freedom to the Cuban people as the first step, and stop looking at the mighty dollars that could be made there. Cuban cigars in Tampa can wait a little longer.

George A. McNenney
Palm Harbor

The writer is a retired special agent in charge, U.S. Customs Service.