Lifting Cuba Sanctions Betrays Alabama's Values

Thursday, June 30, 2016
By J. Pepper Bryars in

Lifting embargo on Cuba would betray Alabama's values

Some of our state's leaders recently claimed in an opinion piece that trading with the Castro brothers would be a "win-win-win" for Alabama, the United States, and even Cuba.

Truth is, it'd be a shame, shame, shame for us to profit from the continued captivity of that island nation's long-enslaved people.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, one of the article's four co-authors, believes our nation's embargo on Cuba is an "isolationist policy" that is "infringing on Alabamians' right to choose with whom they can and can't do business with."

Normally, the mayor would have a point. Free markets are a tenet of conservatism, but there's nothing free about trading with a criminal government that enslaves its people, especially if that trade only enriches the slaveholders.

Make no mistake, any dollars flowing in-or-out of Cuba must first flow through the hands of Fidel and Raul Castro. That's how they've managed to become shadow billionaires while keeping a tight lid on their communist pressure cooker for more than 55 years.

Another of the article's co-authors, State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, would have us believe that the embargo has "negatively impacted the Cuban people."

Typical. Blame America for another nation's self-inflicted wounds. Still, normally she might have a point. Free trade usually rewards hard-working people, but trading with the hard-working Cuban people's slave masters would create the most negative impact of all.

For those who think my use of that word -- "slave" -- is too harsh, or perhaps hyperbole, I ask you: what is a slave, then?

The people of Cuba are told how, when, and where to work, yet they do not own the fruits of their labor. They are also told what to read, what to listen to, what to watch, how to pray – if at all – and even how to think. They are not allowed to leave ... ever ... and if they try, they're hunted down, captured, and hauled back to be punished and set to work again, often in even more miserable conditions than those they fled. In response to these facts, the apologists explain how wonderfully the Castro brothers treat their subjects, and how well they're fed and cared for.

That's slavery, ladies and gentlemen. There's no other word for it.

Still, Mobile's port, our agricultural exports, and our proximity to Cuba could mean big money for some. Our state legislature even passed a unanimous resolution calling for an end to the embargo, a move that places them in agreement with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

John McMillan, the state's commissioner for agriculture and industry, also co-authored the piece. He sees potential exports to Cuba in poultry, soybeans, wheat, feed and feed grains, and even the automobiles that are manufactured in Alabama.

Maybe ... but after so many of our state's once numerous industries have relocated because of cheap labor overseas, shouldn't we be suspicious of opening trade agreements with someone who rules an island full of slaves?

But it's not all business. The article's fourth co-author, State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, reminds us that Alabamians are "missing out" on Cuba's tourism industry. Never mind all of Alabama's own sandy beaches, or those elsewhere in the Caribbean that aren't surrounded by patrol boats ready to sink the make-shift rafts of those fleeing its shores.

But the tourist issue does call to mind one of the original reasons for the embargo ... as though having a communist hell 90-miles from The Land of the Free wasn't enough.

If you travel to Cuba, the hotel you'll check into is stolen property. The Castro's confiscated it from its rightful owners without cause or compensation. The taxi that you'll ride around town in – one of those classics from the 1950s – was also stolen by the Castro's, again without cause or compensation. After you're dropped off near the beach to have dinner, the restaurant where you'll dine is, again, stolen property. Its owners were never given a dime after it became official state property.

Nearly everything in Cuba was stolen from someone, and for those who simply covet those precious Cuban cigars, know this: the tobacco was chopped and the leaves were rolled ... by the hands of slaves.

Would you do business with a thief or a slaveholder?

Of course not, and neither should the State of Alabama.