After 55 years of the Cuban embargo, not many of us remember what was on the island before the Castro takeover. Listening to the right-wing Cubans on tonight's news, you might think the revolution overthrew some sort of democracy. As I recall, Fulgencio Batista was a militaristic kleptocrat who strode along arm in arm with the Mafia, catering to America's sleazier tastes with gambling, drugs, and prostitution.
The "freedom loving" Cubans who fled to the United States after the revolution never seemed to mind living under Batista: they were among those who shared in the regime's ill-gotten gains. What pissed them off was losing their ill-gotten riches. Well, they needn't have worried. Unlike immigrants from Mexico or, even, Communist Eastern Europe, they got very special treatment. Their new businesses and enterprises in South Florida were largely financed by US government agencies, including the CIA. No wonder they like Republicans.
The poor, in Batista's Cuba, were no better off than the poor in Haiti. After Castro, they got free schooling, free medical care, and other benefits of a socialist state. Castro's communist ideology was unlikely to endear him to the USofA, of course. If he'd set himself up as just another Latin American military dictator, he could have been attending White House dinners ever since.
Instead, he got fifty-five years of attempts to destabilize his government, from poisoning his cigars to the recent idiotic plots by USAID (which has very often been just another branch of the CIA.) Now it's time to end the embargo. We've normalized relations with China and Vietnam, and we're even working on Cambodia. Cuba doesn't have to be a democracy to be a trading partner, and the Cuban people deserve some more investment in their economy.