Recognizing Cuba

by Richard Langworth on 18 December 2014

“I was, I think, the first in this House to sug­gest, in Novem­ber 1949, recog­ni­tion of the Chi­nese Communists….I thought that it would be a good thing to have diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tion. But if you recog­nise any­one it does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that you like him. We all, for instance, recog­nise the Rt Hon Gen­tle­man, the Mem­ber for Ebbw Vale.”*  —Win­ston S. Churchill, 1 July 1952.


Aneurin Bevan


Raoul Cas­tro

On Pres­i­dent Obama’s Decem­ber 17th announce­ment restor­ing diplo­matic rela­tions with Cuba, a col­league writes: “Finally we’ll have access to truly great healthcare.”

Funny. Actu­ally top tier Cuban health­care is mainly for party mem­bers. There is a tiered sys­tem. “Some ani­mals are more equal than others.”

Per­haps we can learn some­thing from The Bahamas (where I spend win­ters). Nas­sau has a care­ful rela­tion­ship with Havana. We send them beer and rum, they send us cig­ars, rum and sugar. Bahami­ans can access part of their health­care sys­tem, which is some­times but not always bet­ter than in The Bahamas. Inter­est­ingly, the Bahamas Defence Force has not had to chase off Cuban fish­er­men in our waters—unlike the Domini­cans. Every­one here who goes there says that once the Cas­tros are gone the Cubans will be lin­ing up for gmail accounts like every­body else. Let a hun­dred Adam Smiths blossom.

 Mr. Obama has restored diplo­matic rela­tions, but not even he can lift the embargo. That’s up to Con­gress.  This could be done by degrees, depend­ing on what­ever lib­er­al­iza­tion is observed. The oil glut has kicked out Cuba’s tra­di­tional crutches, Rus­sia and Venezuela. Some reports sug­gest the Cas­tros wanted this more than Obama. Charles Krautham­mer says we get noth­ing for it. Well, we get an embassy for it, and cer­tain lib­er­al­i­ties that are use­ful and over­due: more nor­mal move­ment of peo­ples, per­haps.  Mr. Krautham­mer should like the idea of get­ting more Cuban ballplay­ers. There is already small-business cap­i­tal­ism, encour­aged by the gov­ern­ment: a mini exam­ple, per­haps of what the Chi­nese call “mar­ket social­ism.” I’ve never been sure what that is, but you can look it up.

None of which will pre­vent cyn­ics from reflect­ing that the Pres­i­dent seems never to meet a tyrant he doesn’t want to shashay up to–so maybe this action is more a prod­uct of mind­set than a piece of canny diplo­macy. In any case it’s a good move.

* The Rt Hon Aneurin “Nye” Bevan (1897-1960), MP for Ebbw Vale, South Wales, 1929-1960; Churchill’s lead­ing adver­sary in the House of Com­mons in the 1940s and 1950s.
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