Why The United States Should Mend Relations With Cuba

by Andrew Scarlata
Class of 2015

In light of the recent announcement by President Barack Obama that the United States will move to normalize relations with Cuba, Andrew Scarlata tries to clear up some common misconceptions and explain the benefits for both countries.

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What’s Up With Modern Day Cuba?

It has always been possible to enter Cuba from another country, but not directly from the United States (not yet, at least). For many Americans, vacationing to Cuba is not even up for consideration (unless you’re Jay-Z and Beyonce). Under the Obama administration, some tour companies (like People to People) are authorized to fly to the island straight from US airports. The embargo on trade and tourism was implemented all the way back in 1963 as a way to cut funding into the “oppressive” communist government. Until now, any strides to mend relations have been shot down like enemy aircraft. But those who might use Cuba and North Korea in the same sentence may want to reconsider.

In Cuba, the face of Raul and Fidel Castro is not plastered on every street corner like many people believe. The government isn’t actually as oppressive as one may think. There are free elections. Cuba actually possesses a certain aspect within their elections that could be useful in the United States as well. There are no contradicting and problematic political platforms, and no campaigns with huge floats and pricey tours. Unlike in America, running for office isn’t about who can afford the biggest and most convincing campaign. The resumes of candidates for office are made public and posted for the viewing of voters (anyone over sixteen years of age without mental handicap or criminal record). Citizens are asked to vote for whomever they believe is most qualified for the position in government based on their qualifications. This may seem fair – the concept is simple and could be effective – but there is always the issue of corruption in the Cuban state.

The Benefits of Improved Relations to Both Countries

Cuba has so much to offer the United States. From sugar cane to the very popular Cuban cigar, both countries can develop and better themselves through mutual commercial industry. Cuban citizens lack cheap and easy access to many food products, including dairy. Disease is a big issue on the island-country as well. The US exported $158 billion in dairy products to other countries in 2013, and $39.7 billion in pharmaceuticals. Having access to some of these products could help Cuban citizens in both health and hunger, while increasing US revenue and talent in sports? Cuban defectors, many of whom are born into physical labor, have shown amazing athletic talent in American sports as well.

Major League Baseball in recent years has been presented with the raw talent of Cuban ballplayers who participate in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s baseball league. They are known for their amazing throwing arms and power; to name a few: former Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (two time home run derby champ), Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig (who seems to throw out any runner who challenges him), Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman (who can pitch up to 105mph, some of the fastest pitching MLB has ever seen), Miami Marlins pitching stud Jose Fernandez, and even more recently, Rusney Castillo, a player the Boston Red Sox have spent $72.5 million over seven years to play center field, straight from the fields of Cuba.

Coming to the US wasn’t easy for any of these players. They had to flee the island under the radar, jeopardizing their own lives as well as their families’. Jose Fernandez told MLB reporters that he fled the island in a handcrafted boat while being shot at by Cuban government officials. Other players have gone through similar situations while defecting, leaving an island of poverty onto the fields of Major League Baseball in hopes of being able to support their family, and risking it all to do so.

If Cuban-American relations were completely mended, it is very possible there would be even more talent in MLB – a win–win situation because more talent in American baseball means better entertainment; more Cuban talent means more recognition, and eventually revenue, for a country that has its share of economic struggles.

Keep in mind that it is ultimately Congress’ decision to lift the trade embargo against Cuba. Many Republicans and even some Democrats do not agree with Obama’s initiative towards Cuba, and possibly for good reason. If trade and tourism are opened up between the two countries, Cuba would undoubtedly gain a little bit of cash. Where would that money go? Supporters of the initiative hope to help the people of Cuba and reinforce the “Missionary” reputation that the United States has. The opposing party believes that a big portion of this possible Cuban revenue would go towards Raul and Fidel Castro’s estate, and create an even larger gap between the rich and poor in that country. President Obama and Congress haven’t exactly been the most productive pair in the last few years, so it will be interesting as to how this will play out.