Cuba: Another perspective
U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall wants to sell Kansas wheat to Cuba
(“Congressman reflects on a recent Cuba trip,” High Plains Journal,
April 10), and has filled a bill that “allows” American banks and to
finance the Cuban government’s purchase. Really? Cuba has one of the
worst credit records in the world. Americans shouldn’t be dragooned into
the role of guarantors of credit extended to Cuba.
The real issue isn’t selling to Cuba. It’s getting Cuba to pay for what
it buys. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom puts
Cuba’s credit rating right in the bottom—178th out of 180 countries,
followed by Venezuela and North Korea.
The problem : The average Cuban’s salary is about $25 dollars a
month—there’s no great purchasing power there. Havana has defaulted on
loans worth billions.
It’s not a new issue. Despite raking in massive Soviet Union subsidies
and boasting Moscow was a better commercial partner than the United
States, Fidel Castro stopped payment in 1986 on the island’s $16 billion
debt to the Paris Club, a consortium of foreign banks facilitating trade
with Cuba. By 2015, those banks had “forgiven” $4 billion of Cuba’s
debt. Last year, Japan forgave $1.08 billion dollars (120 billion Yen)
owed by Cuba. The Castros dynasty seems to assume it never has to pay
off its loans. Uncle Sam must not become Cuba’s next sucker.
American companies have been making sales for years to Cuba on a “cash
and carry” basis. In the year before Barack Obama became president,
American companies exported $711.5 million in foodstuffs to Cuba. By
2010, trade had dropped to $362.8 million and by 2015 to $180.2 million.
The decline was deliberate and intended to put pressure on U.S.
companies to lobby Congress and the U.S. administration to extend credit.
“Much has changed and in a very positive way,” Marshall says now. In the
United States, many changes. In Cuba, not much change other than a
dramatic increase in repression. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights
documented 1,005 political arrests in 2008 and 9,940 in 2016.
The “greater mutual security” that the Congressman wants can’t be
attained without considering the presence of Russian spy ships in
Havana’s harbor and such hostile acts as Gen. Raul Castro’s 2013 attempt
to smuggle war planes, hidden under tons of sugar, in a ship to North
Korea—a clear violation of United Nations’ trade sanctions. That came as
President Obama prepared to re-establish diplomatic relations by making
numerous concessions to Cuba.
One of those concessions was removing Cuba from the U.S. list of
supporters of terrorism. Yet, Cuba today harbors numerous U.S.
criminals. On the FBI’s “Most Wanted List” is a domestic terrorist
convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in cold blood. She was
sentenced to life in prison but escaped and fled to Cuba, where she
enjoys the regime’s hospitality. The good people of Kansas may want to
ask President Donald Trump to demand her return and, if Cuba refuses, to
put the island nation back on the infamous list.
Before the Castro Revolution, Cuban teenagers used to sell expired
lottery tickets to naïve American tourists. Now Congressmen take guided
tours to Cuba. As Mark Twain observed: “It is easier to deceive folks,
rather than to convince them, they have been deceived.” Extending credit
to “do business with Cuba” would be a deceit—and a very bad deal for
—Frank Calzon is executive director of the Washington-based Center for a
Source: Cuba: Another perspective | Opinion | hpj.com –