Gazette editorial: Cuba should be a friend

Charleston Gazette-Mail  |  June 10, 2017

When communist rebels seized Cuba in 1959, Washington went into a Cold War frenzy. A plotted invasion and plotted assassination attempts failed. A trade embargo was imposed to starve the island into poverty. Americans were forbidden to visit the Caribbean spot.

But America’s backlash didn’t work. Cuba’s communist government survived, despite many U.S. efforts to destroy it. America looked like a giant bully, pummeling a little neighbor 90 miles from Florida.

After a half-century, some U.S. figures felt it would be better to build friendship and commerce with Cuba, rather than deeming it forever an enemy. Former President Obama began relaxing hostilities, opening more travel, allowing U.S. businesses to start Cuban branches, reopening the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump vowed to reverse Obama’s friendliness. After winning the White House, he tweeted that, if Cuba didn’t “make a better deal,” he would “terminate deal.” Nobody knows whether Trump will keep his promise to resume hostilities. An American group called Engage Cuba, representing businesses and diplomats, wants to increase, not kill, cooperation with the small neighbor.

“No business in the world would continue a strategy that has failed for 55 years,” the organization declares. “It’s time Congress tries a new policy toward Cuba.”

Engage Cuba estimates that halting Obama’s peace ventures would drain $6.6 billion from the U.S. economy and affect 12,000 U.S. jobs.

If President Trump restores U.S. hostility, he can’t claim it’s because he disapproves of Cuba’s totalitarian government. Trump embraces other totalitarians, like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Abdel el-Sisi.

We think America should open complete friendship with Cuba — flooding its beaches with U.S. tourists, sparking its economy with U.S. businesses. If that happened, we predict, Cubans would soon forget their fading communism.

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