The Tampa area was once a major transportation hub from the U.S. to nearby Cuba. Dozens of passenger and cargo ferries would routinely make trips as goods and people traveled freely to and from the island.
Havana of the time resembled Las Vegas, said T.J. English in Havana Nocturne. According to the book, mobster Santo Trafficante once had John F. Kennedy as a guest in the city, accompanied by three prostitutes and a two-way mirror.
Though this Cuba was exciting, it became a catalyst for revolutionary changes that would alter U.S.-Cuban relations for decades.
Led by Fidel Castro, who promised an end to capitalist exploitation of the Cuban people, communist ideals took over the island.
If the U.S. is interested in refuting the argument that it is a nation of imperialistic exploitation, now is the time.
The Cold War was the United States’ great stand against communism, and a communist regime 90 miles away was too close for comfort. More than 40 years after the Cuban missile crisis, however, President Barack Obama’s administration is showing signs of a new progressive mindset toward the nation, and many are hoping that the 50-year-old embargo on trade and travel will soon end.
During an April 13 press conference, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “All who embrace core democratic values long for a Cuba that respects the basic human, political and economic rights of all of its citizens … (Obama) encourages all who share it to continue their steadfast support for the Cuban people.”
It seems that Obama won’t move forward with ending the trade embargo until the need for governmental reform in Cuba is addressed.
Meanwhile, China — by far America’s greatest trading partner — executes more
prisoners a year than the rest of the world put together, according to amnesty.org. Recently, the Chinese government expanded its campaign of censorship by attempting to block online pornography. Perhaps most disturbing is that those speaking against the government or practicing banned religions may be jailed up to four years
The hypocrisy of U.S. officials exhibited by this comparison would be comical if the effects of the embargo were not so serious for the Cuban people. Perhaps the injustice on the island is only a problem because it’s a communist government well within the U.S. sphere of influence, or because fears of living in a communal society keep the economic elite up at night.
Either way, it’s time to end this senseless embargo and fulfill Obama’s campaign
promise that a new age of mutual respect toward other nations is in the works. Why must the U.S. continue to force its own form of government and economic system on the rest of the world?
Lifting the embargo could even have local impact, as the Miami area’s large Cuban American population is not in the favor of the Cuban government, and Tampa may be a more likely port of entry. Recently, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce decided to send delegates to Cuba later this year to discuss ties to the area with the Havana Chamber of Commerce, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Robert Curtis, CEO and founder of Air MarBrisa, an air cargo service from Miami to Havana, told the Journal that “the Cubans are gracious and very professional, and they have a soft spot for Tampa. They would like to develop relationships with Tampa.”
This is an exciting time for new Cuban relations, especially with Tampa in a position to gain. Instead of telling Cuba they need to change their ways of the past 50 years, the best thing for all concerned may be for America to change its own.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.