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The Andrew Sisters probably said it best:
Drinkin’ rum and Coca Cola
Go down Point Koomahnah
Both mother and daughter
Workin’ for the Yankee dollar
Fulgencio Batista was a long term strong man (Dictator) for Cuba, until the Revolution. The caricature of Batista was fully vetted in the “Godfather II”. As the most impressive Yankee companies, which included ITT, International Harvester, the American Sugar Cartel and Organized Crime out of Miami and New York sat around the board room of Batista – and they presented Batista with a Solid Gold Telephone! By 1956, the 11 million citizen population of Cuba was being subjected to the great economic divide with the 1% Ricos vs. the poor and starving 99%. The United States gave Batista used WWII aircraft, tanks and small arms in exchange for “free trade” and depressed sugar prices. Everything in Cuba…was for sale!
Cuba was theoretically granted its freedom from Spain, after the Spanish American War in 1898. Originally, Cuba was just a bit player or “chump change”, in the so-called war with Spain to take over the rubber and oil rich Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. Cuba played its part by first becoming an American Protectorate and then granted its quasi-independence in 1902. Havana, Cuba was a great port of call for the US Navy, and of course that also included Guantanamo! Bacardi Rum and Coca Cola, along with the US Tourist Industry became very popular during the 20’s and 30’s in Cuba. Spanish Dancing, along with Off-Shore Gambling, High Dollar Prostitution and great food were all in demand ……during the Prohibition era in the United States. The deteriorating Spanish Hotels welcomed, the upgrades from the Prohibition money coming from organized crime in the United States. The Hotel International, in Havana was certainly considered a five star World location. America was by chance always a friend to the Cuban people, giving them their independence from Spain and offering many investments from American companies. The side effect of course was “a dirty economy”, with corruption at the highest levels and lots of perks for the Spanish Land Grant holders and rich landowners in general. Batista was an “Iron Man”, that used torture, assassination, slave labor and military “hit squads” to implement the will of the rich and those that could pay off – The Batista Regime!”
When Batista took over in 1952, at the height of corruption it required a military government which could control the masses and the social ills with great efficiency. They didn’t want their Tourist Businesses to suffer or their economy because of the demands of the poor. When Fidel and Che came to power in 1959….the economic divide was at its amplitude! Fidel saw the corruption, the lack of education of the people, the lack of health resources and the greed of the upper class. Fidel Nationalized the big companies and refused to give them anything more than half of what they had been getting under Batista. This did not go over well. Those that complained were taken out and killed. Those that could, took their money and left the country – going to Miami, Los Angeles and New York. The Cubans that were engaged in organized crime – brought their skills to the United States.
The Cuban people are made up of an interesting mix of 64% White, 26% Mulatto and 9% Black. Since the 1600’s the Pirates of the Caribbean centered on Havana and Cuba was one of the first states to be able to buy themselves out of slavery under French and Spanish rule. And so, Cuba Libre! As President Obama and his family visit Havana, Cuba today and tomorrow; After nearly 60 years, the United States is starting to reunite with wonderful Cuba people.
So, what will happen this time? The world has changed greatly since 1959 and Cuba now limits the investments of foreigners to 49%. This idea follows the Mexican policy of the 1960’s – which was probably in response to the Cuban situation in those times. The United States has a sizable Cuban population living in South Miami and around the the country. Some want “Reparations” of upwards of $8 billion dollars in land and property that Fidel took after the Revolution. The original number was about $1.8 billion, but they also want interest on that lost investment and ownership. Good luck on that! Perhaps they should just insist to restore some crumbling Cuban buildings first. Perhaps they should joint venture with Starwood/Marriott Hotels and create some fine quality tourist destinations. Perhaps, they should joint venture with a public/private investment in Cuban phone towers, land lines and computer banking to make it as comfortable a transition as possible? Perhaps, some of the old car restoration companies in the United States – should put some of the manufacturing facilities right in the country of Cuba!
We have a great wish that Cuba does not lose its native charm. We have a great wish that US Cubans and others don’t go there and screw up the place again! We have a great wish that the charges of terrible human rights abuses by the government of Cuba – become open and transparent and not just some mythical assessments by those that have other agendas. We have a wish that Cuba can be a wonderful location to visit and a wonderful global destination that makes the local Cubans create a workable economy and that offers them an greater opportunity for a further economic awakening. What was the middle part about “The Monroe Doctrine” again?
Perhaps it is just time for Another Cuba Libre!