Mortimer B. Zuckerman
Raul Castro has succeeded Fidel and is reining in the all-pervasive Cuban government
It is past time to change our policy toward
For over 49 years those policies have failed. And they are inappropriate for the
Since a chance meeting with
Fidel is certainly at work and active and still an inspiration for Cubans. They respect and admire him for establishing an excellent system of free healthcare; an improved educational system; and a relatively colorblind, multiracial society in which most of the institutionalized racism against blacks and mulattoes has been eliminated. They also take pride in the way he stood up to America.
He was teased a number of years ago that if he had been a slightly better baseball pitcher and made it to the major leagues,
The driver for change in
He has eliminated excessive bans and regulations, encouraged productivity, and sought to make the government smaller and more efficient. This is a major change from Fidel's totally planned economy to a more market-oriented one, despite the forces of bureaucratic inertia and resistance. For the first time in over five decades, there are new rules that support the legitimization of the private sector. Free-market mechanisms have been embraced, such as self-employment, a new tax code, and liberalized rules on such things as home and auto ownership. Hundreds of thousands of licenses have been granted to Cubans to operate private businesses. A financing mechanism provides credit to would-be entrepreneurs.
Cubans finally have the right to sell and buy their homes. Many Cuban-Americans have been encouraged enough to accelerate the process by sending money to relatives. Cubans are now also allowed to purchase cellphones, DVDs, and other items that were once restricted. All these reforms are helping to change public attitudes; fewer young people want to leave. Not bad for a government that heretofore had followed a centralized communist economic model.
The church has also been positive. It has helped to negotiate the release of political prisoners, now significantly fewer. It has encouraged the move to free markets, providing counseling that reflects the words of the late
The Cuban-American community in
President Obama, in tune with these changes, has sought a better relationship with
The question for Americans is how to relate to the new evolving
One step to improve our relationship -- and advantage America -- is to remove the restrictions on exports of agricultural products. All sectors of the U.S. economy would benefit by freeing commodity sales. It would increase our revenues by perhaps
Our restriction is pointless anyway. Cubans have access to food through imports from countries like
There is every evidence, moreover, that when we have liberalized intercourse with closed societies, they have become more open, with greater freedoms for their populations.
I recognize there remain serious political issues between
The Cuban government wants to have any humanitarian release of Gross matched by some degree of reciprocity. One possibility is that
Whatever the process, quiet diplomacy should be able to resolve such issues and inspire a more positive rapport. The main hurdle is political: A portion of the Cuban-American community takes a very hard-line view of the Castro government and remains a powerful political force in the key swing state of
We should not try to seal off
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