Here is how long it has been going on. In October of 1960, while Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, the government of the United States banned all U.S. exports, except for food and medicine to Cuba. On February 7, 1961 John F. Kennedy took it a step further by announcing all Cuban made goods would be banned from these shores.
The embargo would include those Cuban cigars he loved so much. Since he knew how things were going to break in advance, Jack Kennedy ordered his Press Secretary to make a cigar run a couple of days before the ban went into effect. Years later Pierre Salinger wrote that the next morning he personally delivered 1,201 Cuban made Petit H. Upmann cigars to the White House. It is unclear if JFK had smoked them all before that terrible day in Dallas two and a half years later.
The whole embargo was meant to put so much duress on the Cuban economy that the regime of Fidel Castro would collapse. Then came the CIA backed Bay of Pigs invasion which failed in part because, to the surprise of all those expert analysts in Langley, the Cuban people refused to rise up in support of the exiles hitting the beach. The last major crisis was in 1962 when the Russians began installing offensive nuclear weapons on the island. Before it was over the entire world came to within a hair of Armageddon.
Since then the Berlin Wall has been torn down and the old Soviet Union broke apart. The communist Chinese have proven themselves to be far better at capitalism than the capitalists on Wall St. and we have an embassy in Hanoi, a town we were bombing the living shit out of in the late 1960's.
However when it came to Cuba nothing changed. That includes the government of Fidel and now Raul Castro. Yes they survived Eisenhower and Kennedy, then Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, another Bush, and Barack Obama. That is a half century plus of American presidents.
One could safely say the policy initiated back when this old man was ten years old hasn't worked.
This morning, while basically admitting to the utter failure of the American strategy, the president took action to begin the normalization of relations with Cuba. According to a variety of sources it took a year of secret negotiations in places like Canada and the Vatican to get to this point.
The deal included the release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison, along with a Cuban described only as a U.S. intelligence asset who has been languishing in a cell for 20 or so years. The Cubans got back three of their people being held in American lock ups.
It didn't take long for a couple of politicians of Cuban descent to start howling. Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ completely ignored what Obama said about the exchange of that freed asset. He was quoted as saying, "Lets be clear this was not a humanitarian act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American."
Florida republican senator Marco Rubio jabbered something about none of this doing anything except enabling the Castro regime to become a permanent fixture for generations.
First, Obama was quite clear in his speech. The release of Gross was not tied to any sort of trade. The swap was strictly their three spies for our one.
As for Rubio's nonsense, Obama said, "I don't believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect different results."
That's right, Senator. Maybe we should try something new for a change, because what we've been doing certainly hasn't worked.
Both of those clowns might want to take a look at the results of a Pew Poll taken in February of this year. It found 56% of Americans were in favor of improved relations with Cuba as opposed to 35% who are opposed. In Florida, even with a large Cuban-American population, the numbers were a stunning 63% for relaxing relations to 30% wanting to retain the status quo.
Of course executive action can only go so far. While Obama can set up an embassy in Havana, change travel restrictions, and loosen up rules on the amount of cash being sent by Americans to relatives living on the island, he needs a majority of both houses of congress to lift the embargo. And we all know how well that has worked out for him lately.
Yes, if you're an American cigar aficionado who has never smoked a genuine Cuban don't count on getting your hands on one any time soon.
Hey, trust me, it isn't anything to fret about. I've smoked a few over the years in places like Grenada, Belize, and Canada--their quality is more myth than satisfying.
Indeed, in the end, they are rather like the embargo itself.
Ladies and gentlemen, with that in mind, the bar is open.