Last Monday our latest travel expedition departed Havana for Miami. Everybody returned without any problems or any bags opened. Then on Wednesday, President Obama made his announcement about the prisoner swap—it was a big surprise to those who weren’t paying attention.
Now that I’ve had some time to digest everything, I think this announcement is an excellent first step, but it will still be a tough road ahead for everybody. It is interesting to hear and read so many articles by “journalists” and politicians who know a great deal about other topics, but not about Cuba. Unfortunately, it seems like many are just making stuff up. I have seen numerous examples of complete nonsense in this area.
For example, last night on the CBS news Magazine 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley showed us a video of the Malecon Seawall just west of the narrow harbor entrance to Havana Bay. Pelley made the comment: “Look at what’s missing from this picture…there are no boats. The government restricts ownership, because many Cubans would sail away.” He showed us a video of the rocky seawall directly facing the Atlantic ocean. C’mon, man! Nobody is going to anchor a boat in this area! If his cameraman would have just panned to the right, showing us the main harbor beyond the entrance passage, we would have seen many boats docked all around the harbor. I don’t think Pelley meant to be misleading, but this is one of numerous examples of journalists saying anything that comes to mind. I guess they are trying to look informed, assuming nobody would to notice inaccurate information.
Earlier in the day, on the well-respected Meet the Press, moderator Chuck Todd, in trying to explain the Missile Crisis, said that the Soviet missiles were “detected by U.S. spy satellites.” This was in 1962—in fact, they were actually detected by a high-altitude U-2 spy aircraft. Once again, we have a respected journalist shooting from the hip, not checking the facts. This would have also been a good time to mention that these reconnaissance flights were a precursor to a planned, full-scale, D-Day style American invasion of Cuba. That’s why the Russian missiles were there–to deter such an invasion, which military historians believe would have been unbelievably bloody. This critical fact is almost always omitted from articles and reports by Americans about the Missile Crisis. This wasn’t widely known until the mid-90’s, but that was still two decades ago.
I could provide literally dozens of similar examples of inaccurate journalists in the past few days. They will say just about anything to create a “breaking news” story. The TV cameras in Miami showed screaming, angry Cuban-Americans protesting Obama’s action. The REAL news should have been how relatively few Cuban-Ameicans actually showed up at these demonstrations. The REAL news should have been that the majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami want an immediate end to the embargo. One poll showed that an incredible 80% of Cuban-Americans under 30 years of age want it to end immediately. And yet, if you only paid attention to a few sound bites on TV, you could easily be led to believe that people such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speak for most Cuban-Americans. He clearly does not. Don’t forget–he has never even been to Cuba, although he has had numerous opportunities. He said his parents “fled the Castro regime” by escaping to Florida. A fact-checker discovered they actually came to the U.S. in 1957—before Castro even came to power and before he was considered a serious threat.
In contrast, there are intelligent Republicans who understand the situation with Cuba and have the guts to honestly talk about it. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), along with several Republican governors, support normalization.
Tom Sullivan hosts a conservative talk show that focuses on the most important topics of each day. Conservative callers who supported normalization outnumbered those who opposed it. At the end of his show, Sullivan’s call-screener reported that there were numerous callers on hold who essentially had the same point of view: They didn’t like Obama or anything he had done in the past. But for once—on this single issue—they supported him.
So the bottom line is that this issue isn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans, or liberals vs. conservatives. It’s about informed vs. uninformed, and about people of character with a vision vs. corrupted politicians with an agenda. In the next 2 years, I think we will be reading and hearing about many “feel-good” stories about how the lives of Cubans have been greatly improved because of this breakthrough. I believe those who continue to sound like uninformed hardliners will be even more in the minority. I think it is time for possible presidential contenders such as Cuban-Americans Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to show some leadership and actually visit Cuba. They have never been there! First-time travelers on my expeditions now know far more about the country than either of them.
So for the next couple years, it is more important than ever for Americans to visit Cuba and make up their own minds. During this time, the embargo will still be in place. As before, there will continue to be reports that “Americans still won’t be able to freely travel to Cuba.” In reality, Americans could always travel to Cuba legally. That isn’t going to change. Hopefully in the next few years, many more will realize that they can travel with a General License. They CAN legally visit our neighbors to the south, and they do not need permission of the U.S. Government. They can go with a large group, with a smaller expedition like mine, or by themselves. But it definitely is time to go!