Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Jamaica's impending Cuban crisis

Published:Monday | December 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Garth Rattray

Garth A. Rattray

The cold war between Cuba and the United States of America (USA) climaxed with the Cuban (missile) crisis in October 1962. The Cuban Revolution (1953-1959) resulted in the overthrow of the Batista government and the installation of a communist government led by Fidel Castro.

Prior to the revolution, Cuba was the playground of many rich, famous and infamous Americans. The US had significant social and economic influence over that Caribbean island, but the Fulgencio Batista government was seen as corrupt, self-serving and ignoring the plight of the ordinary and wanting Cuban people. Batista was once the democratically elected president of Cuba, but he led a military coup and cancelled the 1952 elections. He had become a dictator ruling over a police state.

Of course, communist Cuba became the arch-enemy of the USA and a virtual satellite of the Soviet Union. So, when the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics sought to ensure a balance of strategically located nuclear ballistic power between them and the USA, it shipped nuclear missiles to Cuba. In a bold move that brought the world the closest it has ever been to a nuclear crisis, US President John F. Kennedy deployed military ships to block any further delivery of Soviet nuclear missiles to Cuba. The stand-off was tense and lasted for weeks. In the end, several very important agreements were reached and the nuclear missiles were returned and those installations already in Cuba were dismantled.

Cut off from trade

Cuba's economy suffered immensely with the dissolution of the USSR on Christmas Day of 1991. And the USA embargo on that island only served to tighten the socio-economic screws in the hope that the Castro-led regime would capitulate and renounce communism; but that never happened.

When the USA began trading with communist China in spite of their diametric politics, harsh justice system and human rights shortfalls, I wondered why Cuba was still left out in the cold. However, in a television interview, then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was asked that same question. She responded that it was because Cuba is in America's 'backyard'.

I viewed the prolonged embargo as punitive and futile. Cuba has not been any kind of (social, political or military) threat to the USA in many years. Therefore, I am elated that US President Barack Obama has taken the first step to bring Cuba in from the cold.

The move has caused many to rejoice and others to see this as letting the Castro regime off the hook for destroying the lives and freedoms of hundreds of thousands of Cubans. Nonetheless, the Cuban people deserve a break. It's time that they are allowed to participate in the modern global culture and economy.

Here in Jamaica, the atmosphere is a celebratory one. Many of us, including myself, have close relatives who were born and grew up to some extent in Cuba. Certainly, we wish for the freedom to engage the people of Cuba without clandestine travel passes and the delivery of 'care packages' once in a long while.

Tourism attraction

However, Cuba will eventually attract a large number of tourists worldwide. At first, it will be all about the novelty and curiosity. But then, I believe that many will chose Cuba over Jamaica for their security and discipline. Undeniably, the security and discipline exist because of socialism, but they exist nonetheless.

Although some people are smugly overconfident that we can compete, others are expecting to invest in the Cuban tourism product while some are hoping for tripartite, symbiotic tourism. But, once Cuba's attractions and amenities catch up, I believe that we will experience a Cuban crisis of our own.

We must treat it as a crisis now. Stop tourist harassment, make certain that citizens in tourist areas see and feel the economic benefits of the product and work even harder as a people to reduce crime and improve discipline and professionalism before it's too late.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.