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When Jeffrey Met Fidel

On the odd meeting between The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and Fidel Castro.

12:07 PM, Sep 10, 2010 • By LEE SMITH
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is already loosening the state's hold on the economy. He recently announced, in fact, that small businesses can now operate and that foreign investors could now buy Cuban real estate. (The joke of this new announcement, of course, is that Americans are not allowed to invest in Cuba, not because of Cuban policy, but because of American policy. In other words, Cuba is beginning to adopt the sort of economic ideas that America has long-demanded it adopt, but Americans are not allowed to participate in this free-market experiment because of our government's hypocritical and stupidly self-defeating embargo policy. We'll regret this, of course, when Cubans partner with Europeans and Brazilians to buy up all the best hotels).

Of course the goal of U.S. policy was not to make Cuba adopt free-market principles. The embargo has been meant to highlight the fact that Fidel had expropriated that same land that Raul now wants to sell off to keep the regime afloat. Indeed, it is meant to protect the rights of American citizens, as well as U.S. corporate interests, whose private property was stolen by the Castros. Of course, most of what they took once belonged to Cuban citizens. To “liberate” that real estate from the clutches of the bourgeoisie, the Castros jailed, executed and assassinated many thousands of Cubans even as others made their way to these shores where the concerns of Cuban émigrés dovetailed with U.S. national interests. This is still the case, which is why the Cuban lobby is almost as efficient, albeit on a much smaller scale, as the Israel lobby.

After the fall of the USSR, this former Soviet satellite 90 miles from the continental United States no longer constituted a strategic threat in its own right, but even now the Castros’ Cuba represents a danger to U.S. national security. Among many other incidents, the recent story about the elderly Cleveland Park couple who spied for the Cubans reveals that Havana is extremely energetic in its efforts to collect against the American government. Today, Cuban intelligence may have little use themselves for the intelligence they gather here, but this resourceful clandestine service has many well-paying customers, none of whom are friends of the United States – including that same Islamic Republic of Iran that Fidel was so eager to discuss with an author whose thorough reporting on a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program included conversations with Arab, Israeli as well as U.S. officials and policymakers.

I don’t know why Goldberg believes that our longstanding Cuba policy is stupid, hypocritical and self-defeating, but it raises the question: What does he think about the U.S. policy designed to pressure another regime that tortures, jails and murders its own citizens while threatening and destabilizing other actors in its own region of interest? Right, Iran. If he thinks these sanctions, too, are hypocritical and self-defeating, he should again ask Sweig what Fidel meant with his “stunning statement.” It is clear that the Cuban model was disastrous or else Raul would not be trying to pawn off parcels of Cuba to any European with an interest in sex tourism and a bagful of cash. Raul’s fire sale, contrary to Sweig’s spin, is not evidence of a nascent free-market spirit, but proof that the U.S. embargo has bled this vicious and bloodthirsty regime dry. We can only hope that with enough time the Obama administration’s efforts regarding Iran will prove equally successful. We also hope that the magazine article Goldberg is writing on his trip to Cuba will bear the customary hallmarks that have made his work a standard of journalistic excellence and integrity.

Lee Smith is a senior editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

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