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Havana 2011, Life Imitating Art (minus the casinos)

While gaming could be good for Cuba once it is free — as she will need to offer it to compete with other Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico — this is something for a free Cuba to decide

I have read a lot of odd things in my day about U.S.-Cuba policy. Some of it entertaining, at other times just plain wrong and, in the case of the following item, odd. The left has created a plethora of fantasies about economic and political conditions in pre-Communist Cuba. They especially enjoy piling on to the government of Fulgencio Batista, as if it were some pariah that afforded the Castro regime all the rationale to violently and brutally take control in 1959.

This misguided view is reminiscent of the outrageous relativism of those who have the audacity to compare the Israeli government to Palestinian terrorists, for example. It is also illustrative of the cover-up that takes place regularly at the United Nations where gross human rights violators, like Cuba’s Communist regime and the radical mullahs’s in Iran, are excused by the so-called international community.

The Left’s Distort Views of Pre-Communist Cuba

Hollywood has also been the source of many pre-Communist Cuba fabricated tales. The mob controlled the casinos and there were prostitutes on every corner. The quality of life of ordinary Cubans was appalling, children dying in the streets. Every Cuban government official was corrupt or in the back pockets of Yankee imperilialists. The sugar barons exploited the island and the economy was in shambles. Do your research and you’ll see this is all bunk. Cuba, like all countries have issues; however, much about what the left and Hollywood have said about those pre-Communist years is simply not true.

The government of mulatto, or to use today’s lexicon Afro-Cuban, Fulgencio Batista may not have been a paragon of democratic rule, but it was a whole lot better than living under repressive Communist rule. (By the way, it has always bothered Hollywood and the Left that Cuba had a black president before the enactment of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, notably today, while the Communist leadership in Cuba is overwhelmingly white and homogeneous, many opposition leaders and pro-democracy advocates dying in Castro’s jails are black.)

I do not know Professor Nelson Rose, the author of this piece, “Cuba Will Have Casinos, Again”, but the article has many inaccurate statements about pre-Communist Cuba and, particularly, its gaming industry. The history books on the subject are like the left and Hollywood movie, something out of Robert Redford’s movie on the subject, Havana or the Godfather. Professor Rose’s article seems to borrow liberally from all of it:

 … But it looked for a while like the good times might be coming to an end.  Cuban casinos had become so crooked that Americans were beginning to stay away.  They were saved when Fulgencio Batista became dictator in 1952. In an ironic twist, Batista called upon the mob, particularly Meyer Lansky, to clean things up.  And they did.  It is hard to believe organized crime syndicates would run completely honest games.  But Lansky realized they could make more money with magnificent hotel-casinos then if they cheated everyone. Throughout the 1950s, the American and Cuban mob families opened luxurious casino resorts, each one bigger and more successful than the last.  The money poured in.  Batista got a cut of everything … 

He adds later:

The economy under Batista was not that bad.  Cuba had a large middle class.  Lansky was, in fact, originally reluctant to open casinos, because labor unions were so strong. Still, most Cubans never shared the wealth they saw all around them, and corruption was rampant.  The result was revolution. When news hit the streets on New Year’s Day, 1959, that Batista had fled the country, angry crowds poured into the casinos, destroying everything inside.

This story about people pouring into streets and destroying casinos is one of my favorite Revolution old wives tales.  Spend enough time with people who actually lived through all this, as my family did; or in Castro’s jails, as some in my family did; or around former political prisoners, and you will hear a much different story about what happened that New Years Eve and Day and the hell that followed.

U.S. Laws Prohibit Travel to Cuba

With regards to Professor Rose’s commentary on the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), or U.S. sanctions, is somewhat cavalier interpretation of U.S. law and regulations. No need to belabor the point here, but the statutory basis for U.S. policy toward Cuba is the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) and other key statutes that, taken together with the regulations, clearly have travel restrictions in place for U.S. persons. By the way, in 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court in Regan v. Wald upheld executive authority to restrict travel to Cuba.   The Obama Administration somewhat continued this policy, but recently has decided to pay ransom to the regime by granting as many concessions as it can think of by easing travel restrictions, for example, on the Communist dictatorship.  You can read the advisory here.

Finally, Professor Rose goes on to say that Cuba will one day have casinos again. While gaming could be good for Cuba once it is free — as she will need to offer it to compete with other Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico — this is something for a free Cuban people to decide, not by those who live here or anywhere else in the world who have an interest in investing in Cuba.

One thing is certain, it would be a colossal disaster for gaming to start under the Communist regime for it will only add to the rampant corruption that has existed on the island since the Castro takeover, further replicating the mafia state that exists in Russia today.   For gaming and other private enterprise to flourish in Cuba, regime change is needed. The Cuban Communist Party is a political dinosaur and cannot manage its way out of any issue or create an opportunity society.

Ironically, Havana 2011 has become life imitating art. It is the corrupt Castro regime that has come to resemble the constructed lore – minus the casinos – sold by Hollywood and America’s Left about pre-Communist Cuba. Life in the island gulag is tough today; however,  the road ahead for the people of free Cuba will not be an easy one either. Governing in a free society requires a temperance that Cuba’s Communist leaders do not have because they govern like brutes, common criminals. Cuba’s new generation of leaders, will need to learn governing in a free society and the U.S. and the Diaspora will be there to assist.

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