I thought the Fanjul Cuba story would be a blip on the political radar. This one appears to have a shelf life beyond the normal news cycle. A lot has been said the last week about US-Cuba policy, especially by opponents of current law. Why? Because they do not have the votes in Congress to change it.

Take this gem penned by Phil Peters of the Cuban Triangle blog:

When it comes to Cuba, they are of the generation that plans to return only “cuando se vayan aquellos,” i.e. when the Castros have gone. That generation has put legislation on the books that quite literally prevents the United States from normalizing relations until those two have indeed gone.

Helms-Burton became law because Jorge Mas-Canosa, just about single-handedly, as well as the families of the three Americans and one US resident murdered by the Castro regime, pressured President Bill Clinton to sign the bipartisan bill. Side note worthy of reminder, Cuba harbors at least 70 criminals wanted by U.S. law enforcement, including Black Liberation Army member Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI Most Wanted list for the murder a New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.

The Fanjuls were nowhere to be seen during the Helms-Brton political debates. In fact, their only goal at the time, and has been since, is the preservation of sugar subsidies and related matters. Cuba has never really ranked as a priority issue.

Take the passage of the CAFTA-DR trade bill. Folks in the know, will tell you that the Fanjuls were very upset that Bush II and the Ways and Means Committee were pressing for a puny 1% tariff reduction for Caribbean and Central American sugar. According to various people knowledgeable about this matter have told me the Fanjuls sure knew how to speak up then, against the 1% reduction.

Peters also says:

The seismic importance of the Fanjuls’ shift can be measured in the hysterical reactions of Republican[s]…

When you don’t have facts, hurl insults, especially at ethnic Republicans. Hysterical Republicans (i.e., Republicans of Cuban ancestry)? Yet, Peters fails to list Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) who warned about Fanjul antics a while back, before the odd Washington Post story.

While Florida Crystal’s decision to explore doing business with Cuba is important, it is not a “seismic” shift in the pantheon of issues that touch U.S.-Cuba policy. Mr. Fanjul is the head of an agriculture company. Under U.S. law, agriculture companies are granted a great deal of leeway to do some business in Cuba. Even so, the criticism should have been expected. Watch Senator Menendez’s video to understand why.

Bottomline, and a frequent theme of many of our Cuba posts, Cuba needs us, we do not need Cuba. We won, they lost. Critics of current law are usually the sore loser in this debate. US policy is fine the way it is, no need to tinker or “modernize” a thing. Cuba knows what it needs to do if it wants access to US markets as well as financial institutions. If critics of U.S. policy want to engage in a fulsome discussion of the issues, do so. But leave the histrionics (i.e., hysterical Republicans) out of it.

The supporters of the Castro regime did not expect a swift and firm reaction to the Fanjul trips from supporters of current law. They overplayed their political hand. They could’ve held the Brookings Cuba panel whitewash panel and no one would have said a word. I guess they are desperate. To their credit, the Obama Administration is treading lightly.

This is just the start of a very long process that is about to usher in a new phase in US-Cuba relations as well as politics. For those who follow these things, it will be interesting. This little maneuver has done a lot to unite folks on our side. For that, thank you Mr. Fanjul.

Your comments welcome!

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