Back in 1980, as a response to the United States’ continued appeal to Fidel Castro to tear down Cuba’s sugar cane curtain, and to our uncritical welcome of any and all Cuban refugees, EI Maximo Lider decided to call Jimmy Carter’s hand. Castro opened Mariel Harbor and gave a get-out-of-jail-free card to anyone who could get there and get out. Between April and October of that year over 125,000 Cubans took up his offer.
Many who left were encouraged to go. In a Machiavellian attempt to teach the United States a lesson, Castro cleared his prisons and insane asylums. The lesson worked. Now, only refugees who actually touch U.s. soil are granted asylum.
But turnaround is fair play. Castro has repeatedly called for the United States to lift what he calls “the blockade.” It’s time to call his bluff. Now is the time for President Obama to lift the trade embargo unilaterally.
Imagine a reverse Mariel Boatlift, with thousands of tourists, hardcore capitalists, and Cuban-Americans inundating the island with curiosity, dollars, criticism, and subversion. It’s Fidel’s worst nightmare. That’s probably why he said that Obama had misunderstood Raul Castro’s willingness to dis- cuss any issue at the recent interchange of ideas. Still, as John Lennon said, “Imagine!”