Taking Liberties: An Irregular Feature for the Irreverently Inclined
Wrapping Up the Cuba Thing Once and for All
By Tom Miller
Sunday, July 25, 2004; Page B02
Cuban Americans will be allowed to visit immediate family members back home only once every three years -- and for no more than two weeks at a time. Specific permission for each trip must come from the Treasury Department, which will limit travelers to 44 pounds of luggage per person and expenses on the island to $50 daily.
-- Compiled from news reports
The Bush administration's new restrictions regarding contact with Cuba, which went into effect June 30, have caused a lot of fuss. But they actually don't go far enough.
If we really want to make Cuba off-limits, if we're determined to bring the island's economy to a halt, if we want Cubans to wonder why they ever had the misfortune to be born in Cuba, why stop there? Let's get radical about this, folks. The White House needs some ideas like the following:
• Telephone communications. The new regs require Treasury Secretary John Snow to approve each individual family visit to Cuba. Let's have him sign off on each phone call as well. In writing. Applications to make a call will be due the first Monday of every month; approvals will be announced two weeks later. Moreover, starting immediately, Cubans must pay for all calls between the two countries. If a grandmother in Matanzas wants to hear her grandchild's laughter in Miami, she can darn well pay for the privilege herself.
• So-called "gifts." The new regs put additional limits on the pernicious practice of gift giving, mandating that someone can send only one box of goods a month to someone in Cuba, with the contents "limited to food, vitamins, seeds, medicines, medical supplies and devices, hospital supplies and equipment, equipment for the handicapped, clothing, personal hygiene items, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, soap-making equipment, or certain radio equipment and batteries for such equipment."
You call that restricted? Listen, it's really hot and humid down there. They don't need clothes. And let's cut those parcels back to one a year. That personal hygiene category represents a big opportunity, too. Ban all shipments of deodorant. Let 'em sweat it out.
• Repo diplomacy. Everyone comes back from Havana swooning over the old, beautifully maintained American cars that populate the capital's streets. Give me a break. We designed those cars, we built those cars, we shipped them over there, we have a moral obligation to repatriate them. Barges will leave the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base hourly until every Detroit wonder is safely back home. Those cars are ours.
• Preemptive strike. Why not simply declare Cuba our 51st state and give them the vote? Half the presidents from Mr. Jefferson on down have drooled over the prospect. What month could be more propitious than November 2004?
• Last resort. If none of this works, go to full containment: Give Christo a contract to shrink-wrap the entire island, all 42,804 square miles of it. Granted, that's a lot of plastic, but it will keep Cubans from getting out (always a threat) and us from getting in (likewise a troublesome prospect). We're talking absolute blockade here, none of this namby-pamby, Mother-may-I approach. Once Cuba is tied up, we hook a tugboat to its eastern tip and start towing south. Twenty-five, maybe 30 miles a day, until it's far far away. We don't stop until they cry uncle.
Quick, somebody call John Snow.
Tom Miller is the author of "Trading With the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba" (Basic), among other books about Latin America and the American Southwest. He lives in Arizona.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company