March 10, 2024


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Squad’s lesson in Cuban socialism didn’t last long enough

Conservatives are outraged that two members of the ‘Squad,’ Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Ilhan Omar, D-Mich., made a secret visit to Cuba to meet with its socialist leadership. I’m not outraged in the least. In fact, I wish they would have stayed a little longer. Let me explain why.  

Half a century ago, when President Richard Nixon visited China, one of his congressional opponents cracked, ‘I have no problem with President Nixon going to China. I just have a problem with him coming back home.’   

I wouldn’t go that far, and I respect the members’ right to fight for their political agenda, no matter how much I may disagree with it. But had they stayed a little longer in Havana, they might have seen what a socialist ‘workers paradise’ really looks like, and perhaps they might change their politics as a result. 

Had they extended their visit by a week or two and asked to meet with duly elected members of the opposition to the socialist regime, they would have discovered that such opposition is nonexistent … behind bars … or in the cemetery. The Cuban dictatorship would never allow opposition members to serve in the government, let alone campaign for office, or even remain out of prison. 

Had they stayed a little longer, they might also have discovered that the living wage policy for which they fight here in the United States would be nothing more than a grim joke for Cuba’s workers.  

The entire country (except for the leadership, of course) lives in dire poverty, just 90 miles from Miami, where Cuban exiles are one of the greatest engines for entrepreneurship the world has ever known. But you won’t find anyone from one side of Cuba to the other making anything close to $15 an hour.  

Had any member of the members’ traveling party fallen ill while in Cuba, they would have discovered just how embarrassingly poor the Cuban medical system remains. Just one visit to a Havana emergency room would have caused both congresswomen to thank their lucky stars for the gold-plated healthcare they enjoy as members of the House. 

With a longer visit, they might also have learned more about Cuba’s close ties with China and Russia, the two countries, along with Iran, that foment more terror and economic disruption than any other nation on Earth.  

If they had some downtime in their hotel rooms, they could have watched the funeral service of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, murdered by Putin’s regime, because he dared to do what the members do every day — express opposition to his nation’s political system.  

An extra week or so in Havana might have found the members missing their loved ones — children, siblings, parents and grandparents. Of course, they got to fly home when they felt like it, unlike Cuban citizens, who are denied the right to travel and have been separated, some for more than half a century, from loved ones they may never see again.  

The great Cuban pitcher Orlando ‘El Duque’ Hernandez famously smuggled himself out of Havana on a small boat to travel the treacherous 90 miles to the American coastline. It practically took an act of Congress for his father to receive permission from the Cuban government to come to the United States to see his son pitch. Oh, wait, the representatives are members of Congress! So, they could arrange visits for their loved ones whenever they felt like it.  

A little extra time on Cuban soil also might have allowed the two of them to learn more about the collapse of the once proud and successful Venezuelan economy, under the twin forces of socialism and corruption. Socialism sounds great in theory, but when you have a chance to see the effects of socialism on a country with the resources and human capital of Venezuela, it makes you wonder whether socialism can work anywhere.  

Before Barack Obama became president, he says that he read countless books about socialism while a graduate student at Columbia University. My sense is that he, like the two recent visitors to Cuba, may indeed have started to read any number of books about socialism, but I don’t think any of the three got to the end of any one of those books.  

Finally, if the members are so desirous of leading a socialist government, they could simply have stayed in Havana and run for office there. Their politics would no doubt have been appealing to the leadership, who would have been able to guarantee them election and reelection for as long as they chose to serve.  

Had they stayed a little longer, they might also have discovered that the living wage policy for which they fight here in the United States would be nothing more than a grim joke for Cuba’s workers.  

There would only be one problem, however. If the members had become Cuban citizens so that they could serve in the Cuban government, they would lose the freedom of travel that they, as American citizens, take for granted. And then they would be stuck, like the rest of the unfortunate souls in Havana’s ‘workers’ paradise.’ 

Of course, they could always try to get a message out to El Duque.  

Maybe he could lend them his boat.   

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