Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More cracks in the sugar-cane curtain

More cracks in the sugar-cane curtain
In our opinion

Last week another Alabama trade mission went to Cuba.

We all know that in recent years American relations with that island
nation have been more a matter of domestic policy than foreign affairs.

 From the State Department's standpoint, longtime trade and travel
restrictions are still in place and should be respected.

 From the Department of Commerce's standpoint, Cuba is a market ripe for
American commodities.

Alabama, like most other states, is following the money.

Let us not discount the economic impact that Cuba could have here in the
heart of Dixie. Historically Havana and Mobile have been trading
partners. Goods from inland Alabama have left our port and enriched the
lives of people here and there. Last year we carried on more than $140
million in trade with the island — nearly half of which was in poultry.
Lumber, cotton, fish and peanuts also were big sellers. In time Cuba
also could become a significant market for the Alabama auto and steel

We are hardly alone; recent articles on commerce in Cuba have noted how
many major American corporations have set up shop down there. However,
our location and what we have to sell gives us an advantage that we
should seize.

Despite the economic focus, there is a foreign-policy benefit to this
trade. Eventually there will be a regime change in Cuba. Not one brought
by American arms, but one brought on by the end no one can escape. Fidel
Castro, Cuba's leader, will die.

What will follow?

No one is expecting the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban Army to
collapse, nor would we want them to — at least not immediately. We saw
what happened in Iraq when the Iraqi Army and the Baath Party fell
apart. Better would be assisting the rise of a peacefully competing
institution — a vibrant middle class — that would turn Cuba away from
its repressive past and open the door for more liberal political and
social institutions.

None of this will happen overnight. But if our trade with the island
will contribute to the creation of a new, free Cuba, then let the trade

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