Travelling To Cuba: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Yesterday marked the first commercial flight between the US and Cuba for 50 years. While restrictions remain, it is clear that the Cold War with Cuba is de facto over. The real isolationists will gnash their teeth, but this change will reduce both governments’ control over their people.

Ron Paul: Hello everybody, and thank you for tuning in to The Liberty Report. With me today is Daniel McAdams, our co-host. Daniel, it’s good to see you.

Daniel McAdams: Hi, Dr. Paul.

Ron Paul: We have a good subject today, a very positive story, and I think everybody in America probably heard about it, even though they might have been glued to their TV and listening to the latest speech on immigration and what we should do to build a wall. But we’re going to be talking about a wall being torn down, and we’re excited about it, because it’s something you and I have worked on together when we were in Washington to try to get to this day. Of course, what I’m talking about is the first flight to Cuba in 55 years. The last time they flew one, I was still in medical school, so it’s been a long time ago that we had a commercial flight. This went well, and the headline was, “Historic commercial flight from U.S. lands in Cuba”. Another headline was, “Cuba could draw 300,000 visitors from the U.S. this year”.

Of course, when we were fighting for this and trying to get this to happen, there was a lot of resistance in the Congress, because they said, “If you do that, that will make Castro look good”. Of course, our position on free trade is obviously clear: the more you trade and talk with people, the less likely we’re going to fight with people. I think you recall the few times that we had to debate this issue, and incrementally we probably made some progress while we were in Washington.

Daniel McAdams: Yes, I think it was one of the great stories. When I first came to work for you in 2001, I sort of inherited that from my predecessor Joe Becker working on this, it was really a bipartisan coalition. And I know you worked very hard behind the scenes, you were involved in a lot of these meetings. Jeff Flake was involved, a lot of people on the democratic side were involved, and through those years the momentum really built, and it was incredible how much it built. I think now while we should definitely credit President Obama for this opening, I think, as you always say, it’s an idea whose time has come, and you can’t stop it with armies.

Ron Paul: No, and I think that is it. When you think of some of the things that have happened in the negative and positive, when the people are desperate and want change, they might rally around a bad idea, and bad things happen. But when you think about the collapse of the Soviet System, that was an idea that had to be eliminated, because the time had come when the people didn’t support it. And this is what’s happening here, it was just so disheartening over the years, the American people and Cuban Americans who still had family back there, would like to send just some simple things that we couldn’t conceive of, like toilet paper and Kleenex and things like that. But they weren’t allowed to do this, and all of a sudden, things have changed.

We criticize Obama all the time, and Obama deserves a lot of criticism in a lot of the foreign policy, but this is really good that’s happening. It reminds me a little bit about the pro and cons of what Nixon did. Nixon actually did the opening with China a little more secretively than even this. People knew these negotiations were going on, so the opposition was building. I think it’s something that we should be very pleased with, and I think it’s going to benefit the Cuban people, and the American people. Of course, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we don’t have an authoritarian approach to government right now, because I think we can see that the market has already spoken on this; all of a sudden prices have gone down?

Daniel McAdams: Yes, there was a great AP piece that the New York Times carried. It used to be that you had to jump through innumerable hoops to get it, then you had to wait in line for hours to get a $500 ticket to go to Cuba, for Cuban-Americans who want to visit their relatives. According to the article, one woman was quoted. She went online for Jet Blue for $98, she got a ticket, she didn’t have to wait at all. She paid $35 for some extra luggage weight, she brought kitchen tiles, a dress, and some ice cube trays. Imagine 300,000 people brining this all the time, and what’s it’s going to do for trade and for relations.

Ron Paul: Actually, instead of it hurting the Cuban administration, people are going to feel better, they’re going to be wealthier, their country is going to be more helpful, and there’s going to be more cash inflow and investment in that country, which means they’re going to be richer. What are they going to do with their riches and the dollars that they get, they’re going to spend those dollars in the United States. People say, “Well, this is just helping the Cubans, they’re going to have our dollars”. But they’re not going to put the dollars in the shoe box, what they’re going to do is, they will spend these dollars. One of the things we argued when this issue came up, was the farming issue, because we have a lot of rice farmers in the district here that remembered selling a lot of rice to Cuba. It’s a short distance away, and it was really a good thing.

I think some of the agricultural sales have already occurred, but this should open up the doors to a lot of things, this is not done perfectly yet. Matter of fact, there’s one little technicality that it’s is not for tourists, but the idea is that the door is now open, and the wall has come down. I think we’re going to see positive things if we can just contain the government’s temptation to want to take over again. I was kidding, but it’s probably serious when I said, “Yea, now that we’ve done this, we’ll probably force them into NAFTA immediately”, instead of just letting the companies and the people benefit from a program like this.

Daniel McAdams: It’s true that the wall has come down, and the wall was built by both sides, primarily for us, it was built by our government. But one of the thematic things that we find attractive, and philosophical things that we find attractive, is that this sea change has made both governments less relevant in Cuba-U.S. ties. Now you can go over there, and you don’t have to have an official government tour, you don’t have to have government guided tours, you don’t have the U.S. government hounding you. And so it shrinks the influence of government away from travel between the U.S. and Cuba. That’s got to be a good thing.

Ron Paul: Yes. When this was happening, Fidel was still alive in his 90s, and I was thinking, “You know, I wonder what’s going through his head”, because it looks like there’s a lot of positive excitement there. Anyway, people have to give up the ideas, and times have changed. But when you think back about the Castro movement that occurred in 1959, (the takeover). It’s not like the good guys were in power, and the bad guys (the communists) took over and created this. It was never quite that simple, that was because our hands were not clean with the Batista government, and that was going off and on for a couple of decades, but especially during the 1950s. I think from 1952 up to 1959, Batista was in charge, and he was far from an angle.

This is the whole thing, we support governments, and they do things that are not good for the people, and then that incites the more radical group. I think we can argue that that’s sort of what happens in the Middle East, we support the Saddam Husseins, and then people disapprove of it, they dislike what we do. Then the radicals, who can stir up trouble say, “Look, this is terrible, this is terrible”. I think that’s what happened back in the 1950s. When you read about all the things: he was not a civil libertarian, in fact, he was president twice. He was elected President in the early 1940s, and the one thing that Batista did, was right after Pearl Harbor, he was an ally of the United States, so the next day he declared war along with the United States. But, of course, you know what’s Cuba going to do against Japan?

But it’s interesting that he declared war against Germany, and he had a new constitution, and he was known as a populist who believed in civil liberties. But, in the second go around, he lost the leadership in the late 1940s. When he was sort of cast aside, he said, “Well, I thought I would be safer if I were in the United States”, so he comes to the United States. I saw him not at that time, but now; he was just a CIA guy that we had. Then he went back in the early 1950s, and he got permission to come back and start a new party, and they permitted him to run for office. But the election wasn’t going well, and, of course, the American government was behind him. It wasn’t going well, so he had a military coup, and he takes over, and he takes over the government.

Guess who’s the very first country to recognize his government, because it was ‘democratically elected’ with this democratic coup? The United States immediately supported him, and they did all through the 1950s. His record for civil liberties was atrocious.

Daniel McAdams: By the way, that reminds us so much of Ukraine, doesn’t it? You overthrow the government, and that’s the … but you mentioned that despite some of his more positive things, Eisenhower really had a lot to do with the origin of this enmity between the two countries.

Ron Paul: Yes, and it was Eisenhower, and it was probably the Dulles brothers. We reviewed the one book, the Kinzer book, about how both Dulles really ran … I remember Eisenhower so well as a president, and most people say, “Well, he just sort of doesn’t pay attention, and people run things”. But that wasn’t the case, he was very, very much involved. But it was a mixed bag, it seems like Eisenhower had this obligation to participate in world events and protect our interests in the oils and things like that. But he didn’t believe in sending troops, he did, I guess, to Lebanon once, but that wasn’t his thing. Matter of fact, he was known and most remembered for stopping the fighting in Korea. I think the interesting thing about Eisenhower, even though he did these things, even like in Iran he threw out the elected leader Mosaddegh.

But he opposed, and strongly opposed, the use of nuclear weapons on the final conclusion of World War II against Japan, he thought it was totally unnecessary. Now, when honest historians look back, it had nothing to do with ending the war, the war was over by then. So Eisenhower played a role in it, but we’d like to go that one step further by not endorsing the government that behind the scenes and secretly gets involved in coups and the CIA operations and elections. And if we don’t like the elections, we get rid of them. So it plants bad seeds, and just think of how Cuba suffered over this, and how we all suffered over it. Then we had the Bay of Pigs and all these things afterwards.

Daniel McAdams: It goes to show that he can be right about not wanting to invade places, but the problem is the interventionism, whether it’s secret or what have you. Because as you point out, all the bad seeds that later came, Indonesia, Latin America, Iran, all the things we’re still facing today, were planted by these interventions. We can turn the dials and control the world.

Ron Paul: The historians have shown that during the 1950s, when Batista was in power, the real control was really what they called the American mafia, and they were individuals that controlled the gambling, the drugs, and the whole works, and commercial interests, too. It was one of those things, and they were very, very powerful. The big question on this change that is occurring is, are they going to become more libertarian, and are they going to look at this and say, “Free trade and movement is wonderful”. Are we going to keep going in that direction, or are we going to say, “We need more internationalism, and we need them in the IMF, we need to control their finances. We need to have them participating in TSA, we need to put them into NAFTA”, and all these things. There’s a lot yet, but it’s still very, very positive.

I think we knew the emphasis now on how you keep making progress. Like I mentioned to you, I said, now’s the opportunity where hopefully the best export we can send to Cuba is not the concept of Hillary Clinton’s American exceptionalism, which is American militarism, but American exceptionalism at a time when it used to be freedom and civil liberties and free markets. And I’d like to export a few ideas, like Austrian Economics, that would really be good. Today, I’m sure there are still some restrictions on that, and we’re in this country having less freedom of speech and speaking out than ever before. But, as long as we have the opportunity to keep ideas alive, and when the time comes, an idea whose time has come, the armies can’t stop it. The Cuban armies can’t stop it, the Russian Soviet armies couldn’t stop the Berlin fall.

That is why we should never give up on promoting our cause when everybody says, “Well, you keep losing”. They might ask, “How many times did you vote for this, Ron, and it never passed. So it was a wasted time”. No, but ideas were changing, conditions were changing, and the people finally decided that they wanted something different. I do truly believe that the government people have is a reflection of the people’s attitudes. It’s just not instantaneous enough, and it’s hard to measure. I think right now we’re going through a turmoil in our election, because the ideology hasn’t quite changed enough people, and there are still a lot of people who are on the entitlement system, both the rich and poor.

They’re not talking about liberty, they’re talking about entitlement and power and control and whose going to run the world, and that’s a completely different subject this what I’m talking about. There’s no reason why we can’t continue to be optimistic in talking about issues, and finally seeing some progress.

Daniel McAdams: As you said, it’s not perfect, there’s still not tourism travelling, you have to fit into a few categories to get over there, but that’s more of a technicality. As of December, there will be direct flights from Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Lauderdale. So direct flights from Houston, and I was just thinking as I was reading this, we’ve got our conference coming up here in a couple of weeks or in a week or so. Maybe we’ll be able to do our next conference in Havana, that would be pretty neat, wouldn’t it.

Ron Paul: Well, Now that they can fly out of there, what would be neat, too, was if a Cuban individual lover of freedom would come to our conference, because they might be interested. I understand that you even had the opportunity to make the trip to Cuba once, and it was probably a worthwhile experience. In what year was that?

Daniel McAdams: In 2003, and here’s the thing, because you were in Congress and I was a staff member, we were privileged, so we were allowed to travel, just the Americans who paid our salaries weren’t allowed to travel. But it was fascinating, everyone there wanted to open up to the U.S.

Ron Paul: Even the Cuban people that you talked to there?

Daniel McAdams: Absolutely, everyone wanted to, so we’re finally getting there.

Ron Paul: Well, wonderful. You couldn’t just go on an airplane, even though you were part of a government group going there. You couldn’t go direct, you had to go through Mexico to get there.

Daniel McAdams: That’s right.

Ron Paul: Well, I want to thank everybody for tuning in today to The Liberty Report, because we’re very pleased to have this, because I think it’s a very positive step moving in the direction of the argument of how do you prevent hot wars. You prevent it mostly by more travel, more combination of sales and trade. Trade prevents the wars. So this is the right direction, but like we said, it’s still a long way to go to keep the authoritarians from creeping in and taking over once again. But, for now, the authoritarians lost, and the people who believed in freedom of trade and freedom of movement and a more open society have had a victory, and I think it is very positive. I hope it will continue.

I want to thank everybody for tuning in today to The Liberty Report, and please come back soon.

  • Illwill

    We need a Pinochet!