Almost 21 years ago I was honored to lead a North Carolina Department of Agriculture sponsored delegation to Cuba made up of more than 40 North Carolina agribusiness leaders.
I did so working with Britt Cobb, then a part of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and in meetings with North Carolina agribusiness leaders.
The time was set for the month of December 2000. I preceded the delegation traveling to the city of Havana in order to plan the itinerary of the delegation with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce.
Then as now, I have always believed that constructive engagement would do far more to change Cuba and its system of government and its economy which would benefit all Cubans along with their desire for the freedoms they have long dreamed of.
Over the past 24 years I have traveled to Cuba over 40 times. I have traveled from one end of the island to the other staying with ordinary Cuban families hearing their hopes and dreams and seeing their daily struggles for life’s essential products of food and fuel
In the fall of 1995, I became the first U.S. citizen to be approved by the Cuban Ministry of Education to teach at the University of Matanzas for the full fall semester. I taught U.S. history in English to 3rd year English majors who were preparing to work in the new and growing Cuban tourism industry. It was a life-altering experience as it was in the middle of Cuba’s “Special Period”. This was a time when bread, medicines and petroleum products were almost nonexistent.
During these days, families’ pets were known to disappear and the Matanzas zoo mysteriously lost animals late at night. Cubans were desperate for anything to eat.
I often went with my pastor friend, Paco, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Matanzas, as he, in the cover of night’s darkness, would purchase black market gas for his old Russian Lada station wagon.
As I have watched the recent news coming from Cuba displaying the rare protests of Cubans openly challenging the 60-year-old Communist regime established by the late Fidel Castro, I am convinced the winds of change are beginning to move in Cuba.
Let’s face it. The U.S. Embargo is a total failure in seeking to bring change to Cuba. It is a relic of the Cold War era. The current unrest in Cuba has nothing to do with our embargo. It has to do with the COVID-19 virus and the Cuban Communist Party’s tight central control of the economy and agribusiness.
In my recent conversations with Cuban exiles here in the U.S. and Cuban friends still on the island, I have found agreement with the idea of the U.S. lifting the embargo and thus leaving the communist regime with no one to blame for the government’s failures but its own incompetence.
U.S. intervention at this time in any way would be most unwise. Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution did give Cuba one thing it will never again relinquish to a foreign power, its sovereignty.
Before the Castro led revolution, Cuba and its resources had been plundered by Spain and the United States for almost 500 years. Under U.S. control, Cuba became the playground for the rich and U.S. organized crime with all its attendant evils. Cubans want no more of that!
Even today, we U.S. tax payers fork out $27,000,000 a year for Radio Marti operated by a handful of Cuban expatriates in Miami. Guess what? No one in Cuba listens to this broadcast. I’ve tried to dial it in while in Cuba and can’t find it.
It is time for the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress to end the embargo on Cuba. Let’s leave the Cuban Communist regime nowhere to hide and excuse its failures.
Edward “Ned” Walsh of is the former executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Johnston County. He lives in Princeton.