December 15, 2016

The future of US-Cuba relations

The future of US-Cuba relations

Jack Rosen, President of the American Jewish Congress, explores Castro – the man behind the myth, and what his death means for US-Cuba relations.

Fidel Castro once said that “Men do not shape destiny, destiny produces the man for the hour”. So much has been written about the late Fidel Castro in the past week, but how many people can actually claim to have known him and have a sense of the man and his destiny? Through a mixture of luck and providence, I have perhaps spent more time with Fidel Castro than any other American. Admire him or loathe him, either way my experiences taught me that greater engagement leads to progress and both the West and the Cuban people stand to benefit from greater dialogue. We now have a historic opportunity to bring Cuba in from the cold.

Over the course of thirty years, I met with Castro dozens of times. I can’t prove that I spent more time with him than any other American, but I must be pretty high up there. The reason I initially went to Cuba was to help its small Jewish community. However, over the years a productive relationship developed between the two of us. The American government was aware of it and while I didn’t have any official role, I sometimes found myself acting as a diplomat. I was always an advocate of greater dialogue with Cuba, I felt, and still do that it benefitted all involved. Every time I visited, I witnessed small changes in my relationship with Castro, including in the candid way which I could speak with him and the reaction I would get when I made a suggestion to him.

I visited Cuba for the first time in the late 1980s, about a week before Passover that year. One of my initial meetings was with the Jewish community. When I asked how I could help them, I was told that they were in desperate need of kosher-for-Passover food and wine.  Over the next couple of hours, it was made clear that the only person who could give me permission to bring Passover supplies into Cuba was Fidel Castro. That evening I met him for the first time. When I asked if I could send my airplane back to Miami to pick up the provisions, the first thing he wanted to know was what was kosher-for-Passover wine? I tried to explain. I could see he didn’t understand, so I told him I would bring some back for him to try. Which I did. Thankfully, the vintage was good that year. Over many years, we continued the conversation on Jewish issues, and Castro used his time to pursue his curiosity to learn more about Judaism. In that time, the Jewish community had more freedom to practice their religion, and desperately needed repairs were completed on the main synagogue in Havana, which he visited on Chanukah.

While publicly Castro revelled in his role as the enemy of the West, in private, I saw a different side. A more humble side. He would do things you would not expect. For example, he would take great care with his guests. I once led a delegation and Castro insisted we all come over for dinner. During the afternoon I got a call saying that Castro wanted to meet me privately beforehand. I assumed that he wanted to talk international politics, as usual, but it turned out he wanted to meet me to consult about seating arrangements for the dinner. It was important for him that everyone there felt comfortable where they were sitting.

Castro took great care in the food he served and almost every time I had dinner with him, he would serve lobster. His recipe, often prepared with his own hands. He even gave me a handwritten copy of the recipe.

As you would expect, Castro and I would often disagree but we had developed the kind of relationship in which I felt comfortable to do that. The dinner discussions focused on issues around the world and the U.S, and often lasted five or six hours. When he discussed Israel he was never critical. I always assumed his public alliance with the Palestinians had something to do with maintaining his stature as a leader of the Third World, the easy way to do that was to position himself as an enemy of the United States and an enemy of Israel.

Looking forward, there is a lot of speculation about the next step for Cuba. It would not be productive for the situation to regress and for Cuba to return to isolation. The dialogue I developed had benefits for the Jewish community of Cuba and, on at least one occasion, the American government. Although progress was very slow, it was still progress. If dialogue stops, then the reverse is true, you end up with a vacuum and whenever there is a vacuum another power can step in.  In the long term, I hope that the United States chooses more dialogue and ultimately the lifting of the embargo, which I think would be good for the Cuban people.

My experiences have shown me that there are two sides to every story. The actions of Castro have been widely documented and many have condemned him for what he has done. But, seeing the other side of him made me understand that there were further possibilities for discussion and improving the life of Cubans. There could have been more progress on critical issues, including human rights, and I hope that we are all able to take those opportunities in the future.

4.00 avg. rating (83% score) - 1 vote
Jack Rosen
Jack Rosen is the Chairman of the American Jewish Congress, an association of Jewish Americans who are committed to ensuring the survival and security of Israel, and protecting Jewish communities around the world. Mr Rosen also founded the Council for World Jewry, an organization within the framework of the AJC. Rosen is very active in government and political affairs, as well as a number of public interest organizations. He and is also Chief Executive of a New York Real Estate firm, Rosen Partners LLC.
  • Shadow Warrior

    Hammond is continuity Brown. He is a hand-wringing lefty looking for clever wheezes to raise more tax in ways that people don’t immediately notice.

  • captainslugwash

    I predict the Budget will attempt to show the Left how caring the Tories are, and it will be funded by screwing over the working man.
    If Corp Tax comes down, I bet Divi tax will be going up.
    I would love to be wrong.

  • skynine

    We really need to look at tax credits, in particular in work tax credits that encourage people to work part time to preserve the benefits. 45% of women work part time and I would hazard a guess that tax credits are the main cause. This leads to low pay, low skill work in supermarkets and the retail sector including coffee shops. The government needs to get back to the employer paying people to do a job for economic reasons rather than to get onto the tax credit ladder. Like all government benefits it distorts the market and diverts government expenditure into non productive areas.
    The refrain that the government has cut expenditure is not true, it increases every year as more and more goes into welfare.

  • MrVeryAngry

    fat chance

  • MrSauce

    So, when wouldn’t we want a ‘budget for growth’?

  • Rob

    I note that the UK Government has just slapped on a 25% tax charge for anyone moving abroad and wishing to move out their private pension from the UK.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Remoaners will do their utmost to sabotage the Government’s negotiating position. They do not want a successful outcome; they want a failure. They want to be able to scream “Told you so!” from the rooftops.

  • EnglandLaments

    Thank goodness for Andrew Neil, the one media hack who scares the pants off the established politicians. He was spot on with Heidi Allen!

  • joshuafalken

    I had a very long, hard, studied and considered look at the hope, care and aspirations of all Europeans, before I voted to get the UK out of the toxic grasp of Brussels.

    The European Union and it’s charge of “ever closer union” has borrowed and spent its way to oblivion, whilst enslaving the working and middle classes in debt.

    The central control mantra of the unaccountable Brussels ruling elite, delivered through a mixture of socialism, globalism and corporatism is entirely responsible for the populist revolt by the millions of “Just About Managings” across Europe.

    We must remember the ultimate goal of socialists, globalists and corporatists is control, not prosperity. see—-not-prosperity.

    Social equality and economic growth always fail under central control and fighting against the Brussels doctrine on behalf of all Europeans is why I voted for Brexit.

    Britain has a long history of helping Europeans depose tyrants and Brussels is just the latest incarnation.

    Britain is the most racially advanced and accepting society on the planet. We welcome those in need and those that can help us with open arms and a smile; that will not change.

    We are also one of the most innovative, talented and open societies in the world, which why everyone wants to live here. However, we cannot fit everyone in, so we have to have clear, balanced and fair immigration policy which is where the arguments start between the monetarists and humanists will never be reconciled.

    I thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU was in the best interest of all Europeans, as Brussels is toxic and cannot be reformed from within.

    Also, I find it insulting that people who voted Remain have insufficient faith in British ingenuity, compassion and skill to get a good deal for us and see the Europe that we love get a better deal from Brussels and the reform that European people deserve. and

    The politics of left verses right are dead because neither have delivered the promised economic growth and social mobility for anyone, but themselves. The populists are not selfish per-se, they just want to take back control of their own destiny that left/right politicians have freely given away and/or exploited for their own ends. In my constituency, the local residents group are taking over the councils as politicians ignore voters, so Westminster should beware of the well-organised, local resident independents at the next election. This is a peoples revolution which should be shouted from the rooftops, but liberals remained deafened by the socialist, globalist and corporatist “vested interests” that have spectacularly failed us and are obediently crying foul and fake.

    There will be an initial unpalatable inflationary cost to fighting globalism and rolling back central control that few appear to have factored in, but dismantling failed left/right vested interests should eventually free libertarian socially-conservative capitalism from the shackles of TBTF corporatism to feed economic growth and social mobility.

  • agdpa

    The EU usually makes the wrong decision – on immigration, on freedom of movement, on the euro, on the Ukraine, etc. etc. Little hope it will get Brexit right.

  • brownowl

    Eh? Reference please!

  • Neil2

    Sod caring. Screw the spongers and breeders. Kill HS2. Stop all “green” subsidies. Slash “foreign aid” and walk away from the EUSSR with immediate effect.

  • Rob
  • John C

    What a confused article. It conflates surveillance by the security services with poor defences against fraud.

  • John C

    Err, it’s the UK that’s leaving the EU, not vice versa.

  • John C

    Me, now. ‘Growth’ is a manic obsession.

  • La Face Nord

    Mr Redwood – are you aware of the Biased BBC website? It’s been exposing their agenda for a long time, but I imagine you’ve been well aware of the BBC’s agenda for quite some time…

  • Contact Rvtech

    The post is great

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