Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Obama's easing of travel restrictions to Cuba. Then what?

According to a report in today's New York Times, "President Obama demonstrated Monday that he was willing to open the door toward greater engagement with Cuba - but at this point, only a crack." The report added that "the announcement represents the most significant shift in United States policy toward Cuba in decades, and it is a reversal of the hard line taken by former President George W. Bush." Moreover, Mr. Obama, who is meeting later this week in Trinidad and Tobago with Latin American leaders, clearly wants to normalize relations with the estranged dictatorship. However, that's not enough for "El Former Presidente," Fidel Castro, who would rather see The President go the whole nine yards and lift the trade embargo altogether, which, in his words, would mean "real change."

Yesterday, as I listened to the pundits on the various cable news channels and talk radio, I got all sides of the story from Left to Right. Although there are still many exhiled Cubans and Cuban-Americans who oppose lifting the embargo, according to one talking head, Mr. Obama is basing his decision on the premise (perhaps the Whitehouse actually has solid poll data), that most Cubans living in the U.S. are tired of the embargo and are ready for change.

I support the President's decision, and starting with easing travel restrictions is a rational way to begin. My logic is based on what happened during the 1980's with President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev during "Glasnost." What eventually happened in Eastern Europe? "The Wall" came down.

Let the Cuban people get a little more of a taste of the West. Once the things that Cuban-Americans enjoy begin to trickle into Cuba, who knows? Maybe it will lead to another kind of "revolution," and the permanent lifting of the embargo.

~ Gary Korb

1 comment:

Marcos El Malo said...

The one man holding back the lifting of the embargo is Fidel, which became clear after he said that Obama misinterpreted Raul's words. Obama has made the first move and it's up to the Cubans to make the next if relations are to be improved and restrictions lifted.

That said, I think we will see the lifting of the trade embargo. The question is when. One or two years? Five years? Ten? It's a matter of time, and the clock is certainly ticking on Fidel, if not La Revoluccíon as a whole.

My biggest question is what happens when the embargo is lifted? What happens with the world wide cigar trade? How will this effect the makers of cigars? If I had the connections, right now I'd be trying to interview each and all of the big names and families in the cigar world to find out how this will effect their business and how they think (or are planning) to react when the embargo is lifted.

A secondary question has to do with branding and marketing. When true Cuban tobaccos become available on the open market, how is this going to affect the naming of cigar lines? A lot of marketing is built around a nostalgia for Cuba, with the name Cuba or names of other geographical areas in Cuba as part of brand names. What will Drew Estate do with the Vieja Habana line? Will they need to incorporate Cuban tobacco into the cigars to assure they are "authentico"?