Thursday, September 8, 2011

One-fifth of Illinois Legislature in Havana? What if they got trapped!

Call it my wildest fantasy come true – the 33 state legislators who on Wednesday arrived in Havana for a six-day journey through Cuba somehow get stuck on the Caribbean island nation.
How would Dan Burke ...

They are unable to return to the United States. Should we consider Fidel Castro a hero for helping us to do away with legislators who (had they been permitted to return to their political playground in Springfield) probably would have caused significant governmental mischief?

YOU HAVE TO to admit the thought is worth a chuckle. Because if we try to look at this trip on a rational level, the first (and only) question that comes to our minds is “What are you doing going to Havana?!?”

It may be one of the few logical statements made by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich when he tried to mock the actions of his gubernatorial predecessor – George Ryan – by saying that any action by Illinois officials to expand business with Cuba was a waste of time.

That trade embargo wasn’t going to disappear anytime soon, so significant business opportunities would continue to be thwarted in the name of ideology and trying to embarrass the Castro regime (which has shown throughout the years that it has no shame whatsoever).

But this week’s trip by 33 legislators is reminiscent of that journey that Ryan took to Havana back in 1999. It may be one of his finest moments as governor – or it may be further evidence that he was craven in character. It all depends on your own ideological hang-ups.

I'LL CONFESS TO believing the former stance, and saying that I think the people who want to bash Ryan for his Cuban sojourn do little more than show how small-minded they truly are.

One of the results of that first Cuban trip (Ryan later made a smaller-scale trip to Havana later in his gubernatorial term) is that Illinois companies worked out a deal by which they can sell foodstuffs and medical supplies to companies providing direct aid to Cuba.
... and brother Edward compare ...

Of course, that was only permissible because of some changes made back during the Bill Clinton years that allowed for some humanitarian aid.

Now, the legislators who went to Havana have hopes to build upon what can be sold, so that Illinois companies can make even more money off of Cuba when it eventually goes through a rebuilding period (which won’t truly start until the demise of the Castro brothers).

AND QUITE FRANKLY, Fidel and Raul aren’t showing any signs of dying off soon – even though the ideologues have had us thinking of the pair as decrepit old men on their death beds for decades.

What we really have happening this week is the same thing that George Ryan tried to do a dozen years ago – put the name of Illinois in the mindset of Cubans so that when they need precious goods, they will come to our companies.

Cuba is already Illinois’ fifth largest trading partner, with most of those items being agricultural products. There are a lot of business people who would like the figure to go up significantly.

That is what makes state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, think it worthy of  paying for this trip out of his own pocket, while state Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, and brother of almighty 13th Ward Alderman Ed Burke, and all the other legislators who went along for the journey decided to use the money in their campaign funds.

AS AN ASIDE, I can’t help but wish that Eddie Burke could have gone along on this particular trip with younger brother Dan. What would los hermanos Castro make of the brothers Burke?

Would the two brother pairings meet, exchange pleasantries, then depart, while exchanging snide comments about how the other was a couple of power-hungry, political animals?

And if they did, who would be more correct. Eddie and Dan Burke on the Castros? Or Fidel and Raul on those lovable Irish-American politicos who manage to survive each Election Day, despite the fact that their ward/legislative district is turning increasingly Latino?

Although not Cubano. We’re talking about a Mexican-American mix that the Burkes will represent both in the City Council and in the Illinois House of Representatives.

I COULDN'T HELP but note Dan Burke pointed out that fact in some of the news coverage written in advance of the trip – as though he thinks people who come from places like Guanajuato or Guerrero are going to be swayed because he took a propaganda trip to the land where Che Guevara is a real icon – and not just some hairy dude who turns up on t-shirts!
... to the Castro brothers when it comes to tough politics?

So if it seems like I’m being disrespectful of this trip, I’m really not. I think it is a noble goal – because the day will come (no matter how many aging Miami exiles rant and rage against it) when Cuba becomes a part of the real world again.

Heck, beginning next month there will be direct flights from O’Hare International Airport to Havana’s Josè Martì International Airport. No more having to catch a flight to Montreal or Mexico City in order to get to Havana.

I’m just wondering how much our sometimes-bumbling state legislators (this is the governmental body with a member who this year tried to give a full tuition waiver to the kid of an organized crime figure, then tried to rescind it rather clumsily) are up to this trip.


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