Friday, January 30, 2015

How long will it take for O’Hare to Havana Marti becomes a daily flight?

President Barack Obama announced his intentions to restore relations between the United States and Cuba and diplomats from the two countries have already had their first sit-downs in hopes of the eventual reopening of an embassy in Havana

And it was on Thursday that a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate – with co-sponsorship of Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. – that would ease the restrictions that prevent U.S. citizens from being able to travel to the Caribbean island nation for personal reasons.

YET I’M NOT deluded enough to believe that the past half century of hostilities between the two nations is at an end, nor that I’ll be able to spend a wad of cash on Cuban-made cigars as a gift (I personally find cigar smoke to be repulsive) for anyone anytime soon.

Even though I have been long of the belief that a restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba makes only too much sense for both nations, and that the only reasons for maintaining the tensions is the ideological hang-ups whose time has long passed.

There are many Midwestern agriculture interests and other companies that would love to do business with Cuban interests – their financial bottom line would stand to benefit from easing the restrictions placed by our government out of the belief that they would cause the economic downfall of the regime maintained by the Castro brothers.

They haven’t; not really!

CUBA IS AN economically strapped nation; but the hardships have done nothing but feed into the propaganda that places blame on the United States for the poverty endured by many Cuban natives.

Or at least those Cubans who haven’t managed to slip out of the country and into the United States, where they now put up with myriad restrictions on what they can send “back home” to their relatives remaining on the island.

Currently, the only travel back and forth between the two nations is for people with special purposes, and there are limits on the amount of money they can spend on such trips.

So it is with all that in mind that I find the Freedom to Travel to Cuba act to be refreshing. It was introduced in the Senate, with Durbin being one of eight sponsors – four each from the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

A SIMILAR BILL is expected to be introduced next week in the House of Representatives, according to the Washington Post, which also reports that the bill would not do away with the trade embargo that has been in place for 50-plus years.

And with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying the Republican House majority has no intention of lifting that embargo anytime soon, it means the full restoration of relations truly is decades away.

It definitely will not be something that occurs during the Obama Administration. Heck, I’m coming up on 50 years of age, and I wonder if I will still be alive to see the days when I can theoretically catch a flight out of O’Hare and go straight to Jose Marti International Airport for a Caribbean vacation.

Or perhaps the day when the Cuban government, with an embassy in Washington, D.C., may also decide it needs a presence in the form of a Chicago consulate. Heck, if the mainland China government can have a consulate (at 1 E. Erie St. in the upscale River North neighborhood), why can’t Cuba?

I’M NOT SAYING I’m intending to be on the first regular flight out. But it always just seemed odd that a government that is able to get along with the bulk of the rest of the world remains a pariah to the United States.

Particularly when about the only thing most of us know about Cubans for real is all the quality ballplayers who have slipped into this country to play professionally here – including Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, who could wind up being the ultimate nightmare of Chicago Cubs fans if his hitting leads the White Sox to another championship before the Cubs can achieve anything!


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