December 4, 2021


Slavery was defended for centuries by religious, political leaders and philosophers.    Their principal argument was that in order to maintain a stable society, a poor class was necessary as a building block in which society would be able to survive by having the elite preserve stability and distribute wealth, albeit with fairness and assuring the basic needs of the lesser class.   

Plantation owners in southern US in more recent times, insisted that their slaves had better living conditions, education and health care than the free blacks in the north that mostly earned meager salaries.    Society rebelled against these arguments because it was realized that freedom had no price, and it was, by itself, worth any living condition.    These thoughts came to my mind when I read a letter from a highly steamed member of the Cuban exiled community Guillermo I Martinez.   

It is clear that his purpose was to present Cuba and its ruler’s point of view regarding an economic future opening to exiled Cubans that have amassed fortunes in this country.    It was similar to the slave owners of the past that needed the cheap production of their slaves in order to continue their affluent lives.    His portrayal is accurate, with the caveat that Cuba is in ruins and the need is not only to keep the population subjugated but for an influx of capital in order to do so.    Guillermo asks of his readers to keep their views of the response that we should give to the Castro’s attempt to survive on the backs of the once he called “worms”, under a key in a safe place where one cannot find it.   

Guillermo my friend, I tried but failed miserably.    I can only justify my failure to comply, on the same conviction that Lincoln had in his time, that it is impossible to deny reality and by accepting the evils of a black slavery, or the subjugation of the Cuban people, and turn a blind eye towards those that by will, personal gain, or naiveté are willing to be part of Castro’s intent that you so accurately described, we will become accomplices to their crimes.

Fernando J Milanes MD


Guillermo’s letter follows

For the purpose of this column let’s put in a lock box our views on renewed diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba and put the key in a safe place where one cannot find it.

Let us not pass judgment of those historic Cuban American exiles who are suddenly expressing an interest in visiting Cuba with the hope of someday soon being able to do business in the land where they were born. This is not to judge sugar magnate Alfy Fanjul’s recent trips to the island.

Instead let us focus on the story from Cuba’s point of view and what has changed in the nation’s communist government that makes it possible for Fanjul and others like him to travel to the island and dream of someday soon being able to do business in the Cuba.

But first, let us bring a little historical perspective to the issue.

In pre-Castro Cuba, the island was one of the top producers of sugar in the world. On any given years Cuba could manufacture five or six million tons of sugar. One year it produced over seven million tons.

When Fidel Castro marched into Havana in January 1959 he criticized Cuba’s dependence on sugar as its main export product. So, as a good communist, he set out to destroy the economy. Then as he worked towards creating the perfect Marxist society he preached diversifying the island’s agricultural output.

Sugar was to be only one of the island’s many agricultural products. Cuba’s sugar barons were among the first to loose their lands to the Agrarian Reform. They like hundreds of thousands of other Cubans had to flee the island. Their property was confiscated; those who opposed the regime were quickly jailed or executed.

That was 55 years ago. His efforts to create a “new man” failed miserably. Not even with the help of the old Soviet Union could Cuba achieve the agricultural goals the government set each year. An island that was among the most prosperous economies in the Western Hemisphere became an impoverished nation.

Now Fidel’s brother Raúl is president and he is aware that Cuba’s economy is bankrupt. The island’s once rich land no longer produces enough food to feed its people. The once powerful sugar industry is in tatters; sugar mills are cannibalized for spare parts to keep the 56 mills still operating.

It is at this point that the Cuban government begins to allow the once powerfully rich Cubans now living in exile to return to visit the land where they were born. They are allowed to see the homes where they lived and given the royal treatment – just in case they can help lift the American economic embargo of the island and maybe someday in the near future, invite them to again invest in Cuba.

  Cuba is playing the wealthy exile card in case its efforts with Brazil fail. Already a Brazilian company has been contracted to expand the Port of Mariel, so bigger ships can someday dock in Cuba. It has also signed a contract to administer one of Cuba’s sugar mills.

The Cuban government wants more. For many years now Brazil has been the world’s largest producer of sugar and Cuba’s production is minimal; less than 1.5 million tons in 2012.

This is what is ironic and worthwhile highlighting.

Cuba’s once powerful sugar industry is now in shambles – as is the rest of its economy. The island’s communist regime has sought help from a myriad of capitalist regimes to help its moribund economy. Spain has helped build hotels for the tourist industry. Venezuela provides the island petroleum at a bargain price. Cuban exiles are once again enticed to visit their relatives in the island and send money to their loved ones.

And now it is seeking help from the same rich men it persecuted more than a half century ago. It wants their help in lobbying the American government to relax or preferably lift the embargo. It wants them to consider investing in Cuba again. The conditions are not clear at this point, as American law forbids it. But, make no mistake; this is what Cuba wants.

After more than half a century with an economic system that has failed, Cuba is again seeking the help of the rich capitalists it once forced to flee the island.  This is a delightful irony.

Guillermo I. Martínez resides in South Florida. His e-mail is and his Twitter is  @g_martinez123