By Glynn Wilson –
MOBILE, Ala. – The new Congressman for Mobile and Baldwin County is making waves in Washington on Thursday with a statement he made on the House floor attacking President Barack Obama for restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and recommending that Congress lift the entire trade embargo.
Rep. Bradley Byrne issued a press release based on his statement saying he “denounced” President Barack Obama’s executive action to open trade with Cuba even though he admitted the action would benefit his district.
While Byrne noted that the city of Mobile could benefit from improved relations with Cuba, his statement said he “decried” the executive action as the “wrong way” to achieve the goal.
“It is safe to say that I represent a district that stands to benefit from improved relations with Cuba,” Byrne said. “In fact, the Port of Mobile is a straight shot to Cuba and could be an important economic hub, just as it was going back to the 18th century. Under the right circumstances, I would gladly support lifting the trade embargo with Cuba and improving diplomatic relations.
“Unfortunately, now is not that time,” Byrne said. “The economic benefits should not come at the cost of enabling a ruthless regime that is unwilling to change.”
Byrne accused the President of being “more interested in a publicity stunt than a substantive solution,” but it appears Mr. Byrne is the one who is guilty of a publicity stunt to shore up his support from the tea party and the Republican Party’s right wing.
What Byrne is really saying is that now is not the time because Mr. Obama is a black Democrat. If Jeb Bush was making the proposal, is there any doubt Mr. Byrne would be in full support of it?
In this blatantly partisan statement, Mr. Byrne is guilty of perpetuating several falsehoods regarding conditions in Cuba today.
In addition to reiterating the often repeated stuff about the Cold War, which allegedly ended in 1989 when George H.W. Bush was president, Mr. Byrne claims: “This is the same Cuba that refuses to let the Catholic Church operate freely.”
But that’s not true anymore, if it ever was.
Pope John Paul II visited Havana in January, 1998, and there has been a resurgence of church involvement on the part of the Cuban people, if a majority are just not interested in religion or having organized religion entangled in government.
“Nothing has changed in those areas at all…” Byrne said, falsely. “The Castro regime must go. Political activity must be legalized. Public commitments to free and fair elections must be made. An independent judiciary must be established. Rights to free speech and freedom of the press must be guaranteed. Political prisoners must be freed.”
In fact, Cuba just released two dozen detainees because of the negotiations with President Obama. Political activity is legal. And the president has made the point that opening up and talking to Cuba is a better way to obtain “free and fair” elections, an independent judiciary and free speech and press rights than continuing to isolate the country with a trade embargo, which clearly has not worked.
While Mr. Obama’s new policy toward Cuba indicates that country could benefit from open trade with the U.S., it is also true that cities in the United States might very well benefit from the new open relationship as well.
While U.S. medical technology may be the best in the world, even the University of Alabama recognizes that Cuba has become a world leader in delivering medical services to its citizens, for example, and sends delegations there periodically to study Cuba’s community health programs.
Talks about how to open up the relationship between Mobile and Havana have been ongoing with a Sister City organization in Mobile called Society Mobile La Habana, which we contacted for a statement in reply to Byrne’s political speech on the House floor. So far the chair of the organization, Mr. Grey Redditt Jr., has not returned our calls or issued a statement. If we hear from him later today we will update this story.
© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.