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Cuba Trade Show Is a Propaganda Blitz

September 27, 2002

Re "Cuba Trade Show Whets Appetites of U.S. Firms," Sept. 24: Would that the Havana food and agricultural trade show were a real trade show where customers trade freely with dealers! A country like Cuba, where business activity is banned and the state controls everything, cannot hold trade shows since there is nobody to trade with. It can, on the other hand, put on a propaganda blitz, paid for by U.S. businesses, to push the U.S. Congress into voting for export trade credits.

Castro is broke, foreign investment in Cuba has fallen catastrophically in the last year and those credits would not only benefit him, by propping up his regime, but a few big U.S. corporations, such as Archer Daniels Midland. Congress should demand that Castro allow a true market economy--allowing ordinary Cubans to own individual businesses--before agreeing to lift the trade embargo. U.S. taxpayers, in turn, should be wary of subsidizing failed dictatorships like Castro's or of succumbing again to the renewed wiles of corporate sirens.

Enrico Mario Santi

Professor of Latin American Studies,

University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.

*

The appearance of the California Dancing Raisins at the food and agricultural trade show in Cuba this month was cited in an amusing aside, but that event could be more important than it at first may seem, because it may foreshadow what is bound to occur in Cuba with the inevitable demise of the Castro regime. Pity the average closet Cuban democrat: No sooner will he finish reveling in the end of one of the world's most durable authoritarian regimes than he will be virtually flooded with a tsunami of U.S.-engineered mascots, logos and jingles.

Any Cuban feeling overwhelmed by this massive onslaught of California Raisins, Ronald McDonalds and Tony the Tigers making their way to the island should be able to turn to the nearest American tourist for support, as there will undoubtedly be a staggering number of mainland visitors making the brief flight or Love Boat tour from Florida and basking in the welcoming glow of previously arrived Starbucks, Dennys and 7-Elevens.

Since Cuba has about as many potential consumers as the state of Pennsylvania, major corporations have by now laid out their "Cuban invasion" plans and need wait only for a conversion to democracy or, more likely, a hastily slapped together Eastern European-style free-enterprise system, to flood the island with their essentials. So when the happy day comes, Cuba, enjoy your newfound food freedom and purchasing power. Just be prepared for the cultural Gotterdammerung that will inevitably accompany these.

Mark Severino

Research Associate

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Washington

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