Ileana Ros Lehtinen (IRL), the Congresswoman from Coral Gables has a litany of worn out phrases that she spits out like a copy machine gone haywire whenever any kind of ‘negative’ information comes out of Cuba. Most of them are verbose and designed to please her own ears.
However one verbal grenade that IRL likes to toss repeatedly is ‘reducing the amount of remittances that can be sent to Cuba’, as payback for anything and everything the Cubans do. During the administration of President George W. Bush the amount that Cuban-Americans could send back to family in Cuba was reduced and limited to $300 per quarter. Certainly this pleased IRL because she has long shown a disdain for the Cuban people who refused to rise up against Castro in order that the Batistani’s might go back and take over the country. IRL’s constant refrain is ‘this money is propping up Castro and his family.’
Unfortunately that refrain has taken hold with some of the naive members of Congress who have been hoodwinked by IRL and the Diaz Balart duo through the year. So let’s take a look at this claim. First of all the Cuban government has been propped up for quite some time by Venezuela and China. Chinese container ships and Venezuelan tankers bring consumer goods and fuel to the country in a steady stream with ships arriving almost daily. So the ‘regime’ is not exactly destitute, despite the claims of a woman who has never been in the country since she was a young child.
And so what is the truth about the family remittances? Fortunately for the Cuban people President Obama in 2009 lifted all limits on family remittances, a move that thrilled Cubans and Cuban-American families in the US but no doubt had IRL spitting nails. “How dare President Obama do this,” she probably asked. “Those people down there need to be punished for not rising up against Fidel. All these octogenarian Cuban dinosaurs here in Miami have dreamed of going back and restoring Cuba to its Batista glory, and those people never rose up against Fidel. They don’t deserve money; they don’t deserve to eat pork or chicken. Let them eat Castro’s rice and beans!”
And that is the route that many remittances take. The recipients go to the government store to buy pork and chicken and other ‘luxury’ food items. I’ve given cash gifts to close friends in Cuba and that is exactly where the money goes, to buy food for their family. Does the government realize a profit from these sales? Of course, but even if it’s as high as 20% that is a secondary realization.
The primary realization is that this family has $100 worth of food products in their freezer and refrigerator. In IRL’s world that is a bad thing because she despises the people of her homeland. But you can bet that Jesus is pleased that the Cuban people have been given the opportunity to enjoy some of the bounties of life courtesy of their US families. And contrary to statements by other Cuban-American politicians, the Cuban government does not take a percentage ‘off the top’ on remittances. The Cuban nationals receive every penny, of course converted to CUCs.
Some of these remittances also go to the new entrepreneurs in Cuba who are starting up small businesses. The same facts apply: the entrepreneur has the full value of the money to purchase goods and services from other entrepreneurs or from state stores. If some of it goes as profit to the government, well the money has served the greater good – the needs of the entrepreneur.
A parallel to the remittances can be drawn with money that goes to IRL’s campaign. Consider than in the 2011 – 2012 election cycle the University of Miami donated $10,450 to Ileana Ros Lehtinen’s campaign. Are there students at The U who work hard for their tuition money and who find Ileana Ros Lehtinen an absolutely loathsome and despicable woman. Do you think they are happy with their tuition money going to support her agenda? In that respect, Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Fidel Castro are like two peas in a pod.