"The morning that [Castro's] eyes don't open, and Cuba opens up in a big way, we can have some problems in this part of the world." - Richard Sealy, Barbados Minister of Tourism, at a press conference given at Government House on 13 March, quoted in the Barbados Nation News, "Cuba May Be a Threat," on March 20, 2008
The headline in Barbados' biggest newspaper reads "Cuba May be a Threat." What they mean, course, is that Cuban freedom may be a threat to Barbados. Which is true. Who would travel to a brightly-painted village-state when they could visit a country as distinctive and a culture as universal as any to be found in the world? Even the ruins of Havana are more interesting and evocative than anything to be found in Barbados' landscape. And, of course, when Cuba is free the Caribbean Pompeii will rise again like the phoenix. Before 1959, Cuba was the envy of both Greater and Lesser Antilles. To a large extent it still is and will always be. Castro cast a pall on Cuba which brought bright days to everybody in the Caribbean basin. When that shadow finally lifts it will be Barbados and the other Caribbean islands that will return to their matted pre-1959 existences when a trip to Barbados was akin to a safari in Africa without the lions and the elephants.
No people in the world more sincerely wish for the continuation of Castro's tyranny in Cuba than do the other Caribbean states, especially the English-speaking ones. Too insignificant to impact world politics (and that's a blessing), and with a political culture which is correspondingly insular and self-absorbed, the leaders of these island nations speak their minds with shocking candor to those acquainted with the tergiversations of Old World politicians. Imagine, if you will, Zapatero loudly proclaiming that he wishes the Castro brothers health and long life so that Spanish investments on the island will remain secure and the regime's debt to Spain not formerly renounced (it has long ceased to be serviced). No, that will never do. Those sentiments are no doubt genuinely felt but will never be openly expressed. Dissimulation of the truth is the art of politics in countries such as Spain which are layered over with a thousand coats of varnish that conceal political crimes at the same time as they give a high gloss to national politics. It is different in a country like Barbados where there is no need for hypocrisy and greed can be displayed in broad daylight without attracting a crowd to protest, a country where greed is held to be inoffensive because its aspirations and its reach are so circumscribed. But greed, of course, is no different in a tall man than in a short one; nor in a microscopic country like Barbados than in a behemoth like Canada. Greed is greed. And evil is evil whatever the size of the container.
To the Barbadans, Jamaicans and all the rest of our Caribbean brothers, I say, do not be afraid. You have nothing to fear from Cubans. Cuba's freedom and prosperity will not be to your detriment. Before 1959, Cuba provided you with jobs and sustenance. We were to you what the U.S. is to Mexico today. You will always be welcome to eat at our table.