TCS Daily

The 51st State

By Peter F. Schaefer - January 4, 2007 12:00 AM

Writing in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Julia Sweig, the Director of Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the conventional wisdom that "Without Fidel's iron fist ...the long-oppressed population would overthrow Fidel's revolutionary cronies and ...transform Cuba into a market democracy." But she argues:

"...that moment has come and gone ...the post-Fidel transition is already well under way. Power has been successfully transferred to a new set of leaders, whose priority is to preserve the system while permitting only very gradual reform."

If Ms. Sweig is correct - and I try to stay away from predictions - then this will be seen as an enormous US failure of foreign policy and will be added to the pile of other global and regional failures including the election of Hugo Chavez.

Americans should not be willing to let Ms. Sweig's prediction come to pass since it would repudiate decades of US policy. We need bold, new actions. Let me propose one.

How About Offering Statehood?

There may be one way to foster a modern Cuban state and get rid of the Fidelismo in one fell swoop; give Cubans the option of becoming the 51st US state.

President Bush could speak from the Oval Office and say to the Cuban people:

"We are close to you Cubans geographically, economically, socially and historically. Americans died to liberate you from Spanish oppression and gave you sovereignty four years later.

"But the sad truth is that for decades we then supported authoritarian regimes and business investments that were not in the best interests of the Cuban people. And so perhaps someone like Mr. Castro was inevitable. If American actions led to Mr. Castro, we regret this since he has taken the Cuban people down an unproductive path. As a result, you all now live in greater poverty and with less freedom than you ever would have suffered had you gradually evolved to true democracy as so many of your neighbors have done.

"But that is the past. Today Cubans are an important part of America's population and Spanish is virtually our second language. Cubans have found success because the American system supports their talents. They have used the American system to work their way up in business, sports and politics.

"America has let you down before and I would like to propose one possible way for us to begin again. I am prepared to use the power of my presidency to propose to Congress and the American people that they pass legislation which would open the way for Cubans to choose to become the 51st state in our union.

"If you choose to join our union, you would get a modern system of laws and in one moment, become fully integrated in the largest economy in the world, as well as the larger global economy.

"If you agree with me through open elections, I would propose to the American people and our Congress that Cuba be granted Commonwealth status, like Puerto Rico, for six years while resident Cubans themselves work to create a constitution, establish the rule of law, elect all your officials and invest American federal funds in needed social and physical infrastructure in Cuba.

"As you no doubt know, the USA is a federation of fifty states each of which has enormous power under our constitution in the areas of taxation, laws, policing and elections. States even have the right to form and maintain a militia of their citizens under the command of the governor, and Cuba would be no different.

"This offer should not be viewed by the Cuban people as an indication that America will ever take the initiative to have Cuba join our nation. While we believe that there are strong economic, social, political and even geographic reasons for federation, no territory has become a part of the USA except by means of a majority of people in that territory requesting entry. Cuba would be no different. As a Commonwealth, Cuba could - like Puerto Rico - choose to become a state, remain a commonwealth or become an independent nation. The six years of Commonwealth status could be used by Cubans to modernize and prepare to become a modern, independent state, or a member of the United States. It's up to you. The door is open."

Costs and Benefits

What are the risks and gains? Well Cuba is poor and federal standards for everything that rules our lives would have to be established there from clean air to handicapped access. There are also big things like Social Security, economic infrastructure, modern schools and efficient bureaucracies, which could be phased in, and would managed and funded in partnership with Washington. And in one moment Cuba would leave behind the horrid Spanish colonial tradition of rule by the strong-man.

Is this too expensive? Well, more Mexicans have illegally immigrated into the US than there are Cubans. And, in any case, how expensive is our continued confrontation with Cuba? What do we both lose by it?

The Ultimate Outcome

Cuba would be offered - not compelled, offered - an equal place in the most powerful nation on earth. They might say no, but they could hardly be offended.

However, I care less about the ultimate outcome of this proposal than about the profound debate that would arise. Put aside the cold calculus of plusses and minuses and imagine for a moment what would happen within the Cuban society. There will be a social explosion in there as the people debate this offer. Who will win? Who knows, but it is the process of coming to a conclusion - an open national conversation in Cuba - that will be the real benefit for the Cubans and, by extension, for Americans. They will argue about the merits of the rule of law, of free speech, of democracy and of capitalism in a global economy.

In response, the remaining Fidelistas will, necessarily, defend their power by offering some communist or socialist hybrid of authoritarian capitalism perhaps with managed "elections." But they will have to come out of their political closet and explain what they intend for Cuba, and how their plan is better than US statehood, an option that will pale in comparison

In the end, the debate itself will be corrosive. It will hold Castro and his successors up to a level of scrutiny which they cannot survive. Cubans are no different from Americans, or Iraqis for that matter. Most want stability, prosperity and freedom, not oppression, poverty and control. And this will let them bring their desires out of the shadows.

Peter Schaefer is a political economist engaged in research on nation building as well as business activities that promote modernization.



This will work for Cuba, yet you build a fence to keep Mexicans out.
Why not offer all of the North American Gulf States Statehood?

not so fast
Canada, one province at a time, with the exception of Quebec. They can stay independant.
Mexico, one state at a time, starting at the current border moving south.

Fun idea! And there's nothing lost if they say no. I spent a short time at Guantanamo more than 20 years ago and thought that it was one of Earth's paradises (the ecosystem, not the politi-system). I've always figured that eventually, Fidel would die and the Cuban people would demand higher standards. They deserve it and are capable of it. That's when I leave the far north and move to Cuba.

Puerto Rico has refused statehood
Why wouldn't Cuba?

Yes, but...
Commonwealth status is likely to be far superior to what they have had or will have on their current path.

Isn't Massachusetts a commonwealth? Seems like they have certain privileges over Purto Rico. There must degrees of commonwealth status. Either would be vastly superior to tinpot dictator status.

I've had enough and can't take it anymore!
Why not allow all of the countries in Africa to accede into the United States. It would create a hell of a lot more integration.

Is that
if the Canadians want to join, or they're joining whether they want to or not?

This is a really bad idea...on so many levels...
Where to start...

The enduring problem for Cuba is that the United States has ruthlessly punished them economically since 1960. And 47 years is a very long time to stay in your room and go to bed without your supper. This reality was part of the Cold War and the fact that Fidel Castro committed unforgivable sins. Those, by definition, can never be forgiven. He must be completely gone before Cuba's punishment ends. So no one should ever forget and make such mistakes again.

When we do normalize relations with Cuba our very successful Cuban American community stands ready to redevelop their own country and to install effective financial capitalism with a market economy. Cuba already has a strong central government and a functional political culture.

What the author suggests amounts to annexation. This idea exists somewhere between venal arrogance and innocent, well meaning, naivate.

Nesting this proposition inside a sham of democracy, free elections and a plebiscite is obscene. Such democratic processes, accompanied by all the routine abuses of media deception of voters, that we are really good at and that we have the resources to manipulate, routinely lead to tragically bad decisions for nations.

Cuba does not need democracy to enjoy a strong central government. Cuba already has a strong central government and the rule of law. What Cuba needs is a rapidly expanding GDP and the opportunity to convert its cheap labor into dollars.

Another note. With a rapidly growing economy the Cuban government might not need Income Taxes to sustain itself and to underwrite investments in infrastructure. Foreign investment plus a modern banking system with a solid Banco Central de Cuba and they are off to the races.

Being a possession of the United States (or a state) is probably not the best way for a sovereing nation to develop itself. If it was, nations would be begging to be annexed. That phone seldom rings. Puerto Rico and Guam haven't asked us. The Philippines asked to be cut loose.

If becoming a protectorate or a possession was reasonable then the people of Iraq might have created a popular groundswell begging us to stay there and to keep their nation as one of our own territories. Quite the opposite. I have not heard anyone even discuss it.

If you want real trouble in America, and fighting in the streets, just you try to annex Cuba. Moron.

Shame on you and everyone who thinks like you. Such stupidity is exactly why people all over the world hate us.

Unintended consequences
I don't like the implications of suddenly giving two senate seats and some number of representatives and electoral college votes to an island that has virtually no experience with the traditions and culture of the American republic.

Cutting to the chase on the facts
1) 'Commonwealth' is not a status, per se. Just a name. Puerto Rico is just a glorified territory like Guam and the Virgin Islands are and that is all. Massachussetts calls itself a commonwealth. Texas, a republic. But for purposes of this discussion, they are both states. So, big deal. For the PRs, its a non-imperialistic PC phrase instead of being called a 'territory'. They do get their own team on the Olympics, though.

2) Puerto Rico has always had the easy choices whenever the issue of their status came up for a vote: 'Commonwealth' (territory), statehood or independence. Never have they been asked to make a real, substantive choice between statehood or independence (no more continuing 'commonwealth' status offered). With 'commonwealth' status, they get 90% of the benefits of statehood w/o having to pay for it. They don't pay US income taxes, for example. So why in hell should they change their status? Heck, if any of the 50 states in the union were offered the option of ditching statehood for 'commonwealth' or territory status again, I bet many would take the offer -- which is why they won't ever be offered the choice.

3) If the politicians in Washington ever did force the PRs to make a choice between statehood (and thus forking over the taxes) or independence (getting kicked out of the Union, essentially), the PRs would most likely take statehood. But, they won't be happy about losing their free suck on the teet of the US Taxpayer. So they would scream 'racism!' and anything else to shut the above idea down pretty quick.

Democrats for Wormtail!

read the post I was responding to.

And just how has the US ruthlessly punished the Cuban people? By refusing to trade with them?

To the extent that they suffer, it is entirely the fault of the strong central govt that you are so infatuated with.

I'm guessing that either you didn't read the article, or your ideological blinders kept you from und
The article quite clearly states the statehood would be the choice of the Cuban people. It would not be forced on them.

less than Vietnam and a lot ...
more than Hawaii.

What advantage statehood? They have a chance after Castro to form a open capitalist society. If we go in they will be burdened with useless schools, welfare, SSI, taxes and regulations, land use and land grabs and all the things we have imposed upon ourselves that are dragging this once great nation into the pit of oblivion. I for one would not wish the current state of affairs on anyone. While this is still a great land of promise I am starting to have strong fears that we are killing the golden goose. The political class int his nation is so utterly corrupt that I am starting to think we will sell the rope to hang ourselves. However, it is not the business class but the ruling class out of sheer power and greed. Of course Pelosi is merely selling us out for the children as she pointed out today. So like crystal meth we feel good whilst we wither and die.

and the reverse is true, we could/would buy the place from under them
All one must do is take a trip to any one of several places on the sea of Cortez like Rocky point mexico to see what Americans would do to Cuba given the rule of law to hang a deed on.
The locals would wind up cleaning rooms in the Cuba hilton and the like and living in inland slums since the beachfront property would be out of their reach when competing with American money for the land.

That's what they do now, so what's the problem?

Cuba's pathetic and you know it...
You are saying, Mark, that the problems suffered by Cuba today are the continuing fault of anything their government does? They were put into a time capsule in 1962. We agreed not to remove Castro or allow anyone else to. The Soviets agreed not to use Cuba as their armed forward outpost during the Cold War.

Fidel Castro had his 15 minutes, 45 years ago. He looks in the mirror today and he sees someone who used to be someone. A one-trick pony. A one-hit wonder. "I could have been a contender!" Yeah. Fidel Castro got into the political game when he was 20 and he did not finish college. He was 32 years old when he came to power in 1959.

Castro was used by Khrushchev in a game that got entirely too dangerous. Everyone took a deep breath and Cuba was marginaized into the fringes of history. We all wanted to simply forget about what almost happened. Just leave it alone. Russia and Cuba have almost nothing going on any more. Cuba's major export partners are the Netherlands and Canada.

When Castro is gone the Cuban people should have a chance to get back into the game. If your Judeo-Christian ethic needs someone to be a fault, Mark, then (yes) blame Fidel Castro. He was a moron. He was told "Go get 'em, Tiger!" by the Russians and he paid for it big time. What a sucker!

Castro should have retired to the suburbs of Paris like any self-respecting dictator some 40 years ago. But he's stubborn and unreasonable and his country is still paying for his pride.

Don't you think his picture at the top of this article looks a little like Saddam Hussein? And Saddam in his prime looked a lot like Joseph Stalin? Maybe it's just me. Thanks, Mark.

I'm guessing that you did not read my post...
I clearly stated that a democratic plebiscite would be an obscene joke perpetuated on the world by stakeholders (in the Cuban moment of opportunity) with the resources to manipulate the vote (if not to simply rig the outcome).

Come'on Mark. Look what democracy did for Palestine. Governments use democracy as a cover for their sovereignty whether they have one party or twenty. Politicians need the sanitization of democracy even when there is no real choice for the voter.

Citizens everywhere actually need "life, liberty, health and property". Sovereign states all over the world have done a terrible job delivering on their part of this bargain. The sham of democracy lets politicians blame the people when government fails.

Global financial capitalism operates as advertised and delivers the goods. Democracy may talk a good one (if you know what I mean) but capitalism puts out! Politicians should keep the streets clean and otherwise get out of the way.

There really must to be something better than what we are doing...a social paradigm that is "better, faster and cheaper" than the American model. We made a lot of money but something still seems to be missing, doesn't it?

Let folks without our baggage give it a try their own way. What can it hurt? If they come up with something better then we can always copy off their paper.

Of course...
That's precisely what will happen. When the time comes.

Brilliant idea but.....
it will really pisss off liberals as we see above. But I don't think it would work anyway because we know that liberals don't believe in 'self-determination', except for heir own couses. For example, they liked it for South Africa, but don't in other places like Cuba. Another problem would be that it couldn't be sexx-tourism captial as it is now. Another problem would be that if it happened while the millionaire mass-murder Castro is still alive, he would subject to all kinds of law suits, etc. and that would hurt the self-esteem of all the hollywood flakes and other liberals who have been supporting him all these years. It would also be a problem for Gabriel Garcia-Marques, the millionaire commie author who spends some time of the year in luxury with his friend Fidel. and he can't go back to Columbia either, where he comes from, because his own compatriots would kill him right away. The poor guy can only live in left-wing countries. Another problem would be that it would humiliate most other latin american countries even more than they are now. I suggest that Cuba become the freest place in the whole western hemisphere instead.

The problem with this idea...
How do you arrange 51 stars on a flag? Perhaps if we also invite Baja California, British Columbia, and Greenland, this could work.

The USA should think about making overtures ...
Alberta brags bad-boy attitude
Politicians promise national shakeup

Jason Fekete
CanWest News Service; Calgary Herald

Saturday, January 06, 2007

CALGARY -- Alberta is "the bad boy" of Confederation and will fight for its own rights as a nation, including a provincial immigration program and equitable treatment in Canada, the province's Intergovernmental Relations Minister Guy Boutilier said Friday.

His comments come as a leading expert on the so-called fiscal imbalance says Ottawa will likely release a framework to solve the federal/provincial funding feud by as early as February in the federal budget.

Boutilier's remarks also follow Alberta's new Premier Ed Stelmach's assertions in December that Alberta is its own distinct entity and will battle for the same rights as a Quebec nation.

They also indicate the Alberta government will stir things up on the national scene over the inter-provincial struggle for a new equalization formula and whether non-renewable resource revenues should be factored into the equation.

Boutilier said it's obvious Alberta is a "powerhouse" driving the national economy, and it's not afraid to ruffle some feathers as it fights for a fair deal with the provinces and Ottawa.

"We're kind of the bad boys of Confederation," Boutilier said. "What Albertans understand is this: they contribute immensely to this country of ours, but also we want to be able to benefit from it."

But Paul Boothe, an economics professor at the University of Alberta who recently helped oversee the equalization program for Ottawa, said the province is already reaping the rewards of its place in Canada.

Many of the workers who are driving the Alberta economy come from other provinces and have had their educations funded partially by federal equalization dollars paid to those jurisdictions to fund social programs.

"Confederation is working well for Alberta," Boothe said. "I'm not interested in Alberta being a bad boy. I'm interested in Alberta being a leader."


Prior to Castro's "revolution" Cuba had the highest standard of living in Latin America, not to far behind the US's.
It's not unreasonable to assume that Castro is the source of the Cuban's problems.

My post had nothing to do with the merits of statehood.
It had to do with forest's assertion that we would give the Cuban's no choice as to whether to accept statehood or not.

Happened before
While staying with a friend in NH who was a state senator years ago, he got a mysterious call and went to a very late night night meeting. Bank robber? Spy? Undercover cop? No a delegation of parliamentarians from all the Maritime provinces who wanted to tell us that if Quebec became independent, they wanted US statehood.

Only interests no friends
If the States do not take the world as partners is simply because that is the way the business works.

Cuba 51st State
First of all, Cubans will never accept being annexed. Fidel is dying. His brother Raul is not polular at all compared to Fidel. He will not last too long. The question is the future of a new Cuba. First and foremost, any change down in Cuba not only involves Cubans within the island but also Cuban Americans have to be a part of that change. For be it Cubans who live within or live outside, all Cubans are one nation and one people. For those Cubans who wish to exercise their right they will have just as much right to be part of the change as the Cubans within.

Also part of the economic recovery of the island will set forth by the Cuban Americans who have businesses, who are the bankers, lawyers, architects, engineers, developers and actors and artists and many others. The other part of the economic recovery will involve the newly discovered oil deposits in Cuban waters. They say that Cuba has more oil deposits than Mexico.

Also once the economy gets going again without communists, after holding elections after writing a new constitution which should be similar to the United States constitution Cuba will attract tourists to its beaches and as a result of people flocking to them all other beaches in the Carribean would probably have to close down for Cuba once again will be a magnet for tourists.

Not much danger, then
If the Cubans would say no anyway, where is the harm in asking them?

"Look what democracy did for Palestine. "

It gave the Palestinians EXACTLY what they asked for. Do you actually disagree with that?

Cuban can benefit
Cuba would benefit from statehood.
It would provide the stability and personal freedom that it needs.

Lillian - Cuba USA

radio appearance
Would any of you like to be a guest in our radio program? It's Tuesdays at 9:00 Eastern by phone.


If we were not into socialism, then the US would require Cuba to pay its outstanding debt before joining the Union, like they did with Texas.

Brief History Of Cubans
Yo stated of Americans having participated in the war for Cuban independence from Spain and that is correct. However, Cuba and Cubans for example fought in the Civil War for both the South and the North. Cubans however were more sympathetic to the Confederate cause as they too wanted independence from Spain. There is a book written by Philip Thomas Tucker called "Cubans In the Confederacy" and it tells about prominent Cubans who served under the administration of President Jefferson Davis.

Cubans and Southerners have a great deal in common like family ties and wishing to live in freedom. Also, during the Northern Blockade the South was able to receive material from the Port Of Havana to the Port of Mobile Alabama. Both Southerners and Cubans do indeed share a common history.

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