One of the last acts of the 109th Congress was to declare the nation of Vietnam a "favorite nation trading partner."
This officially opens up opportunities for businesses from this nation and the Peoples Republic of Vietnam. President George W. Bush was a big backer of this legislation and is proud that we now have an open business relationship with this communist country.
The big mystery of the present day is why we run to communist nations such as China and Vietnam for friendship and favorite nation status and, still, officially abhor neighboring communist nations such as Cuba. Located 90 miles off our shore, Cuba is treated like a pariah. One would think it was the most oppressive and anti-democratic nations in the world.
The reality is, it isn't. In fact, Cuba is a product of U.S. foreign policy — just like Vietnam. How Vietnam became our good friend and Cuba is officially taboo is a prime example of the confused and awkward foreign policy of the United States during the past 60 years.
Vietnam was under French colonial rule for more than 100 years. The Japanese imperial army took over during the 1930s and provided ruthless oppression. The Vietnamese fought back and from this struggle evolved a great hero, Ho Chi Minh. Ho led his people to victory, at great costs, but still victory. Immediately after World War II ended in the mid-1940s, the French thought they could walk right back in.
Ho once again led his people to victory in 1954. Ho offered a national election to decide who should rule. It was quite apparent that 80 percent of the popular vote would go to the Communists. Thus, our government resisted a democratic election and plunged the nation into a manufactured civil war. Before you knew it, we had more than 600,000 troops on the ground.
After the American intrusion, Vietnam got back on its feet and has become a Communist nation that is rapidly learning the advantages of capitalism. It is now a major trader in fishing, coffee and tea. There is peace and an evolving prosperity.
So, if we can now love Vietnam, what is our problem with Cuba?
Cuba had been a possession of imperial Spain for hundreds of years. A slave state, it developed a Black population that today represents about 70 percent of the national population. The United States stole Cuba along with Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines from Spain during the Spanish-American War.
Cuba and Puerto Rico should have become official states of America, but their Black populations were too large for our Jim Crow South to align itself with.
Unlike Vietnam, communism was nothing new to Cuba. Since the 1920s, the Communist Party had been a player in the Cuban political landscape. It didn't become a major entity until the U.S.-sponsored economic oppression by an elite upper class and the business enterprises of the Mafia became too much for the Cuban people to stomach.
They rebelled, and the disgust was so large that Fidel Castro marched into downtown Havana in 1959 with only 600 troops and took the nation. Castro nationalized all businesses and told the oppressors and opportunists to leave immediately.
Cuba is still communist but its people certainly enjoy more freedom then the Vietnamese. It has never gone to war with the United States.
So, what is our problem? It is time to look at Cuba for what it is — a nation ready to do business. If Vietnam meets the test, then so does Cuba.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder and president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.