tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT February 19, 2012 6:00pm-6:30pm EST
>> mr. secretary, good to have you here. what does it mean to be a cuban- american? >> well, i think it is a very special connotation, especially since unlike other latin american countries, we fled a communist country. workforce to leave it. we came to the u.s. without a passport or citizenship. -- we were forced to leave it. there is a special meaning for cubans. i think all generations and all people from countries are proud to be americans, but i think it is a special feeling for cubans
because we fled. had this country not opened its doors, we would be back in a communist regime that did not want us there. >> am i right that there were two ways around 1960 and then in the 1980's? >> that is right. 1960 was the first big wave. 1959 was the political leaders, and then 1961-1962 there was the peter pan wave, which were children who could not leave with their parents. they came to the u.s. in u.s. foster homes. the way i describe the u.s. to people back then was welcoming. i felt like people wanted me to succeed. maybe they knew what we had been through and what was going on in cuba, but i think it has always
been part of what immigrants perceive. >> in the 1980's it was people coming on very fragile -- >> yes, 1980 was a very different situation. it started out with a demonstration in the peruvian embassies. it ended up with a wave of 250,000 people. some fleeing political pressure, but some literally let out of jails who should not have been let out of jails. so the experience in states like arkansas and oklahoma that took some of these folks it was dramatic. >> was the castro basically saying if you want to leave, leave? >> it is a very good example of his tactics.
president carter at that time was very insistent upon political prisoners and free political prisoners, and he was very close to cuba. this is castro's saying you want me to flee prisoners, i will feed them all. come and pick them up and we will have them for koyou. >> you just used the phrase, " playing chess with castro" is that in a book? >> no, i just made that up. >> what a phrase. how many cuban americans do we have in the united states, and i guess the second part, we know a lot of the miami area and florida area but where else? >> of new jersey. union city was basically revitalized i would say by
cubans who came over. those are the two big areas. scattered all over the country. i run into cubans everywhere. >> if you could put all cubans together, which is an unfair question, what are the characteristics of cuban people? >> interesting that i probably did not fit the traits of the generalization, but tend to be very extrovert. a cuban party is the loudest thing you'll ever hear. optimistic. a lot of credence to wisdom, hard-working. sort of a go get em, kind of-- i think that is the nature of the island. the people who went there were in the middle of nowhere at the time, and you have to make things work. >> there is a kind of music.
son. it is responsible for a lot of different kinds of music. >> absolutely. it has had an influence throughout the hemisphere. samba, salsa. >> you are pretty good i hear? >> those claims are probably overstated. [laughter] i am probably the only cuban who does not like to dance. >> i find the latin-american music and south american music is a happy music. even when it is sad, it is happy. >> that is right. basic country music is about ballot, and i would say that is true, even when they're talking about someone left him, they say it with a certain amount of cheer. [laughter] >> a certain amount of relief in some cases. what is the united states'
official policy right out towards cuba? >> the official policy in walaw is until the cuban government frees political prisoners, allows of democratic movements and political parties and very importantly come is no longer run by the castro brothers, that business witho abudo cuba. >> how you feel about that? >> i believe because the playing chess with castro and his basic philosophy that we had no choice, fidel castro is first and foremost, anti- american. his political upbringing was anti-american. it is almost as though it became a tactic to ensure an anti-
americanism, but everything he did showed he did not want friendship with the u.s. when president eisenhower was almost obligated to cut the sugar quota, july of 1960 when we left, castro had the soviets. it was all a matter of time. >> we have diplomatic and economic sanctions with the country, and it will not change until the castro brothers are gone. >> president obama feels differently. there is a republican point of view, but i would say a democrat point of view. he is trying the philosophy that says if you show people what freedom is, perhaps they will respond, and then what we have said as republicans is it anything you do to help the
cuban regime will eventually go into the castro brothers pocket pockets. brother's' they do not buy more food, they buy more planes and fuel. what ever president obama does, that leads to freedom in cuba. i was reading this morning how little they know about what is going on in egypt. >> that was in my mind as you were talking. but take a little break. -- let's take a little break. carlos gutierrez is our guest. former secretary of commerce. former president and ceo of the kellogg company, the cereal company. founder of global political strategies, which is a division of apco, a boy global communications firm, and he just tells me as we're sitting down, vice chair of the clients group,
all of the international clients for some grocitigroup. sit tight. back on the other side. "this is america." >> "this is america" is made possible by -- the national education association -- association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. when sun corporation, forging a higher global standard. nson corporation, forging
a higher global standard. ctc foundation, the afo communication, and american light global network. >> q but 9 m -- 90 miles off the coast. it is several islands. >> yes, several islands, but there is the main land that is really the country. it is the largest island in the caribbean, so a small island compared to a larger country, but the largest island is a population of 11 million. >> what do people do there? >> welcome it used to be in this is the irony of a system that makes it illegal, but it used to be a lot of sugar. productions of 8.5 million kilos. they're down to 1.5 million. at some point in the future cuba
will start importing sugar, which is the epitome. nickel prices are down. pretty much raw materials. they have not manufactured come innovated. the incredible thing is before 1959, and there are things that were wrong with cuba and things that could've been done better, but before 1959 cuba could claim the first long-distance telephone call. the first international commercial flight. per-capita income was one of the largest in the hemisphere. it was a country with problems, but my goodness, it was really up-and-coming. today cuba has the per-capita income of the low was country in the hemisphere. >> columbus discovered a way back when, 1492, whatever it is. 400 years spanish-american war.
then it 1902 they got their independence. >> correct. -- 1902 they got their independence. cuba has been a country for 100 years, and 52 years have been under the rule of fidel castro. >> what triggered the revolution? the castro brothers? >> but he stuck when he first took over in 1983 was an army sergeant. -- batista when he first took over in 1983 was an army soldsgt. it was in the 1950's when an election was called, 1952, and he staged a two before the election -- staged a cuo before the election, which many
thought he would lose. that was the dictatorship that made people absolutely disgusted with him. of course people like castro took the damage of that feeling -- took advantage of that feeling. this is when the revolution began, july 26, 1953, fidel castro was a 28-year-old student. he attacked a military barrack with a bunch of students. it was a disaster. he was put in jail. he was able to make his own speech. defend himself since he was a lawyer. that speech thought out, printed, and it became pretty famous throughout island. it was called "history will of absolve me."
he went to mexico. they came back a year later that they bought from tourists called the grandma, as and grandmother. they took over in january of 1959. >> 1953-1959 is the period. you were born in havana. your dad was a successful businessman? >> he owns a 29% share of a pineapple export business. -- he owed a 29% share of a pineapple export business. at this point the minister of the economy came in. there is an old joke that says castro said who among you is a communist? they said what does it mean? if you will be minister of the economy.
he understands who amongst you is an economist? he was minister of the economy and signed cuban dollars, che, which people thought was a sign of disrespect. he was holding interviews with business leaders and business owners to say we want to buy your company. the seller would boast and try to sell so that they could realize how much was there, how much value. but he ended up taking the whole thing. ended up taking every single business in the country. >> they took over utilities? they started the repression all over the place. >> utilities, sugar, a corner bakery became a government business. dry cleaners, barber shops. no such thing as an independent business. they would say the barbershop
needs two scissors and this one needs this amount of soap, and that is the way the so-called system worked. >> at what point during his reign at did he so closely allied himself with the soviet union? >> that is a very good question, because that is all in the first year and a half. there are reports of course up before he took over in 1959 he sent his brother to talk to the soviets and had feelers out. in 1959 people were concerned at the types of laws being passed. every single day a new law being passed that more and more looked very ideological. at one point in 1959 the president up close to recover --
of costa rica was making a speech and said if you ever have to choose between the u.s. and the soviet union, accused the u.s., and he was pushed off the podium. when the sugar quota problem, when president eisenhower limited or took away the sugar quota, this was out of castro pushing and pushing, that is when he formally had an agreement with the soviets. then it was not until april 1961 that he formally declared himself a [inaudible] . by that time it was so obvious. >> you came when you were six years old. your dad ended up working in mexico, and then it you got your education there. at what point did you become a u.s. citizen or how did that work? >> u.s. citizenship is quite a
story, because for us it was quite easy. we spent two years in miami, three years in new york, and we became citizens in new york before moving to mexico. i remember the judge in the brooklyn courthouse saying you have more of a right that those who have been born here, because you chose to come here. it was all part of this welcoming attitude. so when we went to mexico we were u.s. citizens. >> got your education there. teamed up with kellogg down their driving and a trainee at the time. all of this and you jump to 1999 -- the question in my mind is when you went from mexico to michigan, how did you handle the weather change? >> because i have lived in mexico so long after that, for us it was coming back to the
u.s., and coming back to -- i had been here on vacation but coming back to the world's greatest country and a place where everything works. i remember going to a mall to order a phone, and they said what model would you like and what color would you like? i could not believe it, because at that time in mexico it was not easy to get a phone. even though it was battle creek, a very small town, it was the u.s. we came up in 1982 for two years and then went back to mexico. we actually did three stints in battle creek. >> you were on the chain up in 1999, president and ceo. the only latin american ceo at that time. fortune 500 company. >> i was the second cuban- american ceo.
ironically the first was a ceo of coca-cola. you can imagine he became ceo in 1984. i was general manager of kellogg mexico when i found out that another cuban-american had made it to ceo of coca-cola, the most american of brands. it was a great motivation for me. >> president bush tapped you to be secretary of commerce in 2004. you have always been at the forefront of free cuba, immigration policy in the united states. how do you see that? i clipped an article i mentioned right before we sat down of president clinton saying we need more immigrants. in the future you need immigrants. this is an article that appeared in "the washington post."
we have to settle that. i think the immigrants who come here -- this is immigrant country. case in point, your dad and family. they contribute so much. they have so much courage. their work so hard, and i just think it is fear. -- they work so hard. illegal people, another story. >> that is the problem, it is getting caught up in this time when we of 12 million people who are not here legally. whose fault that is a and our immigration laws did not really allow an immigration system to surface. >> and exploiting cheap labor. >> that statement is true. if we do not have more immigrants, we will not be the fastest-growing developed country, the greatest economy,
the world leader. >> president bush really wanted immigration policy. >> if gdp growth is a function of the number of people in the labor force and productivity of those people, either you are growing the labor force or you are growing productivity to a point that is almost unrealistic. our labor force, working age population, is not growing as fast as it should be. same thing in europe and japan. europe is having a hard time dealing with immigration. japan has never done it. >> what do you think is fair and reasonable? >> i would recognize extremes are not useful. so one extreme of sing let's forget about it and give everyone a passport is not workable. -- of saying let's forget about it and give everyone a passport
is not workable. >> it is not fair. >> it took me 14 years to get a citizenship for my son. that is a long story. you wait in line, and you go through the system. the other extreme is rounding up 12 million people and kicking them out, some who do not speak spanish and some who do not even know they are illegal. we had a system in 2006, a 700 page bill where you have to come forward and say you are here illegally, background check and find. if you passed that, you will receive what we called a z card back then come up really just a card to be able to live here. not a green card or passport. those who did not come forward or did not have the card, then enforcement -- then an arizona- type approach became almost a
necessity, because that was part of enforcing the law. and you would have to renew that every couple of years. that was a matter of debate whether it was every two years or one renewable. then you get into tactics, but i recall in addition to paying the fine in the background check, it took people 14-18 years to get a green card. there was plenty of penalty. the interesting thing is that most immigrants -- i think a good portion of immigrants would like to return home. they would like to go back with you was dollars and build a house and be a hero. so it is not as one-dimensional as we would like to think. >> i am thinking along with a hard look at some of the entitlement programs, we need to take a look at immigration as well. we are coming down to the end of
our time, so you get the last word. >> immigration would be a very inexpensive stimulus program. take for example nurses. we do not have enough. immigrants open up businesses. look at new york city, miami, the west coast. if we get our immigration system -- if we get a national immigration strategy, a lot more than what do you do with 12 million, if we get a system, a policy in shape that will help our economy, we will have an advantage for the next century. we will not look back. china will not have a chance. if we do not get it right, what a shame. >> mr. secretary, good to be with you. thank you for the education. >> for online video of all "this is america" programs, visit our web sites thisisamerica.net. "this is america" is made
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