Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The United States has had an embargo against Cuba since 1962. In 1992 this embargo became codified as the as The Cuban Democracy Act. This has been the longest economic and travel restriction embargo in U.S. history. It is time to end these trade restrictions and open the doors of commerce and travel to the people of Cuba. The question is not whether the embargo was ever justified, but rather is there any sane reason to keep it?

On February 19th, Fidel Castro announced that he was stepping down as president of Cuba. At 81 years old and with failing health, the long reign of this dictator has all but come to an end. While the mantle of power has been handed over to his brother Raul, at the age of 76, even his position as head of state cannot be too long lived. The Heritage Foundation argues that, “The United States should keep existing policies in place until Cuba makes real progress on political reforms and human rights issues.” This is shear ignorance.

Embargoes have never been an effective tool to change the internal policies of another government. The U.S. embargo of North Korea has been a sham. Our embargo of Iran has been ineffective. All embargoes seem to do is to entrench anti-American sentiments while black marketers, frequently American controlled, make huge sums of money providing the very resources that are the target of such embargoes. Such actions further drive the recipient of these ineffectual embargoes into the hands of those we distrust,
such as Russia or China. History has shown that the best way to deal with those we distrust is to keep the channels of trade and communication open. Look at China. While it is certainly far from a bastion of democracy, a large percentage of goods consumed by Americans are “Made in China.” They have only made minor strides in human rights and democratic reform and yet, they are one of our largest trading partners.

We are all familiar with America’s “cultural imperialism.” Those who trade extensively with the U.S. frequently succumb to the American way of life. Coke and McDonalds is no stranger to China and while travel is somewhat restricted, Americans can go to China and share our way of life and thinking. Change may be slow, but there is change. At the other end of the spectrum is North Korea. By keeping North Korea from participating with the rest of the world community, we have kept that country in the dark ages.

With economic and cultural contact we see many countries that have at least taken initial steps towards improved human and political rights. If we open the door to the Cuban people and increase our economic and cultural ties, we will see change in a more positive direction. If we continue to treat the Cuban government as our arch enemy, then the new leaders that wait in the wings will have little choice but to continue to work against American interests. To demand change before we allow contact and trade is hypocritical. One has to merely look at some of our trading partners to see that this has not been the cardinal rule of American foreign policy.

By ending the embargo now, we will help raise a new generation of Cuban leaders that are more friendly towards our interests. The people of Cuba have suffered long enough. End the embargo now and perhaps we will even get a boost for our ailing economy.

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