Sunday, April 12, 2009

Time to End the Cuban Embargo

When it comes to US foreign policy, one of the hardest things to make sense of is the embargo against Cuba that was started during the Kennedy administration back in 1962 because of Fidel Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Since then, the Soviet Union and the Cold War have ended. And Fidel Castro through his brother Raúl still rules Cuba despite our attempts to force him into a more democratic government. Talk about the classic definition of insanity!

Much of what has maintained this policy towards Cuba has been a number of politically active groups consisting of Cuban exiles and their families. Presidential candidates of both parties have dared not openly question the value of the embargo out of fear of losing the Florida electoral vote and with it, possibly the presidency.

But more rational thinking is finally taking hold. According to a recent CNN poll
Three-quarters favor relations with Cuba.

A new poll shows that two-thirds of Americans surveyed think the U.S. should lift its travel ban on Cuba, and three-quarters think the U.S. should end its five-decade estrangement with the country.

The Obama administration has signaled that new rules on family travel and remittances to Cuba may be announced before President Obama goes to the Summit of the Americas on April 17.

A group of senators and other supporters unveiled a bill March 31 to lift the 47-year-old travel ban to Cuba. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, a sponsor of the bill, issued a draft report in February that said it was time to reconsider the economic sanctions. Lugar is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

So it is understandable that reporters asked VP Joe Biden during a recent summit in Chile about
lifting the embargo.

When asked by reporters at a summit in Chile if Washington plans to scrap the decades-old embargo, Biden replied: "No."

He and President Barack Obama "think that Cuban people should determine their own fate and they should be able to live in freedom," Biden said after taking part in the Progressive Governance Summit of leaders from Latin America, Europe and the U.S.
Insanity lives on!

It’s awfully hard to find any plausible reasons to continue this embargo. The only reasoning I see is the viewpoint that ending the embargo signals our approval of the Castro regime as in this
op-ed article by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Lifting the embargo will confer unmerited legitimacy on the communist regime of the Castro brothers. Raul may lack Fidel’s charisma and ego, he may be more tolerant of dissent and he may be less of a primadonna, but he will call the plays using Fidel’s playbook.

Raul Castro won’t relax the rules of the totalitarian political game. Until he does, the U.S. shouldn’t remove its primacy sanction. The embargo remains as much as ever a matter of basic principle, a proportionate response to Cuban repression.

Not even the most fervent advocates of normalizing relations with Cuba approve of Castro or his government. It’s a question of what we hope to accomplish by the embargo. And more importantly, are we harming the good people of Cuba more than we are harming Castro in the process?

While the embargo may indeed be helping to cripple the economy of Cuba, instead of the people blaming Castro, they are more likely to heed the word of Castro that instead blames all of their misery on the US.

But what is more absurd than anything else is the huge double standard we have on the issue of dealing with totalitarian nations. We not only don't threaten embargoes to other totalitarian nations, we often grant them
Most Favored Nation trade status. Notable examples are China and Vietnam which are no less communist than Cuba. In addition, monarchies can also stifle personal freedom as much as communism. But we haven’t threatened not to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, have we?

Indeed there are those who feel that ending the embargo would not only help the innocent Cuban people who have economically suffered under Castro’s rule but would also
be good for the US economy.

By ending the Cuban embargo, President Obama has the opportunity to help both the Cuban and American people. By allowing travel to the island nation, Cubans can get a taste of the freedoms we as Americans take for granted. Cubans will be exposed to our fashion, music and technology which will stimulate a desire for freedom and personal wealth.

Travel to Cuba will also generate much needed dollars for the Caribbean Nation which was devastated by four hurricanes last year.

Castro had previously refused all aid from the US for its hurricane victims due to the embargo against his country. But when Hurricane Katrina struck, Castro offered aid to the victims, a humanitarian gesture that could well have paved the way for more normal relations between the countries. But sadly, the Bush administration
never responded.

Even George P. Shultz, who served as Secretary of State under Reagan, in a 2005 interview with
Charlie Rose has gone as far as to call the continued embargo "insane". We can only hope that the Obama administration will someday soon see the light and end the insanity!

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