Cuba: Snuff Out the Embargo

The U.S. should open up business opportunities by lifting its trade embargo against the island nation. Pro or con?

Update! Podcast: Hear writers Roger Johnson and José Azel respond to your reader comments

Pro: Free Up Economies

American policy toward Cuba is an abject failure. Nine U.S. Presidents have come and gone (and a 10th is about to depart); Fidel Castro has just resigned, yet his closest supporters remain in power.

The real victims of this misguided policy are the two generations of Cubans who have grown up under the U.S. embargo that has deprived them of access to U.S. consumer products. More important, it has isolated them from the ideals of democracy and freedom, the very things we most want for them.

In the meantime, other nations, including most of our closest allies, are openly trading with and sending tourists to Cuba. There is a substantial market there, especially for our agricultural products, and we are missing out on much of it. Embargoes are almost meaningless when the rest of the world ignores them.

Since 2002, North Dakota has exported nearly $40 million in agricultural commodities—mostly pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.)—to Cuba, despite the competitive disadvantage imposed on us by our own government restrictions. Lifting those restrictions would mean greater trade opportunities.

Cuba’s government is much like those of China and Vietnam, Communist nations that enjoy trade, tourism, and even the friendship of the U.S. Yet we treat Cuba, a tiny nation with virtually no political, economic, or military power, as a pariah.

The U.S. should end the trade and business embargo with Cuba and move quickly to allow tourism between our two countries. Most important, we should restore full diplomatic relations with Havana. Only then will we have the leverage to press the new Cuban leadership to restore human rights, establish a free market-based economy, and move to democracy.

Until we do these things, however, we will watch as others enjoy the benefits of trade with Cuba and play an active role in the development of the island. The U.N. General Assembly has voted repeatedly for an end to the embargo against Cuba, most recently by a margin of 183 to 4. It is time to admit we are wrong; it is time to change our policy—for ourselves and for the people of Cuba.

Con: Restrictions Make Sense

The effectiveness of using economic sanctions for political influence is an often debated aspect of U.S. foreign policy. The practice, however, is not new or particularly American. Pericles’ decree banning the Megarians from the Athenian market and ports helped incite the Great Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C.

In the case of Cuba in 2008, after nearly five decades of economic sanctions, the debate continues. Critics of the U.S. embargo note that economic sanctions have failed to change the nature of the Cuban government and have allowed the country to use the embargo for propaganda purposes. Abandoning U.S. trade restrictions, they argue, would expose Cuba to the “American way of life” and help foment social pressures for economic reforms and political liberalization.

Regrettably, this outlook stems from a U.S.-centric vantage point extrapolated to the Cuban government. Embargo opponents make the flawed assumption that the current Cuban government is earnestly interested in close relations with its northern neighbor—and willing to jeopardize its total control and 50-year legacy of opposition to Yankee imperialism in exchange for an improvement in the economic well-being of Cubans. Raul Castro’s recent speech to Cuba’s National Assembly should put an end to that notion.

The embargo is not the cause of the catastrophic state of Cuba’s economy. Mismanagement and the fact that “command economy” models don’t work lie at the root of Cuba’s economic misery. Despite the existence of the embargo, the U.S. is Cuba’s sixth-largest trading partner and biggest food supplier.

Moreover, U.S. tourism will not bring democracy to Cuba. For years, hundreds of thousands of tourists from Canada, Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere have visited the island. Cuba is no more democratic today. On what mystical grounds do opponents of the embargo offer that American tourists will do the trick?

There are many negative unintended consequences to unilaterally lifting the embargo without meaningful changes in Cuba’s political and economic model. Most important of all, it would ensure the continuation of the current totalitarian regime by strengthening state enterprises that would be the main beneficiaries of currency inflows into business owned by the Cuban government.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek.com Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

Steve L.

Economic sanctions against Cuba by the USA are wholly symbolic. The rest of the world has continued to tour and trade with Cuba this entire time--to what end?

Roger Johnson is an apologist for a brutal dictator. Cuba's problem is a dictatorial military-run Communist state, based on Soviet policies. Sadly, a situation very similar to Burma's. If something is to change, let it be Cuba's government, not American policy.

paul falcone

We trade with the Chinese and the Vietnamese, so why not trade with Cuba? The faster we do this, the faster we will have a free Cuba that would not go back to Communism. The only people who want to keep an embargo are a few big-shot Cubans who want to have all power in Miami.

sue

Revolutions happen when the people see that things can get better. If we drop the embargo, Communism will be gone in six months. There is no sensible reason to continue the embargo. It's an old policy left from a time when Communism was a world threat. It isn't anymore. We're just inflicting pain on the Cuban people and letting the dictatorial government use us as a scapegoat.

Jolynn

Embargoes really do nothing but stir up more animosity within the confines of where the people who are already suppressed live. I believe we should be more open to trade with Cuba. After all, it will definitely make Miami boom.

Bernie

If we can do business with China, we can do business with Cuba. Enough with the old hatred for Castro by the Cuban emigres who lost their wealth and power.

fadi ghosn

The embargo is directed against the Cuban people. Lift it, and play politics as much as you want.

Common Sense

I think it is time to try it without the embargo for 50 years--and then compare.

random

Economic sanctions only work when they're observed by more than one country. All the seething and growling about how Cuba is a totalitarian Communist state that doesn't deserve to have its trade embargo with the U.S. lifted until it changes, ultimately means nothing if Cuba gets what it needs from other countries. It's not being an apologist; it's simply noting that the trade embargo has no leverage since Cuba is freely trading with the rest of the world.

The idea that by trading with Cuba, the U.S. will lead the impoverished Cubans to forsake their dictators for a free market economy and a democratic government makes just as little sense. It's a quote from ideologues who made lofty speeches about how to win the Cold War, and current events show just how wrong they were.

In China, the world's capital of manufacturing trade, people have been getting ever wealthier for the past decade and a half and yet, they haven't had a revolution and overthrown their government in favor of free elections. Even in Russia and Ukraine, the most progressive countries of the former USSR and ones with the easiest access to U.S. and European goods, most elections are just ceremonial. The incumbent grooms a successor, nominates him, and people vote for the nominated successor. If there's an opposition, it's ignored because it doesn't have the power and presence to make its message heard. Even there, holdovers of the Communist system still persist.

If selling some microwaves and washing machines to the impoverished and the oppressed worked, the Middle Eastern dictatorships and autocracies wouldn't exist anymore. Similarly, if economic sanctions worked to unseat dictators, Iran would be holding free elections, its Supreme Council would've been just a bad dream, and the invasion of Iraq would've never happened because Saddam would've been ousted and jailed. Embargoes and sanctions are a tool to force a dictator to do something, but they're not going to unjam an autocrat from his seat of power. Only a populace with other choices for leadership can do that as we see in Pakistan.

Thomas Wieken

This is supposed to be a beautiful place to vacation. My parents were there just before Castro took over. The poverty was unbelievable. My mother always talked about the poor children. It didn't seem that trade with Cuba was helping anyone but Batista.

It really can't hurt to open trade with Cuba. What will we import? Tobacco and sugar? Why don't we build an ethanol plant there and use the sugar instead of wheat to make ethanol. Now that makes scientific sense.

Dave

In February, my wife and I stayed a week in a Cuban resort. I think dropping the embargo would be logical, particularly given U.S. trade with other dictatorial regimes. Just don't expect overnight miracles. Give it another 50 years or so, and everything will work out fine. Maybe the embargo should be retained for cars, though. It's great fun to see all those 1950s U.S. cars roaming the roads.

Alec B.

Could Steve L. please elaborate on where he draws a similarity between Burma and Cuba?

David

I have looked closely at the argument of José Azel above and I cannot, for the life of me, see any justification given for the continued implementation of an economic embargo. In essence, he argues that though the embargo has been unsuccessful, to lift it would not guarantee a successful change of government. That makes no sense.

Time heals all wounds, unless, apparently, you are a Cuban refugee. The beauty of the current Presidential race in the U.S. is that neither Obama nor McCain will be swayed by the interests of the Miami contingent. They have lost their wedge and not before time.

Steve M

The con argument presented is the usual Cuban exile rant: It denies that the embargo causes hardship, it denies that U.S. tourism would help democratize Cuba, and it cites "many" negative consequences of lifting the embargo, but doesn't explain a single one.

Cuban exiles dream of a devastated Cuba so they can roll back in with U.S. dollars and take over on the cheap.

The embargo, in my humble and unlearned opinion, is what has allowed Castro to maintain control by using the threat of the great evil empire of the U.S. Lifting the embargo would bring more democratic change to Cuba in a single generation than the last 50 years of failed U.S. policy.

Why is this even an argument? Even the Soviet Union collapsed. Allow Cuba to participate in the global market, and it will change, too. The only reason Cuba still exists as it is is because the U.S. keeps it that way.

Jorge

Out of stubbornness, the United States government continues to support a failure: the economic embargo against Cuba. Imperial arrogance dictates that the U.S. continue with this stupid policy. But it cannot hide from the condemnation that was delivered at the United Nations General Assembly last September, when, by a vote of 184-4, it condemned what Cuba rightly calls a blockade. George W. Bush: Put that in you pipe and smoke it.

Roger

Interesting how the Cuban leadership and Western liberals blame Cuba's failure on the U.S. embargo. Cuba can do business with everybody else, but still Uncle Sam is responsible for:

1) The economic hardship there
2) The political system (because it would change if the embargo would be lifted)

Nobody is responsible for their actions these days, and failure is always Uncle Sam's fault.

The best thing about the liberal whining is that they seem to be saying that a Socialist utopia can't work without being able to trade with the evil capitalists in the U.S. This whole issue is twisted and stupid. Cuba should be left to rot along with all things Communist. Nobody has any obligation to keep them afloat. If they want democracy, how about doing it themselves?

Lawrence

I am not against the embargo of Cuba. I object to the uneven way in which we decide which nations we will embargo or not. There is a case to be made that China is a far greater violator of human rights than Cuba is. I would seek constructive engagement with Cuba, and I would take a harder line with China.

Appleseed

I've been to Cuba multiple times. Each time, I was amazed at how a person reacted when I presented him or her with some small token of Canadian culture, i.e., a lapel pin. The conditions they live in are pitiful, to say the least. Everything is cement. Very few buildings are wood, due to lack of it.

Back here, I always read that economic sanctions will not unseat a dictator if he can trade with other countries. Quite right. So why is the almighty King George insisting upon the economic blockade of Cuba? Does he simply not see this, point because he can't or he won't?

Democracy is not a fix-all Band-Aid. It didn't work for Russia, after all. I'm confused as to why the American government seems to think that its brand of democracy is the way to go. Because, frankly, it's hardly a shining example of everything right with the system. Every time I see a news article about American government corruption, I can't help but think about the former Roman Empire.

Appleseed

Oh, and Steve L.: Please elaborate on the Cuba-Burma connection. Please do. A dictatorship is not always so brutal; Cubans have some of the best health care in the world and free education through college.

Rob

I took an inexpensive all-inclusive tour to Cuba last October for a week. It is spectacular in many respects, but the most obvious is the lack of Americans. The world really hates them, and Cuba actually outlaws them. The best thing that ever happened to Cuba and its burgeoning tourist industry is the elimination of Americans with their money and superior attitudes combined with economy destroying overconsumption. The last paradise in the Western World would be polluted if the embargo was lifted, and Cuba would become another Puerto Rico or Jamaica. Who needs that?

Lawrence

Democracy, by definition, cannot be imposed. However, that doesn't mean we have to support dictators. But we do support--or turn a blind eye to--dictators who serve our interests. No matter who wins the U.S. election, the embargo will stay in place. If trade with the rest of the world has helped Cuba so much, why is it still in utter poverty? Cuba is a flawed system.

cjacks

When the "U.S. interests" (meaning what the government wants) are such that it benefits itself, the U.S. will get involved to police others. Many countries do more harm than good to the majority of their people, and the U.S. government sits back. Let there be oil involved or other interests, and the U.S. will lie to have reason to invade. As soon as we need sugar for biofuel, watch what happens to Cuba.

Paul

There is nothing more "anti-American" and "anti-free-enterprise system" than an idea that does not work. That is supposed to be the kind of stuff that socialism is made of.

Looking at an embargo that has not produced anything positive in 50 years, I state that it is essentially "anti-American" and "anti-free-enterprise." The proof would be in trying the opposite. Why not try it? Why not be "pro-American" and "pro-free enterprise?"

hon

Embargoes are morally wrong and against free market ideas, no matter how morally reprehensible the country. And Cuba is no Burma, silly goose. It's much more advanced. Have you ever been there?

Armando

Cannot believe the ignorance of the embargo. The embargo was instituted when the murderous Castro regime stole all the property, Cuban and foreign alike. Those who state that we trade with other Communist countries do not seem to know that those totalitarian regimes paid the debts for the stolen properties. It is not the embargo, stupid. It is the system that does not work. Venezuela, which is becoming another Cuba, thanks to the monkey king wannabe dictator Chavez, is implementing food rationing. Hey, there is not a U.S. embargo there. The only embargo is the one imposed on the Cuban people by the ruling oligarchy. Cannot believe you guys support the apartheid system.

Eduardo

As a Cuban-American, I believe it is time we drop the Cuban embargo since it has not accomplished anything other than helping Castro use nationalistic fervor to rally his nation and consolidate power. The USA needs to be smart and let all Americans travel to all countries they desire. Freedom for all Americans. Cuba will eventually follow.

John

Lawrence pretty much got to the bottom of it.

The U.S. hates Cuba because Cuba defies the American hegemony system. That's why "we do support--or turn a blind eye to--dictators who serve our interests." America never cared about tyranny per se; it just always wants the tyrants to pledge allegiance.

Jon Towne

Free up nothing. Until that murderer is dead, the United States need not lift a finger. Once that jerk is gone, then let's see if Raul or whatever his two-timing name is relents to the U.S. what it wants. Time is on our side--don't you think? We kept the nukes off the island, and we kept capitalism off the island. What do those poor people have? Nothing, except Fidel Castro. Castro is and was a horrible dictator who will go down in the annals of history as a foolish puppet of the Soviet empire (not). He should be buried at sea, in a swarm of great whites.

Havanalena

To keep doing the same and expecting change--some call that insanity. Well, for almost 50 years the "embargo" has accomplished nothing. If Cuba had not been forgotten in the last century maybe through trade, health organization, and more, the island could have been infiltrated a lot more easily. Sounds conspiratorial? Well, politics is full of that substance. Work from the inside out. All but the music has been blocked off from the rest of the real world. The oppression the Cubanos and Cubanas have endured should at least be helped along by providing them goods, medicine, and faith.

Jerome

It's always seemed a tad hypocritical that, for decades, we have been trading with Communist China. If only Cuba wasn't so iconic in the cold war, perhaps all this nonsense could have been put to rest years ago. The prospects for oil and oil-related profiteering may well be the turning point in the Cuban embargo. There is money to be made in Cuba. Therefore there is reason to lift the embargo.

Jojo

The embargo is stupid and should be ended. For one, I think we could use Cuba's sugar cane to make ethanol, which might free up some of the land we are currently using for the same purpose to grow food to feed people, instead of giving first priority to powering our automobiles. Of course, this will make Midwest farmers upset, so they will be heavily against any change.

Wai L. Chui

The embargo has nothing to do with any geopolitical arguments or reality. It is just an expression of the hatred of the American political establishment toward Fidel Castro personally. His refusal to die young or collapse with the Soviet Union is a source of endless annoyance. All these talks about how dismantling the embargo will not bring democracy to Cuba is just a smoke screen.

Any argument for maintaining the embargo applies to China. The difference is that Cuba is small enough that the price paid by the U.S. is low. It is low enough to be maintained decade after decade.

If the man living across the street is annoying to you, would you not be willing to pay an affordable price to get back at him in some ways?

gary reads

Ask Fidel to write a letter of reflection, an apology to the Cuban and American people for allowing his revolution to become a stage for the USSR in its play for violent global hegemony. If Castro, despite his expropriations and incarcerations and Che-revolutions and proxy wars, had not offered his country as a strategic nuclear base against the U.S., he would not have become so demonized as a watchword for Communist treachery. He was the present, demonstrable, and lethal threat to the security of the U.S. for an entire generation.

Fidel caused the alarm to be rung to the entire American electorate, and justified the massive expenditures of the 1960s defense against the projected remote threat of the USSR. In effect, America could not ignore the threat of the USSR due to the machinations of two brothers--disaffected children of the elite. Fidel Castro, Big Brother personified, did more to inspire the American defense of the West against global Communism than any other man on earth. There should be a Cold War monument to him on the Mall.

Raul is a relic and, despite his murderous past, ought, with brother Fidel, be finally relegated to the dustbin of history.

Negotiate foreign ownership of private property with Raul, promise him and his tottering henchmen retirement waterfront condos, and unleash the developers, casinos, cruise lines, and Donald Trump on the "Cuban Dream" Isle.

Ted Pert

It's ironic that Russia, which was a communist nation for years, has abandoned the idea and Cuba still follows this outdated and ludicrous system to the detriment of its people. Please abolish these barriers.

Bert Corzo

The United States government's embargo has had little effect on the Cuban economy, since it only represents 10% of Cuba's commerce with the rest of the world. The embargo only affects the American companies and their subsidiaries. The rest of the countries, at 152 since the last count in 2004, and companies are free to conduct business with Cuba and are doing so, as confirmed by imports surpassing $5 billion during 2004. In reality, there has not been such an embargo since the year 2000, when the United States Congress lifted the prohibition of the sale of agricultural products and medicines to Cuba, thereby allowing the Castro tyranny to buy everything it needs by paying in cash.

From December, 2001, to February, 2005, the Castro regime signed contracts for more than $1.26 billion with American companies for the purchases of their products in cash payments. The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, based on analysis of official figures of the Castro regime, has estimated the import of U.S. agricultural products at $392 million during 2004, converting the United States to Cuba's sixth-largest business partner.

The remittance of the exile community has been estimated at $1.1 billion. The $1.1 billion a year sent by the exiles to Cuba correspond to 59% of the $1.85 billion of the island revenues during 2004.

What the Castro tyranny really wants are loans and lines of credit guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury Department, since it doesn't have hard currency to pay the interests on the lines of credit for the importation of merchandise. The European Union has suspended credits to Castro's regime due to lack of payment of the $500 million in loans. These credits will not be paid, and the American taxpayers will be the losers, the ones to pick up the debt, as it happens at the present time with the taxpayers of Spain, Argentina, Canada, Venezuela, and other countries.

The Cuban economy's bankruptcy is the sole responsibility of Castro's regime. Under this system, the economy will continue to slowly deteriorate without any hope of improvement. The economy is closely linked to the social development and standard of living of the Cuban people, which makes it very difficult for the improvement of those under the existing regime.

Cuba's problems are not the result of the embargo; they are due to the corruption and ineffectiveness of a system that is against private property and free enterprise. These and no others are the real reasons of the problems. Lifting the embargo and travel ban, without meaningful changes in Cuba, will:

1. Guarantee the continuation of the current totalitarian structures.

2. Strengthen state enterprises, since money will flow into businesses owned by the Cuban government.

3. Lead to greater repression and control since Castro and the leadership will fear that U.S. influence will subvert the revolution.

4. Delay instead of accelerate a transition to democracy on the island.

Robert J Todd

What I heard from the Cuban people was, "We like you; we don't like your government." Nary a word about not liking their government. What a lovely vacation I had--a bit worried when I ran very low on cash, but roaming the streets of Havana while broke proved to be the most educational part of the trip. I'd love to go back, but I'll have to wait until we get our freedoms returned. By the way, we are made poor by the high cost of education and health care. The Cubans are poor, but their education and health care are rights, not a burden. Did you happen to note that their infant mortality rate is superior to that of the good ol' USA?

Michael A Jamail

Yes, now open trade with Cuba. As a right-wing Republican, Bush can more easily open trade than a Democrat. Do it for the sake of Cuba's people, for the commerce of the USA. Free markets mean free people; more trade means less war. Yes, yes, yes.
Mike

Che Choi

Not sure if this is really about Communism/socialism vs. capitalism/democracy. There is a huge trade with China and great economic benefit with it. This sounds more like a "my way or the high way" type of mentality. Shouldn't the leading country in the world lead other countries with good acts rather than arrogance? Why so afraid of a failed form of government?

Moe Badderman

Just look at what a runaway success the embargo has been: in only 46 years (as of last month), it made Castro resign! Just imagine what it could accomplish in the next 46 years! We need not do business with the repressive Communist regime in Cuba--we have our trade partners in China for that!

Clark

"More important, it has isolated them from the ideals of democracy and freedom, the very things we most want for them." If our embargo didn't separate these Cubans from the ideals of democracy, Castro would have. It's not as though our embargo is the sole reason that these Cubans are separated from these ideals. I think the fact that many of them try to swim over to Florida (in rafts, etc.) shows they have the ideals of democracy. I think they've got a pretty good idea about what they're missing. Why else would they risk their lives swimming over here in rafts?

Come to think of it, what exactly does it mean to "separate someone from the ideals of democracy"? It's a very grandiose statement with, I'm afraid, little real meaning. It's a vague comment. Does it mean to separate someone from the privileges democracy grants? Does it mean to keep someone from the desires of democracy? I'm not exactly sure I know what the author is trying to say by this.

By the way, in reference to the comment about our missing out on the benefits of trading with Cuba: I really don't mean to sound like a snob--I really, really do not. But what kind of resources does that little country have to offer on a mass scale? Are we really missing out on that much?

cw

Maybe we could cut a deal; we will drop the embargo if Castro will allow Cubans to freely travel. It's ironic that the revolution in Cuba was mainly against the political-industrial complex of the times and now Castro blames not having access to it as a major reason for Cuba's failed economy.

duke1247

I believe we should open a line of communication with Cuba when Castro is dead and buried. If the post-Castro government is open to trade, tourism, free enterprise, and some sort of democratic principles for its peoples, we can negotiate and work toward ending the embargo and bringing the two countries closer. If not: status quo.

Scott D. Smith

No question, we should open up trade with Cuba. Only by trading with Cuba will the real benefits of capitalism be known to the people there. In addition, it really makes the flaws of socialism show.

Virginia

There is an undeniable separation between touring a country and actually living there. During a mission trip last summer, I saw firsthand what help the country needed. On the streets there was always draining sewage and dirty stray dogs. I even saw a woman eat out of a trash can more than once. It is true that the Cuban government has hurt Cuba more than the embargo, but still, the embargo has put a cap on the recourses for the Cuban people. A house farm in the La Marina neighborhood in Matanzas was their solution to provide vegetables for the neighborhood (which had, by the way, the filthiest streets, and there was sewage everywhere). Despite the Communist government, if America ended the embargo, then that could potentially boost the Cuban economy. That will take time though.

Anyway, I would also like to point out that Cubans are very aware of their situation, and how two self-absorbed governments have pushed the beautiful Cuba into the mud. The Cubans push through with a natural perseverance though, despite any failed efforts to dig themselves out of poverty.

I would also like to note that the embargo also restricts travel, and is very tight on immigration. I met a Cuban Presbyterian minister who had not seen his grandchild since 2003, thanks to the embargo. So, keep the Cuban people in mind when you think about the consequences of the embargo.

Derek Pauley

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Johnson, and he is an intelligent man. The Cuban dictator is gone, and reform is imminent. Chinese geologists are working on found oil near Cuba, Cuba has a strong medical community, and it is 90 miles from the port of Miami.

Why not change the current currency regulations as a starting point?

Joan Chianti

I find it ironic that many people are at the same time for embargoes and a free market. They seem not capable of understanding that no wise government will surrender to the free market with the knowledge that at any moment Uncle Sam can impose an embargo and crash its economy.

The main advocate of the embargo is the Bacardi empire that hopes to get back its possessions in Cuba. José Azel is nearly certainly paid by them. Given the damage they have done to Cuba, it might be more appropriate to give their U.S. possessions to the Cuban state.

What all those embargo lovers forget is that people have more needs than democracy. By denying them those needs, they show themselves to be people-haters. Only when we allow Cuba to build a sound economy will the ordinary people become interested in democracy. The democracy through poverty that the embargo-lovers preach will only create a new Battista era where a small class robs the economy and the ordinary people can vote between two groups of robbers.

charles

So let me get this straight:
1) The trade embargo is a relic of the Cold War.
2) The trade embargo has accomplished negligible results for either country.
3) Our allies trade freely with Cuba, yet we won't.
4) We trade with other Communistic-type governments/regimes--yet not Cuba.

So, can anyone tell me what the sanity is, of keeping this Cuban Embargo going? Because I haven't seen any rational argument for keeping it.

Joe

The trade embargo against Cuba is a joke and an affront to our free enterprise system. The best way to spread democracy is via people to people contacts. Cuba will be free someday soon. No government can squash the God-given stirrings for freedom in the human heart.

Mike E

The government of East Germany fell because the people had direct contact and trade with West Germany. Trade will open up the contacts, lines of communication, and opportunities for transition. The embargo just strengthens the regime and allows Castro to use the U.S. as a scapegoat for his socialist economic disaster. The Miami Cubans will keep supporting the embargo until they get their property back, but that will never happen. The other reality is that the Miami Cubans are much better off economically than their long suffering island compatriots. If the U.S. could open up a million lines of communications with the people of Cuba, the regime will fall.

Randy

How about this crazy idea? I should be free to travel to Cuba because I am--supposedly--free.

Ed D

I find it very insulting that our American government continues to block most trade and relations with Cuba because a few very rich and powerful white ex-Cubans lost their property. All over the world, on a regular basis, governments take land and property from their citizens for the "good of the country." I, for one, do not advocate this kind of behavior, but this is a reality. Governments of all countries do this, even the United States government. What many have been blind to is the abject poverty and near slave-like conditions people of color had to endure before Fidel Castro took over in Cuba. I am a true American, not a Communist sympathizer, and yet I see through eyes that reveal the injustice forced on the Cuban people because the greater mass of Cubans in Cuba are people of of color, and to me, this makes all the difference in the world as to why our government, almost alone in the world, continues to have a trade embargo when the rest of the world simply ignores it. Racism continues to color our slant on other parts of the world, and this needs to change.

Sam R.

Pro and con arguments aside, the U.S. embargo has done absolutely jack to unseat the Cuban Communist government. Even if you assume nothing will get better if we start trading with Cuba, what exactly are we worried is going to happen? Are they going to become...more Communist? Yeah, the country probably isn't going to magically become some democratic wonderland, but I highly doubt the world is going to come to an end if it becomes legal to buy Cuban Cohibas in the U.S.

Anatoliy N

Ending the US embargo would somewhat strengthen Cuban economy and, consequently, its government. I am not convinced that having a more prosperous, unfriendly neighbor is more beneficial than having a neighbor who is trying to make his ends meet. Certainly, the despair might result in unreasonable and therefore, truly unpredictable behavior such as providing support for anti-US terrorist activity. However, Cuba is ruled by a secular dictator and this fact significantly reduces the chances of the island turning to a suicidal course of actions.
At the same time, it is important to recall why the sanctions are still in place. Cuban government violates most of the basic human rights and the fact that rest of the world does not adhere to the sanctions does not necessarily mean that the US “got it all wrong.” Clearly, not trading with Cuba while embracing Saudi Arabia looks rather preposterous, but I would stop short in accusing the US government in exhibiting double standards. If today you couldn’t stop a football team from beating up a kid on a street it does not mean that from now on you should not come to anyone’s rescue. The US is doing what it can under the given circumstances.

raina

I think we should stop the embargo on Cuba. We should open up imports and exports so we can what they have and they can have what we have. Cuba is recognized as a poor country, and I think if we open up trade with them, they will become more efficient. If we open up trade with Cuba, we could probably close down the factories. We have to have more room for a little more important things. Why trade with someone far away when Cuba is closer?

azuno rodriguez

Cuba Embargo
Castro should have paid for the stolen properties
By: Azuno Rodríguez

"When an injustice is committed even against a single citizen the whole country should stand firm to correct that injustice. That's a sign of greatness"

The embargo in and of itself, is simply the refusal of the Castro regime to pay US citizens compensation for their seized properties. Had Castro paid, there would never have been an embargo.

During 2008, in a typical anti-American display, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted, almost unanimously, for a resolution asking the USA to lift the Cuban Embargo. They made a gross mistake because they were asking the wrong government. They should have asked Cuba instead, which is actually the only government that could unilaterally lift the embargo.

Was the purpose of the UN vote to help Cuba rise from poverty through commerce with our country? It is unanimously evident that we are such an economic and generous power that even though Cuba can trade with all the countries on the globe, that it would perish if unable to trade with the US; am I missing something? I know that we are the greatest Country on earth, but I didn't know that we were greater than all the rest of the countries combined. Thanks to all UN members for holding us in that high regard. Obama listen to their clamor: no change.
One thing remains clear from that UN vote: The USA is the only country who cares about the human rights of the Cuban people.

At the risk of being repetitious, let's review a little history for many who appeared to have forgotten: After Castro seized the property of US citizens without compensation in 1960, President Eisenhower was forced to cease commerce with Cuba and in February of 1962 President Kennedy enacted a commercial embargo against Cuba freezing their assets in the USA.

Then in 1960, realizing that much of the existing machinery and equipment on the island was American made and required spare parts from the US, the Cuban government called a meting of its technical personnel. Experts from the Soviet block were going to instruct Cubans how to stand up to the embargo that had just begun. Some thought the Communists could teach the Cubans how to build those spare parts. A Hungarian technical "expert" opened the meeting and said "all you have to do is: buy through a third country" that was the beginning and the end of the meeting. That is how Cuba has been circumventing the embargo. Today products made in Florida by Cuban-Americans can be purchased in Havana's dollar stores.

The seizure of American properties in Cuba was brutal, hateful and infuriating. For example, when Castro seized the Moa Bay Mining Company, a subsidiary of the Freeport Sulfur Company of Louisiana, it represented an investment of almost 90 million dollars, doubling the Louisiana's company's assets. Prior, and during a span of five years, the Louisiana Company developed a new process for extracting nickel and cobalt from the ore of Moa and during 1960 they were starting production runs. The final product was to be refined in Freeport. Then, Castro's agents came to town in 1960, and gave the Americans 24 hours to close the plant and leave the island.

I am still ashamed by how my country treated and dispossessed these people of their property and livelihood. Most anyone who witnessed this first-hand would have shed a tear. I know because I knew them. As an engineer at Moa Bay I worked everyday hand-in- hand alongside Americans and Cubans. Bear in mind that only a small percentage of the personnel were Americans, most of the employees were Cuban engineers and laborers; my countrymen were being economically and emotionally raped by Castro government. In addition, the closure of the plant crippled a small town that was thriving economically because of its proximity to Moa Bay.

The plant was closed for over a year. Then Guevara asked some of Moa's engineers, including me to help re-open the plant. I refused and surreptitiously left the Country within days when I was accused a traitor by Che Guevara. When the plant finally opened there was no market for its product. The final product of the plant could only be refined in Freeport Louisiana. The plant was opened by Che Guevara for the sole purpose of teaching the Soviets the process we created of extraction of nickel and cobalt through a new revolutionary chemical process of which the Soviets didn't know anything about. Even if just for this single transgression, the embargo should only be lifted if Castro himself financially compensates those honest hard working Americans that worked at Moa Bay, along with an apology accompanied with a plea of forgiveness. Anything less will be immoral and criminal.

During a meeting in Europe, a few years ago, a Spanish military officer asked a closed friend of mine, Humberto Esteve, the following question: "Why is it than the Cuban diplomatic corps want the embargo lifted and our intelligence sections inform us that the Cuban military does not want it lifted? Humberto didn't have an answer.
Let's be clear, neither the Executive nor Congress could, unilateral remove the effect of the embargo. If commerce is open with Cuba, the Courts will be flooded with demands and financial embargoes by the citizens whose properties were stolen by the Castro's barbaric regime, and, that, ladies and gentlemen will be a much worse embargo than the one in place now.

For us to lift the embargo prior to 1992 it would have been a travesty of justice, an insult to every American citizen that lost his properties without compensation and an act of disrespect for this Country. Castro could have lifted it by paying and apologizing for what they robbed and then we may have talked about doing business with them, otherwise tell them and those here that wanted it lifted to go to hell.

Thanks to the efforts of the Cuban-Americans in 1992 the embargo was enacted into law as the Cuban Democracy Act and in 1996 the Helms-Burton Act was passed by Congress. Both of these were enacted to help the political freedom of the Cuban people. It provided further restrictions on any American commerce benefiting the Castro Regime. Now if Cubans are granted total freedom you can be sure that Washington will accept the return of the stolen properties or will credit the new free government on the Island the money necessary to compensate the rightful owners. UN General Assembly it is the Cuban dictator move; not the USA.

Let's make Cuba free

Birdman

I suspect that if Cuba was buying up 25% of our nation's debt, there would not be a embargo or sanctions against this country. Double standards for the Chinese? What hypocrisy.

Paulo Cesar Negrão de Lacerda

U.S. was trading with Saddan Hussein in the 80s, with China today, with many dictatorships in Latin America (Chile, Brazil, Argentina etc). Why only Cuba must be put under embargo? It makes no sense. I hope Obama puts an end to this maniac politics that hurt the US and Cuban people.

Anne

Was the purpose of the "embargo" to end the Cuban tyranny? Or was it just a sanction to a dictatorial regime that expropriated American companies and said with pride "Yankees go home"?

If the answer is no to the first question, then the embargo has not failed.

The claim should be for the Cuban regime to stop the internal embargo it imposes over the Cuban people. That is the real embargo that is causing all the suffering in Cuba.

Mr.

It seems many of you are not very well informed about economics. Or more important, you are falling into philosophical fallacies or claiming grandiose statements with little or no evidence.

You condone the entire Cuban system, meaning every single one of the policies that make it up. You claim that the entire socialist system is horrid.

And yet about 70% to 80% of the Russian population say that their lives were better before 1980. Not wonderful, to be clear, but better.

Perhaps you should have a look a Russia today or Pravda to get a feel.

Join the Debate

 

Participate More!

Please send us your ideas for new Debate Room topics. If you're an academic, association officer, or other industry expert and would like to write a Debate Room essay, send us a query. Questions? See the

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!