Time to Lift Embargo on Cuba

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 11:36 AM

By Chris Freind

In 1961, an American-backed paramilitary force stormed Cuba hoping to depose Fidel Castro. The counter-revolutionaries were thoroughly routed, proving a major embarrassment to the United States. That ill-fated operation came to be known as the Bay of Pigs.
  • Cuba, playa de Varadero

    Isolation of the US policy toward Cuba

For 53 years, America’s policy has been isolating Cuba through a strict embargo in the hope that its socialist government collapses. Given that a half-century has elapsed with no results, it’s safe to say that policy is flawed, and the leaders who refuse to change it are pigheaded.

But what else is new dealing with our own hemisphere?
America freely gave away its most strategic asset, the Panama Canal, gaining nothing. It is at odds with Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves. And it can’t gain Mexico’s good-faith cooperation controlling drugs and illegal immigration. Rectifying any of those is a tall order, no matter what party controls Washington.
But with bold leadership and foresight (along with a little humility), we can gain huge victories for freedom and free enterprise right in our backyard.
It’s called befriending Cuba.
To be fair, enacting the embargo on, and restricting Americans’ access to, Cuba during the Cold War, when Castro cozied up to the Soviets, was reasonable. Common sense should have told us that if it didn’t produce the desired results in several years, it would never work. But since political common sense is an oxymoron, the sanctions continue.
Consequently, American products are denied a huge market within close proximity. We lose access to cheap Cuban goods, and the relatives of Cuban-Americans continue to suffer while U.S. law makes family reunions in Cuba all but illegal.
Since it would be beneficial to lift the embargo, why aren’t we? Consider:
1. Too many presidential candidates (along with Florida’s congressional delegation) still bow to the demands of a small but highly vocal minority of Cuban Americans who detest “helping” a Cuba ruled by anyone named Castro.
It’s understandable to think that opposing this lobby could lose one the state (much like opposing ethanol subsidies in Iowa). But they have failed to see that the Cuban voting bloc is no longer tied to the embargo issue as it had been decades ago. Each successive generation not only places less importance on the sanctions, but view closer ties as the path to prosperity.
Being beholden to a special interest is never good, but placating one that doesn’t exist is stupidity.
2. Development in Cuba is on the upswing, fueled by European businesses snatching up prime real estate and business opportunities. If the embargo’s objective is to collapse the Cuban economy, it certainly can’t be successful now. Time for us to get in the game.
3. Fifty-three years of isolation with nothing to show? We can’t wait for three minutes at the drive-thru without complaining, yet we patiently adhere to a woefully ineffective law that will soon approach six decades of failure. What do we think will miraculously change? Anyone? Bueller?
Waiting for something that will never happen — so this it what it feels like to be a Chicago Cubs fan. Got it.
4. The embargo hurts the Cuban people by denying them economic opportunities. The way to winning hearts is through wallets, as a growing middle class produces stability and respect for the law. Yet that American lesson is not being taught.
5. Embargo defenders love to rattle off conditions Cuba needs to meet: human rights, fair elections, and freeing political prisoners. Gee, that’s nice. And it would be great if the world were filled with rainbows and lollipops! Except that it’s not. To make those demands shows a naïveté at best, and hypocrisy at worst, since adhering to those prerequisites would see our trading partners shrink to Antarctica and Santa’s workshop.
Take China. It violates human rights; ignores international law; sends toxic products to America; pollutes on a global scale; and rapes the land. Oh, and it has nuclear missiles pointed at the U.S. Yet American dollars have made it an economic powerhouse, so much so that Wal-Mart ranks as China’s seventh-largest trading partner.
So China gets a free pass, but Cuba, on whom we can exert infinitely more economic leverage, must be angelic?
In lifting the embargo, America would showcase that freedom and capitalism are its biggest exports. China still has a long way to go, but America has transformed that nation in a revolutionary way, guiding it toward liberalism (small “l”). A vibrant middle-class has been born, and they are tasting the good life as more freedoms are earned and opportunities realized.
If we can accomplish that with China, doing the same with Cuba would be a walk in the park.
So let’s build a bridge to our neighbor and tear down that wall.
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