Why the Cuban Embargo Should Be Lifted


By Stephan Vitvitsky

Tufts Daily
March 12, 2003

Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) have introduced a bill to Congress to end the Cuban embargo, named the "United States-Cuba Trade Act of 2003." All I have to say is: It's about time.

For the last forty years, the Cuban embargo has been an eyesore of US Foreign Policy on numerous levels. First and foremost, it has accomplished few of its goals. President John F. Kennedy began the embargo in October 1962 in order to punish Fidel Castro's regime for allowing the storage of Soviet nuclear arms in Cuba. Today, Castro is a billionaire and looks as though he will dictate Cuba until his deathbed. The embargo was supposed to place pressure on Castro to eventually reform the communist system in Cuba, promote democracy, and improve human rights. Today, Castro has a complete stronghold on all aspects of human life, the communist system still reigns, and the Cuban people have suffered immensely. One would think that after so many years of failure, politicians would rethink this ridiculous policy towards Cuba.

The embargo did have a national security rationale during the Cold War, as America was trying to contain communism and prevent a nuclear catastrophe. However, the Cold War ended in 1991 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. There is no more communist threat and the United States is the lone superpower of the world. So the embargo does not make sense in the post-Cold War world as it has outlived one of its main objectives by twelve years, quarantining countries allied with the Soviet Union.

What is worse than the failure and illogicality of the embargo is that Cubans have suffered from it. For most of the past forty years, Cubans have been denied essential American food products and medical supplies, creating incredible hardships for the people. The Cuban economy has lost billions in potential revenue from being restricted from trading freely with the United States. Cuba is poor, dysfunctional country of 11 million people that poses absolutely no threat to us. So why continue these harsh sanctions that simply hurt innocent people?

Americans have been hurt by the embargo as well, as a potential US multibillion dollar export industry in Cuba has been squandered to foreign firms and companies. The embargo restricts Americans' right to travel, a restriction that resembles the former Soviet Union's efforts to prevent their citizens from traveling to "problematic" countries.

Proponents of the embargo argue that lifting the embargo would boost Castro's regime by giving him more access to money and power. On the contrary, Castro relies on the embargo as it gives him something to blame his country's problems on, even though most of Cuba's problems are the result of Castro's own failed past and present policies and alliances. Allowing free trade with and travel to Cuba would undermine Castro by preventing him from tacking his country's woes on the United States.

In an age when the United States needs as many allies as possible, this embargo contributes to the way that many countries look at us scornfully as a bully who is unnecessarily harming his poor neighbor. We have far greater problems to deal with than worrying about whether US citizens are spending money in Cuba. It has taken far too long for the leaders of this country to rethink our policy towards Cuba and propose an end to the embargo.

Although dealing with Iraq and terrorism is currently the priority of our government, a decision to lift the Cuban embargo in the near future would be a monumental change in the lives of Cubans, Cuban-Americans, and Americans.

It would be a win-win situation for Cubans and Americans: cheap, high quality American goods such as food and medicine would circulate throughout Cuba and unique, cultural Cuban goods like cigars, clothing, and coffee would circulate throughout the United States. Both economies would improve, the quality of life would improve in Cuba, and Americans will benefit from being able to freely visit Cuba, a culturally rich, beautiful country with friendly, enthusiastic people.

It is time, finally, to end this counterproductive, nonsensical, and immoral policy towards Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba will not perfect life on the island, yet it is an important departure from the failure of the embargo and a step towards a more sound United States foreign policy.

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