Guest column: Cuban Embargo has been 50 years of failure

Ty Gilligan

February 2012 marked the 50th Anniversary of the US trade embargo against Cuba. President Kennedy put the embargo in place as punishment to Fidel Castro’s regime, and the U.S. hoped the embargo would force Castro into accepting democratic reforms and allowing more political and economic freedom for the Cuban people.

However, 50 years later, the Cuban embargo has only succeeded in decreasing the quality of life for Cubans, pushing the Cuban government towards leftist allies in South America and has given the Cuban government a scapegoat for their economic and political mismanagement. Furthermore, the US maintains the Cuban embargo despite many other countries having equally poor human rights records.

An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in February 2012 showed that 62 percent of Americans supported re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, with only 23 percent disagreeing. Additionally, 51 percent supported ending the trade embargo.

The current embargo includes several stringent requirements. For example, vessels which dock in Cuban ports are prohibited from entering the US for 180 days, no article produced with more than 10 percent Cuban components can enter the US, and companies that do business in Cuba are often denied US visas, according to Reuters.

No other country in the world embargoes Cuba like the US does. In fact, every year for the past 20 years a United Nations resolution has been passed condemning America’s embargo against Cuba.

In 2010, 186 countries signed the embargo condemning the US and only the US and Israel voted against it, according to the Associated Press.

The first way the Cuban embargo is counter-productive is that the embargo does not affect its intended target: the Cuban government. Although the embargo harms the Cuban government’s access to credit and foreign investment, the Cuban people feel the day-to-day effects of the embargo, but the embargo actually has the opposite effect in terms of undermining the Castro regime.

The Castro regime is able to use the embargo as an excuse for their failed economic and political policies. Instead of being held responsible for their economic shortcomings, the Cuban regime is able to blame them on the United States. Ending the embargo would end the excuses and force the Cuban government to be responsible.

The second way the embargo is counter-productive is that it pushes Cuba towards leftist governments in Latin America. Due to economic necessity, Cuba has close relationships with the Chavez regime in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

If America were to allow economic relations, Cuba would not rely on other un-democratic regimes for support.

The third way the embargo has failed is that the reasoning behind the establishment of the embargo is inconsistent and outdated.

The Freedom House 2012 Report, which ranks countries on their levels of political and civil rights, rated Cuba “Not Free” and placed it in the same category as China, Laos, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia among others. China and Saudi Arabia actually had identical scores to Cuba.

Interestingly though, the US does not have economic embargoes against either of these countries, according to the US Treasury. In fact, according to the 2010 US Census, China is America’s No. 2 trade partner and Saudi Arabia is America’s No. 10 trading partner. So if the embargo is truly being maintained because of “moral” obligations to freedom or democracy, then we are being very selective about who these morals apply to.

President Obama deserves recognition for lifting bans on Cuban Americans ability to travel to Cuba and for sending remittances to families in Cuba, according to the Associated Press. These are moves in the right direction.

America should continue to slowly scale back the embargo and eventually end it completely. It is also vital for the US to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba.

I am confident once the US embargo ends and diplomatic ties are reestablished, America’s economic and diplomatic influence will help move Cuba towards democratic reform.

One thing America has historically failed at is acknowledging its mistakes in foreign relations. The Cuban embargo, a holdover from the Cold War era, is a prime example of outdated and ineffective policy and should be ended.

Miami U. via UWIRE