End the Embargo of Cuba

You may have heard that the US has an embargo in place against Cuba. US companies may not trade with Cuba. US citizens are prohibited from travelling to Cuba (except under special circumstances). Congress has passed a bill that makes the embargo even stronger, and imposes sanctions against any country that trades with Cuba.

A embargo is something that we normally do in times of war. Sometimes we use an embargo against a country whose misconduct has been condemned by the international community, but that is not the case with Cuba. Why are we at war with Cuba?

We have taken the most drastic measures imaginable against a country that poses virtually no threat to us. We have invaded Cuba (more than once), we have tried to asassinate Fidel Castro (many times), we have a naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba (how would you feel if Russia had a military base on the US mainland?). We are attempting to starve children and other civilians. Why?

I am not a communist, and I am not defending Cuba or its political and economic systems. I just don't understand why we are at war with them. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get even a plausible answer to why we have an embargo against Cuba. Here are some of the (not so plasible) answers that I have come up with.

Because they are communist.
Well, China is communist and we trade with them (China even has most favored nation trading status, and until after Nixon went there we wouldn't even recognize them as the legitimate government). We trade with Vietnam and most other communist countries (what's left of 'em). We even traded with the Soviet Union back when they were our sworn enemy.
Because they are close friends of the evil Soviet Empire, and are only 75 miles from our coastline.
Someone forgot to tell the US State Department that there isn't an evil Soviet Empire anymore. We are even giving aid to Russia now. And the Soviet Union itself was closer to the US than Cuba is (honest! only a few miles from Alaska).
Because they make really good cigars.
Hey, this one is actually almost plausible. After all, a major sponsor of the bills to make the embargo stronger is Jesse Helms, the (wacko) senator from North Carolina (a state whose economy is dependent on tobacco). Go figure.
We have hated them for so long, we have forgotten the reasons.
If we suddenly changed our minds and started trading with Cuba, it would be embarassing to us. We might have had reasons to hate them in the past: The Soviet Union used to rub our face in Cuba; Fidel snubbed his nose at us, and got away with it. It seems like the only thing the US government can't forgive is being laughed at. We have forgiven Russia, China, and Vietnam, but we cannot forgive Cuba.
Politics.
To me, this is the most likely reason. In the US, small but fanatical groups can wield disproportionate polical power (this was built into the constitution on purpose, to protect the interests of minorities). There is a large Cuban-American population in Florida that absolutely hates Fidel Castro. Many of these people have reason to hate Castro -- they were rich landowners or businessmen who had their property seized during the Cuban revolution in the late 50's, and some have had family members imprisoned or tortured. These people will automatically vote against anyone who displays any sympathy with Cuba. I have heard that if this bloc had voted against Clinton in Clinton's first run for president, then he would have lost Florida. And if Clinton had lost the electoral votes of Florida, then he would have lost the election. Because most people in the US don't care about Cuba (or even know much about it), it is easier for the politicians to appease this bloc and avoid making them angry.
The only way this stupidity can stop is if the rest of the country wakes up and starts asking why we are at war with Cuba. Here are some reasons we should end the embargo with Cuba.
Because we look stupid.
We are interfering with the affairs of a separate country. It doesn't matter if we don't like Castro -- it is not up to us to choose the leaders of other countries. There are countries with far worse leaders, and we don't have embargos against them. If Cuban-Americans really want democracy restored to Cuba, then the last thing they should want is the US deciding who can or cannot be in charge there.
Because it is illegal.
The United Nations has condemned the US embargo against Cuba. The vote was every-country-in-the-world versus 2 (the US and Israel, and Israel was probably pressured by us). The embargo makes us look like a meddling imperialist bully of the worst kind.
Because it is wrong.
If you have ever wondered about the reasons why some people in the world don't like us yankees, here is a pretty darn good example. We are supposed to be the good guys.
Because it isn't working.
The effect of the embargo has been to make the Cuban people hate our government, not their government. In fact, it is pretty obvious that Fidel would be much less popular if he didn't have the US to blame for his country's problems.
Because we are missing a business opportunity.
Cuba is a prime market for US trade. Because we are the only country that doesn't trade with Cuba, we are missing this opportunity. Instead, Japan, Canada, and Mexico are doing lively business down there.

Why do I care?

I'm not Cuban. I don't have any close friends who care about Cuba. I guess I want to live in a country that doesn't act like a childish bully. I am also personally offended that the US government says that its citizens cannot freely travel to Cuba. And what I saw in Cuba makes me believe that we are doing grevious harm to innocent people.

What you can do.

I guess the best thing to do is talk. If the majority of Americans tell them that they think the embargo is wrong, then the politicians will listen.

For more information about Cuba, contact Global Exchange. They have a Cuba reader (compiled by Diana Downton) that contains reprints of articles about Cuba from well-known sources (for example, Time, Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, Business Week, Miami Herald, New York Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Examiner). I have found Global Exchange's reporting on Cuba to be fair -- they include sources from both sides of the issues. Global Exchange also runs legal trips to Cuba. Contact them at Global Exchange, 2017 Mission Street #303, San Francisco, CA 94110, phone 415/255-7296, fax 415/255-7498, email globalexch@igc.org.


People have sent me letters about the embargo (both for and against), some of which I have included here.

Here is a link to one such piece of email. Please read it. It has good information on things you can do.

Here is a link to email from someone talking about Castro.

Here is a piece of email from someone who thinks that Clinton will end the embargo. See why.

Here is email from someone who wants the embargo strengthened, not lifted.

How do people in other countries view the US embargo against Cuba? Here are some letters from people in Canada, Puerto Rico, and the UK who have visited Cuba.

Here are letters from Cubans (living outside of Cuba).

The Center For International Policy has a series of articles about Cuba and the embargo that I highly recommend, especially "The U.S. - Cuba Imbroglio."

Finally, there is an EXCELLENT article in the March 11, 1996 issue of The New Yorker magazine, called "Mutually Assured Stupidity", about the embargo and the downing of aircraft by the Cuban military.


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