Responding to The NYT editorial “End the US Embargo on Cuba”

By Clive Rudd Fernandez

Photo: Juan Suarez
Havana’s capitolio building. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — I was surprised to read the editorial from the New York Times on October 11, 2014, not because of the subject but because of the unconvincing and poor arguments presented. As a Cuban who’s lived in exile in Europe for more than 20 years, this subject is in my thoughts very often.

The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which was imposed on October 19, 1960, should be relaxed by Barack Obama by doing “a major policy shift [that] could yield a significant foreign policy success”.

This argument appears on the first paragraph of the op ed with an implicit message to Barack Obama urging him to do a major policy shift regarding the relations with the Cuban government and as a result he’ll improve his ratings.

This is where I couldn’t believe what I was reading. “Fully ending the embargo will require Congress’s approval. But there is much more the White House could do on its own.” So the op ed is not asking the United States to modify the law; the intention here is to go the less democratic way: the President with his executives powers should do some policy changes to undermine the embargo so much that could render it irrelevant and the objective: to score a political goal for the president!

Few paragraphs down in the text, it reads: “The generation that adamantly supports the embargo is dying off. Younger Cuban-Americans hold starkly different views”. So, I wonder, why the need to bypass the democratic route?

The editorial goes on and states that “a devastated economy has forced [the government in] Cuba to make reforms” and “over the decades, it became clear to many American policy makers that the embargo was an utter failure”. Both statements are clearly contradictory arguments.

The trade embargo affects the Cuban economy to the point that it’s a “devastated economy” so it “has forced Cuba to make reforms”, and on the same text it says that the embargo is not working? As a popular English proverb says: “You can’t have your cake and eat it (too)”.

Doorway at the old Havana wall.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Doorway at the old Havana wall. Photo: Juan Suarez

Another clear contradiction is that the editor is stating that “for the first time in more than 50 years, shifting politics in the United States and changing policies in Cuba make it politically feasible to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and dismantle the senseless embargo”. So the fact that Alan Gross has been unjustly imprisoned in Cuba for nearly five years and that “the authoritarian government still harasses and detains dissidents” is not a deal breaker?

After arguing poorly against the trade embargo the op ed goes to the implementation plan. This is a manual for the President on how to go about executing the policy changes:

“As a first step, the Obama administration should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorist organizations” and “Cuba was put on the list in 1982 for backing terrorist groups in Latin America, which it no longer does.”

“Which it no longer does?” How on Earth can the editorial board of the NYT make a statement like this? Most human rights organizations in Europe and the U.S. are at least skeptical on this. Cuba is a closed society where the government persecutes and imprisons investigative journalism; therefore we could assume a statement like this is at least unfounded. On top of that, the Cuban government has gone on record supporting Bashar al Assad in Syria, Hamas in Gaza and various people in power in Iran over the years.

The article also argues “It could also help American companies that are interested in developing the island’s telecommunications network but remain wary of the legal and political risks”.

This statement completely ignores what Bloomberg BusinessWeek published in April of 2009 the “[U.S.] Administration would let U.S. telecom network providers set up—and Americans pay for—fiber-optic cable and satellite communications facilities linking the U.S. and Cuba. The U.S. government will also license those companies to provide cell-phone services in Cuba, and allow satellite-radio and satellite-TV service providers to do business in that country”. This was more than 5 years ago, but the Cuban government doesn’t seem to be interested in losing its monopoly on telecommunications on the Island, so the answer by the Cuban government was: “thanks, but no thanks”.

After all failed arguments the op ed ends with the same driver that it started. “Given the many crises around the world, the White House may want to avoid a major shift in Cuban policy.” So, Mr. President, don’t miss this opportunity for a political win, go ahead a put your ratings back up.

Leaving completely aside the argument of how beneficial or not the embargo is for the United States and its taxpayers is already a big miss from this editorial- it also shows a dangerous historic amnesia. Don’t believe me? Ask President Clinton or Carter what happened when they tried to score on this particular front and you will see how quickly what seemed an easy score became mayhem.

9 thoughts on “Responding to The NYT editorial “End the US Embargo on Cuba”

  • “Unbelievable” how Sir MOSES and a couple of his “friends” here actually “think” and BELIEVE everything they say is the holy gospel TRUTH……Not just opinions….these are JUST OPINIONS guys…..take a deep breath and go read some poetry.

  • This is an appallingly bad post, so full of chiches and propaganda. More than that it lacks any kind of original thought or anything that hasn’t already been thoroughly refuted already. So where to start.

    The Helms Burton act was very cleverly set up to make it nearly impossible to dismantle. If a Democrat president wishes to end the embargo the congress will most likely be Republican and refuse. If there is a Republican President he or she is unlikely to want to remove the embargo and Congress can’t do it on their own. Unless Cuba capitulated to all the demands in the HB act. But this would include giving 50% ownership of property back to the descendants of Lucky Luciano and Al Capone. And that is highly unlikely.

    You are also making out that the embargo is somehow only an issue for the US. The embargo hurts real people daily. If you take Hilary Clinton’s figure then at least 15% of the lack of wages, crumbling buildings, prostitution etc are down to the embargo. Also parts of the embargo are illegal – they contravene international law and the US constitution. And a number of third party countries and companies which have nothing to do with the US/Cuban conflict have been stung. So talking about the more or less democratic way of removing the embargo really misses the point.

    Just because Cuba has a foreign policy which differs from the US is irrelevant. Either Cuba is a state sponsoring terrorism or its not. It’s as simple as that.

    Finally, there is no conspiracy behind events that happened during the Carter and Clinton administrations. Carter and Clinton both got hoist by their own petard, due to overblown rhetoric and dumb policies.

  • “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet” : See Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II

  • You make a very clear explanation of the political issue as seen in the US. President Obama has done as much as is politically acceptable in relaxing travel, trade & remittances with Cuba. For his trouble, he got nothing in return from the Castros. Political repression in Cuba continues as always and Alan Gross continues to languish in a Cuban prison. It is worth noting, the small Cuban-American caucus in congress, which includes both Republican and Democrats, all support continuing the embargo. There is no pressure on Obama to do anything more.

  • It is hilarious that an avowed atheist like you would use Holy Scripture to justify his fear of debate. For the umpteenth time, I call the Castro economic system “socialist” because Castro calls it socialist. Because you hold dear the utopian socialist paradise that exists only in your nocturnal fantasies, it would understandably offend you that Cuba, the former Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Vietnam and others would hijack this label for what are clearly failed or adulterated economies. I get it. Can you imagine how pissed off all the other “John Goodrich” are after reading your comments?

  • Cuba is not socialist.
    Cuba has a state capitalist economy.
    Cuba has not and never had a socialist economy which, by definition, must be run by the workers: from the bottom up.
    The only difference in Cuba and U.S. economies is that in Cuba the government is your totalitarian boss and not a single rich man.
    Neither is democratic in its class structure .
    You’re welcome.
    I will not respond to replies.
    Reason?: see Matthew 7:6

  • I support continuing the US embargo until the requirements set forth in law are met in Cuba. That said, the article claims there is a contradiction between a devastated economy and an ineffectual embargo. I disagree. The Castro economy has flopped because socialism does not work. Embargo or not, the Castros would have driven Cuba into the ground anyway. The embargo has failed in that it did not serve its intended purpose, that was to encourage the Cuban people to overthrow the Castro regime. There is no contradiction here. The author also seems to minimize the “politics” of public opinion. Looked at another way, if Obama were to promote a policy that was unpopular, his opinion polls would suffer and his ability to move his agenda would lessen. I don’t agree that there is a political groundswell of support for any US President to help the Castros get richer and engage in more oppression of the Cuban people. However, I appreciate the importance of considering how the public would react to any unilateral actions of the President to improve relations with Cuba. If Obama can’t show comparable moves by the Castros towards democracy, he could not make unilateral moves towards improving relations with Cuba without dire political consequences.

  • Thank you for the thorough rebuttal of the remarkably weak arguments in the NYT editorial.

  • Good analysis and excellent article.

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