Should the US Embargo on Cuba be Intensified, Relaxed or Eliminated?

The embargo / blockade (the term used by Cuba) must be lifted completely and unconditionally, for the good of Cuba and the United States.

Pedro Campos and Armando Chaguaceda

Photo: Ernesto Gonzalez

HAVANA TIMES — The letter that 44 renowned US personalities wrote President Obama, calling for a relaxation of the embargo on Cuba, has given new impetus to the old debate about the real effects this policy has on Cuba’s political situation.

Those who signed the missive, convinced that the embargo has not achieved its objectives, believe the time has come to make it as flexible as possible, and that this could create the conditions needed to strengthen a civil and economic society independent of the government which would take root on the island in the long term.

Contrary to this, those who support maintaining and/or stepping up the embargo believe that relaxing this policy would be tantamount to giving Cuba’s outmoded regime – today mutating from a form of State monopoly capitalism, concealed by State socialism, into State capitalism, under the command of the same leadership – a breath of fresh air.

Even if we respect their freely-assumed opinions, we cannot help but conclude that neither of the two camps are considering how inherently harmful and clumsy the embargo is, owing to the negative consequences it brings the people of Cuba.

For over fifty years, the policy has had no impact on the lives or the power of Cuban leaders. It has, rather, helped them justify their economic disasters and their anti-democratic practices. Above all else, it has allowed them to present themselves to the world Left as the great anti-imperialist champions and to avoid total international isolation.

The two positions appear to hold, to a considerable degree, that US policy towards Cuba is a decisive variable for the future of Cuba’s government. While it is impossible to deny the geopolitical weight of this neighboring country and the impact it has had on our short history and small nation, this should not lead us to buy into the neo-Plattist propaganda of the Cuban government, which insists Cuba’s problems stem, in the first place, from its contradictions with the United States and that, as such, overcoming these depends on how such contradictions evolve and, above all else, on the embargo.

The chief cause of the economic, political and social disaster Cubans endure is the system established in Cuba in the name of socialism, the revolution, the working class and “Marxism-Leninism.” State monopoly capitalism, headed by Havana’s military, managerial and ideological elite, is the main obstacle to the development of a prosperous, progressive and democratic Cuba that could make a peaceful and gradual transition to a higher form of post-capitalist society, availing itself of its enviable geographic position, the human (and economic) capital of its transnational community and breakthroughs in the economy of knowledge.

Cuba’s top leaders know the model has failed, even if they do not openly acknowledge this and are not willing to let go of the main reins over the economy and politics. Hence the overdue economic reforms, fraught with inconsistencies and contradictions, which make no significant changes to the country’s political system.

We mustn’t forget that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the onslaught of the so-called Special Period crisis, the Cuban government was able to remain afloat, contrary to innumerable predictions, owing to a series of factors. These included the strategic cunning of its top leader, an expert in the strengthening of his personal power within the bureaucratic apparatus and endowed with a mystique that continues to kindle the faith of a sector among Cuba’s older generations.

Photo: Ernesto Gonzalez

Another decisive factor was centralized control over the economy, which allowed Fidel Castro to arbitrarily direct and manage the country’s available financial resources, as well as the single-party political system, where those “above” impose directives as to where, when, and how to participate in the steering of national policy on those “below”. All of this was executed on the basis of significant control over information and varying degrees of systematic repression of autonomous thought and political activism.

Today, the social foundations of the victorious camp that wields this power are a military, bureaucratic and intellectual clientele that enjoys both benefits and pardons (tailored to suit their loyalty) and the support and/or passive acceptance of a broad impoverished population, to whom the government has provided some degree of (currently decreasing) basic social protection.

In addition, the nationalist banner, hoisted in response to the United States’ hostile policies (with the blockade/embargo as the centerpiece), and the discourse of “building socialism”, have awakened profitable sympathies in broad sectors of the international Left.

The opportunistic use of international contradictions and problems for securing political and financial support, the selling of tourist, medical and professional services (all with high profits owing to the degree to which Cuban workers are exploited in these sectors) and the appropriation of money coming from the émigré community, forced to pass through the State in its contacts with families, the sending of remittances and products, travel and legal procedures – are variables that help explain the continued hegemony and resilience of Cuba’s post-revolutionary regime in recent years.

Such a stage leaves no room for violent confrontation and places the more regressive forces of the past and present – in Cuba and abroad – at a disadvantage. Those of us who support a participative and democratic form of socialism are called on to struggle for our ideals through civil, institutional and democratic ways and mechanisms, as other political forces will surely do. For this to be possible and so that the Cuban people are the only ones responsible for their fate, the sovereignty and right to self-determination of the Cuban people, curtailed today by both Havana and Washington, must be respected.

In keeping with this and in view of its destructive and clumsy nature, contrary to international law and public opinion, for the benefit of the people of Cuba and the United States, we believe the embargo must be lifted entirely and unconditionally.

All of these elements, though not without economic components, are essentially political variables, and political matters are dealt with political measures. Internal repressive and restrictive actions must be countered by measures that favor the liberalization of society and talks between peoples, which should not exclude due condemnation of human rights violations, but not with sanctions that only serve to consolidate the “city under siege” mentality and the political control of the elite. The US embargo, seeking to undermine the Cuban government’s economic foundations, only endows it with enormous political capital.

Foto: Ernesto Gonzalez

The practical unviability and moral crisis of Cuba’s current political model and regime having been demonstrated, the embargo policies only serve to stabilize the precarious balance maintained by its last redoubt.

We believe that any assessment of this issue must consider not only the implications the embargo has for the United States (whose international prestige has been eroded by successive condemnation by the UN and unanimous opposition from Latin America – but also (and most importantly) the damage it has caused the Cuban people, be it through the real shortages its measures have caused (affecting medical supplies used in the treatment of sensitive conditions such as cancer, for instance) or be it by having afforded the government a pretext for keeping the island’s citizens in a state of civic and material precariousness, compromising the historic ideals an struggles of the Cuban Left.

When we consider all of these elements and assess the impact of US policies on Cuba, we have to recognize that both the limitation and scope of the embargo policies have till now proven counterproductive in terms of bringing about a change in Cuba’s political system and encouraging the democratization of its society. By contrast, we believe that its complete elimination would directly or indirectly undermine a good part of the foundations that sustain its centralized political and economic “system” today.

Of course, the complete lifting of US restrictions could afford the Cuban government some commercial benefits which could be taken advantage of by its obsolete business and financial system in the short term. But it would also bring to the fore the structural shortcomings of its current model and would deprive its leaders of the political weapons they wield at home and abroad.

The government would have to adapt to these new conditions, change both its discourse and actions regarding the “enemy”, for calls for defending ourselves “against the threat of imperialism and its mercenaries” would lose all sense. The authoritarianism and centralization that prevail today would have to give way to progressive changes across the country’s economic, political and social system.

A peaceful democratization process could be facilitated by and even impelled by segments of the State apparatus and loyal intelligentsia. This would benefit the work of those who call for a democratic and pluralistic Cuba, “with everyone and for everyone’s benefits”, without vendettas or exclusions, a Cuba where all human rights are respected, where harmony and peace prevail over violence and hatred and political and economic forces struggle in a context where there are equal opportunities for all.

68 thoughts on “Should the US Embargo on Cuba be Intensified, Relaxed or Eliminated?

  • And I go further yet: if Cuba still has some semblance of economic added value that maintains its accounts is because the dissidents and Cuban refugees in Florida thriving send annually a few billion U.S. dollars to their relatives that Prison Island to NOT DIE OF HUNGER, this is the truth outspeak, Cuba’s economy can only be sustained even a shambles precisely because the United States of America. This story of the “embargo” is the biggest deceit that Cubans communists can bluster.

  • So you don’t trust Cuban-Americans to decide for themselves whether they want to trade with the Cuban government or not. US always knows what’s best for Cuba. Same old Plattist mentality I’m afraid.

  • I will agree with you that the US does not have a great record of supporting democracy in Latin America. However, they are improving. I point out that the Left in Latin America has an even worse record on democracy and that the Cuban and Soviet interventions in Latin America were totally opposed to democracy.

  • A technical point: the US is a Constitutional Republic which includes a liberal democratic electoral system.

    A pure “democracy” has no fundamental laws and the majority at anytime could pass any law it wanted. Such a system would lead to chaos and tyranny. The Founding Fathers recognized that danger and therefore wrote a Constitution as the fundamental law of the land. America has been well served by their foresight.

  • Who ever are the candidates, the issue of Cuba and the embargo will remain very minor issues in the Presidential campaign. The big issues will be the US economy, healthcare reform, & immigration. National security and foreign affairs issues will involve the Middle East, Pakistan/Afghanistan, China, Russia, North Korea and Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Cuba is way down the list of important issues. Canada and the Keystone XL Pipeline are more important than Cuba.

    If Rubio is the Republican candidate, he might mention Cuba & Venezuela in the debates, as an issue he feels he has some traction on with which to attack his opponent. But there will be no deeper significance to the issue than a bit of rhetoric.

    Come election day, aside from the small voting block of Cuban-Americans, the embargo will not be on anybody’s mind. Sorry to be so blunt, but the US voter is just not that interested in Cuba.

  • You missed the point, dani,

    The Castro regime controls ALL import and export business in Cuba. They also control all foreign investment deals. The US government would have no say in who the Cuban-American businesses do business with as that choice is entirely up to the Cuban government.

    There is no way to move this forward so long as the Castro regime insists on controlling all business in Cuba.

  • Yes, I am aware of where Rubio travelled to. He is still well informed about the problems inside Cuba. I only visited Havana once and saw the prostitution along the Malecon. Rubio isn’t making it up. And as I pointed out, Senator Rubio talks about other more serious issues in Cuba, like the lack of democracy and human rights.

  • You present a false choice between the Castro dictatorship and the poverty of the slums of Lima. How about the choice between the Castro dictatorship and Canadian democracy & prosperity?

    Note that Cuba funded, trained and armed FARC for years and even helped them ship their cocaine to Florida. Cuba still supports similar terrorist organizations around the world.

  • The explicit aim of the trade sanctions was to force the Castro regime to pay compensation for expropriated assets and to respect human rights.
    The poor living conditions – and take Raul’s word for it not mine – are due to the mismanagement of the economy and agriculture by the Castro regime.
    I state the obvious, you deny the obvious.

  • I want to thank all the commentators who have participated in the discussion of this article, for the richness of the debate. I just want to add two points. Recognising
    how difficult it will be for the U.S. to lift the blockade / embargo,
    which I explained in a previous article, I can not stop to acknowledge
    that it is counterproductive and lacerating the interests of the Cuban
    people, for the reasons stated in this article . Another
    question: unfortunately, the policy toward Cuba norteameriana has had
    much to do with the influence in the Congress of the Cuban-American with
    a very biased about the problems of Cuba approach. Since
    Marcos Rubio, who aspires to be the presidential nominee of the
    Republican Party is criticizing Clinton’s book Hillarie where
    casaualmente notes that the embargo should be lifted for the same
    reasons explained in this article. And because Clinton criticizes considered a possible candidate of the Democratic Party. If
    Republicans point to Marcos Rubio to be Hispanic to win the minority,
    Democrats seek to Clinton win the women, who are more than Hispanics. If
    the candidates are finally Marcos Rubio and Hilarie Clinton, you can
    already see that the Cuban issue, will be on the agenda of the
    presidential debate.

  • Amnesty says “the restrictions…help to deprive Cuba…” Note the presence of the word “help” – what other factors are there that the embargo “helps”?

    Could it possibly be that the economy is so unproductive that Cuba cannot possibly afford to buy essential materials even though they are available?

    Maybe it is that the Cuban economy is so restricted by obsessive centralism that any sort of independent productive initiative, even when it is a cooperative venture, is stifled

    Perhaps it is that no social activity is allowed to exist unless it is initiated and controlled by the Party whose power is threatened whenever change is called for.

    Progress will not come without change, and change never occurs without political struggle, and political struggle is prohibited in Cuba. Blaming the US for Cuba’s poverty and absence from the world’s stage is no longer a viable concept.

  • I strongly support this article and believe that, before any real substantive change can occur in Cuba, the embargo must be removed. Few countries now observe the embargo en toto, and Cuba should be able to purchase its essential supplies from China or elsewhere. The embargo now serves only as an excuse for the ruling party to maintain its suppression of civil society and monopoly on power.

    To those who oppose lifting the embargo because it might give a “breath of fresh air” to the current government – I would just remind them that a fresh breeze can blow away a lot of bad smells.

  • If it was just during the cold war it would be one thing, but the same policies were applied before the cold war eg the banana wars and after eg the coup in Venezuela. During the cold war there were also plenty of occasions where the US could have backed a liberal or social-democratic opposition in Latin America but prefered to back an outright dictatorship. At best democracy comes at about 10th on their list as a kind of “nice to have”.

  • What? Are you joking? I am an eyewitness to PNR (Cuban cops) engaging in a “catch and release” scam with jinateras and their chulos for a piece of the action. The Castros apply a cosmetic amount of pressure on prostitution in order to fool folks like you I suppose. There is a women’s prison in Marianao which is full of former prostitutes. Most of them readily admit that they only reason they went to prison for their crime was because they failed to make the right deal with the cops. Rubio’s Miami also suffers from widespread prostitution but this site is called HavanaTimes so what goes on in Miami or Mabuto is irrelevant to the issues facing Havana.

  • The Cuban government comes down hard on prostitution and foreigners and jineteras are stopped and questioned. Where else is prostitution hindered in the Americas and in Rubio’s Miami?

  • Who can deny that all the children in Cuba attend school and are well nourished as opposed to the wretched street kids in other Latin American countries. Cuba has done well considering the 50 plus years of the embargo. It is also moving in the right direction in economic policy and allowing citizens to travel. The US could have a positive effect if it removed the embargo and quit using the lie that it is a state sponsor of terrorism. Note that the peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government are taking place in Cuba.

  • The US could give Cuban-Americans the freedom of choice. If Cuban-American businesses wanted to trade with CIMEX they could, if they didn’t they wouldn’t have to. Or as a start allow only trade with the private sector even if it wasn’t utilized straight away. There are plenty of ways of moving the situation forward.

  • Griffin, in case you didn’t know it Rubio went to the US Guantanamo Naval Base on occupied Cuban territory. There may be heavy prostitution there at the base but it is not much of a vantage point to see the problems of Cuba the country.

  • “The Western Allies turned over increasing authority to West German officials and moved to establish a nucleus for a future German government by creating a central Economic Council for their zones. The program later provided for a West German constituent assembly, an occupation statute governing relations between the Allies and the German authorities, and the political and economic merger of the French with the British and American zones. On 23 May 1949, the Grundgesetz (Basic Law), the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, was promulgated. Following elections in August, the first federal government was formed on 20 September 1949, by Konrad Adenauer (CDU). Adenauer’s government was a coalition of the CDU, the CSU and the Free Democrats. The next day, the occupation statute came into force, granting powers of self-government with certain exceptions.”–90)#Marshall_plan_and_currency_reform

    That looks to me like the USA established a functioning democracy in post-War West Germany.

    Meanwhile in East German, the USSR established a brutal totalitarian dictatorship. Which, by the way, was instrumental in training Castro’s secret police.

  • That’s a nice idea, but the problem is the Castro regime controls 100% of all import/export business in Cuba through CIMEX, owned by the FAR. So your scheme would only help fund the regime, not the people.

    Next idea?

  • Rubio has been to Guantanamo, Cuba. And he talks about many other problems in Cuba besides prostitution. His biggest complaint is the Castro dictatorship and the lack of human rights in Cuba. As covered in several columns written here at HT, prostitution is indeed a growing problem in Cuba.

    Ted Cruz attended Harvard, a year behind Barack Obama.
    After graduating from Princeton, Cruz attended Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1995 with a Juris Doctor degree.[2][37] While at Harvard Law, Cruz was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review, and executive editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and a founding editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review.[7] Referring to Cruz’s time as a student at Harvard Law, Professor Alan Dershowitz said, “Cruz was off-the-charts brilliant.”[19][38][39][40][41][42] At Harvard Law, Cruz was a John M. Olin Fellow in Law and Economics.[43]

    You may not like Sen. Cruz, but you are mistaken if you think he’s an idiot.

  • The typical figure Al Gore liked to quote was 97%, but it turned out to be fabricated. Rubio’s position on climate change is that, yes, the climate is changing, perhaps human activity is affecting it, and definitely politicians (like all Gore) should not use it as an excuse for enforcing radical policy changes based on limited science which they don’t understand.

    As for the SUBJECT OF THIS THREAD, which is Cuba, Senator Rubio is very well informed.

  • Keep in mind the police have full powers without limits and can sweep away “anti-social elements” at any time. You don’t see what the police keep hidden. You see plenty of drug use in Cuba if you remember rum is a drug.

    There is no domestic private enterprise in Cuba. The so called self-employed sector are state licensed freelance operators in a State controlled oligarchy.

    There are small shantytowns on the edge of Havana, but take a good look inside Havana. People living in collapsing buildings in Centro or Cerro don’t have to move to a shantytown. The shantytown is moving to them.

    The real street gangs in Cuba are organized by the State and directed against dissidents. Only in Cuban they’re called Repudiations. The same mentality applies.

  • I thought you said Cuba is NOT a socialist or communist system? So how can the US policy toward Cuba be about preventing socialism?

    You need to keep your obsessions straight. You keep contradicting yourself.

  • See my comment to ronbobel777 above.

  • I am no Marco Rubio fan either. But you missed Griffin’s point. Rubio is a high-visibility US Senator. He speaks, FoxNews listens. He brings more than just one vote against lifting the embargo. As a Cuban-American, he is credible despite your fair comment. The same can be said for Ted Cruz. By the way, the lack of “official” massage parlors in Cuba is by no means a measure of the lack of accessibility to ‘happy finish’ massages.

  • You should take an Adult Ed course as a part of your GED matriculation on reading comprehension. I believe Fidel Castro is a senile, diaper-wearing despot but because his past exploits is still sadly able to influence policy decisions in Cuba. No contradiction whatsoever.

  • The US Congress and the President of the US in 1992 disagreed with you and thought this legislation was aptly named.

  • At the time the US thawed relations with China there were many of the same arguments made opposing that action that are currently used to resist unilateral improvements with Cuba. Here is the difference: With China, there was the measured gain to the US through improved business opportunities as well as a counterbalancing benefit in the geopolitical struggle with the Soviets. There is no such compelling reason to make nice with Cuba unilaterally. On the contrary, as long as the Castros are in power the negatives far outweigh the insignificant positives.

  • Moses
    For the most part I agree with what you are saying with some exceptions to this very sordid and complicated mess. I have a long and deep relationship with Cuba and with my close friends there. It took me years to realize that this mess is neither black or white. Much to the dismay of Cubans and foreigners alike it has turned into a battle of ultra right and ultra left ideologies.

    Hinging any agreement on democracy leaves too much to the interpretation of politicians and vested interests. If Cuba opted to ease into a Swedish or Norwegian style democracy that has such things as universal healthcare it would outrage America’s far right. If Cuba went to an American style democracy this creates a situation for ineffective change just as we see every day in Washington. Most Cubans are intelligent, well educated and are very resourceful in finding solutions to simple and complicated problems. If given a chance free of outside mandates and of course Castro Inc. they could come up with a new form of government that would be the envy of the world.

    Many of my Cuban friends show a level of compassion that we should all be jealous of, ironic since they have been the brunt of a ridiculous situation. I have seen the recent economic reforms, although positive for the fortunate ones, it has made an “us and them” society. For those limited to a world of Pesos Nacional and rations it is bleaker than ever. While watching the evening news this past winter, I saw long excerpts of Raul Castro interacting with his most powerful colleagues. What I saw was a man with a huge contempt and disrespect for his so called inner circle.

    Cubans must find their own solutions because if any external actions cause the change it will become a problem later on. Apparently Castro Inc. hasn’t broken the camel’s back yet. It baffles the heck out of me why not.

  • The US is a DEMOCRACY. It is far from perfect but anything built by imperfect hands is bound to be flawed. Your definition of democracy has never existed nor will it ever exist . You would do well to understand that America’s greatness is bound up in our capacity to grow from our mistakes in our effort “to form a more perfect union”.

  • Germany?
    World War I and II were not about fighting for democracy .
    It was about money, colonies, power .
    Austria ? Aside from being part of the Third Reich the U.S. has done no significant democracy building in that country.
    In the late forties, the GOUSA intervened in the elections to keep the communists from winning.
    Vichy France ?
    Again WWII , nothing to do with democracy.
    The U.S. traded with the Nazis until Pearl Harbor while the Wehrmacht destroyed Europe.
    Japan ?
    WWII again.
    Grenada ?
    Reagan told 13 lies in his pre-invasion speech justifying the overthrow of that government. Google Reagan’s lies on Grenada to read all of them .
    The invasion was all about Grenada being friendly with Cuba and having a leftist government and NOTHING to do with democracy.
    Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo were all part of the break-up of Tito’s Yugoslavia .
    You can read Noam Chomsky’s take on the needless bombing and lies told by the U.S. in that intervention and get a better picture of those events.
    Afghanistan….yup… all about building democracy with the Taliban ..
    Iraq…WMD’s, Hussein’s antagonism . How’s democracy doing there now ?
    Libya…Khadaffi opposed U.S. hegemony for decades and was friendly with any government that opposed U.S. imperialism . How’s that democracy working out ?
    In response and as promised , let me present this quote from chapter 17 of William Blum’s “Rogue State : A Guide To The World’s Only Superpower” :
    ” Between 1945 and 2005 the U.S. (G) has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes.
    In the process the U.S. has caused the end of life for several million and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair ”
    You can go to the eponymous website “Rogue State” and get the great many details necessary to document these interventions .
    Okay…The score for your side ,even were I to accept all of your spurious claims ,is 12 countries into which the U.S. has intervened to establish democracies .
    The score for my side is 80 and counting for the number of countries in which U.S. interventions were for the express purpose of crushing democratic movements.
    You have to grasp at straws to put together that dozen.
    I can rattle off 30 without looking at a reference.
    And … don’t get it.

  • Typically, sociologists measure strong infrastructure, improving worker productivity, solid demographics and a stable political base as a sign of improving fortunes. By what measure are you optimistic in Cuba’s future?

  • Moses,
    Are you saying that the U.S. is a democracy and not an oligarchy ?
    By oligarchy I mean a government that is controlled by the very wealthy which by definition cannot be a democracy or even a representative democracy ( republic) .
    Democracy means ” rule of the people” .
    That is the definition for that word.
    In practical use it means majority rule .
    The GOUSA is preselected by the wealthy and represents the interests of the wealthy who finance the political campaigns of every national office holder .
    If you can call this democracy, you really need to have Noah Webster and the OED people redefine those words to fit your new description of a democracy as rule by the wealthy .
    You’re getting downright Orwellian in your terminology.
    In either case
    Please clarify.

    George Orwell couldn’t have come up with a better name for something that has nothing to do with any desire on the part of the GOUSA to establish a democratic society on the island .
    War is peace .
    Black is white .
    Up is down.
    The business of the (GO) USA is business…..and decidedly not the establishment of democracies all of which are antithetical to capitalism.
    BUT …as has been said, it is easier to lie to someone like you than it is to tell them that they’ve been lied to .


  • Marco Rubio?
    He doesn’t believe in climate change or that it is anthropogenic .
    Yeah, he’s really well informed about something
    95% of the scientific community believes and he doesn’t.
    He represents a part of the country (Florida ) that is essentially one big sandbar waiting to submerge when the seas rise as they are now and will continue to rise.
    Marco will likely become just one more “balsero” like all of us Floridians when the polar caps finish melting.
    He’s at least as intellectual as Reagan and Bush II .
    That said: He has publicly stated that one day he fully intends to read a book.

  • In another post recently, you have said that Fidel is not competent to run Cuba, that he is half-conscious or some such
    Just who in Congress, like you once thought now thinks Fidel remains at the helm ?
    You really should try to remember what you wrote in the past so you don’t contradict yourself as you are now doing.

  • Nice of you to guess up an answer to your own question for us and one that fits only your fantasies.
    The reason every president since 1960 whether liberal or conservative maintained and/ or strengthened the embargo is because it has been the policy of the GOUSA since the 1918 invasion of the (nascent) Soviet Union to prevent socialism/communism .
    The embargo will not end just because there is no Castro as president in Cuba.
    The Cuban people themselves support the gains of the revolution, know that their present poverty is due to the intended consequences of the U.S. imperialist embargo and when they continue to support their socialist-style society and even further democratize/liberalize, the embargo will hold because the oligarchic U.S. government cannot stand by and let a socialist society/economy succeed.
    This is the actual foreign policy objectives and policies of the USG as followed for the past 100 years . It is not something that just comes and goes.
    The oligarchic U.S. government today is far deeper under the influence of the wealthy and the mega-corporations than was the case in 1918 and socialism or any democratic economic movements like cooperatives are still the threat of a good example that produced this century-old foreign policy.
    ” Between 1945 and 2005 the U.S. has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable (dictatorial ) regimes.
    In the process the U.S. (G) has caused the end of life for several million people and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair ”
    Source: Chapter 17 of “Rogue State: A Guide To The World’s Only Superpower”
    by William Blum
    You would be unable ( unwilling) to read the book so I excerpted the pertinent paragraph for you.

    If you consider this FACTUAL history, the embargo and its stated purpose of overthrowing a socialist-style revolution fits right in to that nightmare-for-the-world U.S. foreign policy.
    It is pure willful ignorance that prevents you, Moses et al from seeing and admitting to historical fact while spouting State Department nonsense .

  • The EXPLICIT (openly stated) purpose of the U.S. government’s embargo on Cuba was to make life so miserable for all Cuban people across the island that they would willingly revert to capitalism and a government that opposes socialism/communism ( opposes democratic economies) .
    That is what U.S. government officials said when they put that embargo into effect some 54 years ago.
    It is one thing to say that the poor living conditions in Cuba are caused by both the U.S. embargo and policies of the Cuban leadership but to put all the blame on Cuban leadership is patent bullshit given the history of U.S. foreign policy.
    You do your intellectual reputation – such as it is- no good by denying the obvious.
    You simply must learn what is true and what is not because denying obvious and open historical fact makes you look uninformed or disinformed and certainly guilty of spreading disinformation ( deliberate misinformation ).

  • Good of you to mention the case of China, especially now that this is the 25th Anniversary of the Tienanmen Square Massacre.

    Twenty five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Chinese students and ordinary citizens rose up and demanded democracy and freedom from the Communist dictatorship. The Chinese government responded by sending in the army and thousands of unarmed people were shot dead or crushed beneath the tanks. Many people around the world were outraged by the brutal repression, but the US backed off imposing any sanctions against China. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote an op-ed defending China and advising President Bush not to “risk US economic interests” by antagonizing the Chinese leadership. As a result, the US policy at the time was to put money ahead of human rights. It is worth noting that Kissinger was a senior partner in the firm “China Ventures” which acted as a broker for US capitalists interested in investing in Communist China.

    Today, China remains a dictatorship under the control of the Communist Party and the military. There has been an astounding improvement in the material standard of living in China, (for many, but not all) but the condition of human rights today is no better than when the tanks crushed school girls on their bicycles in Tienanmen Square.

    Which brings us to Cuba and the US embargo. Today there are thousands of brave pro-democracy activists in Cuba standing up and calling for democracy, freedom and human rights. They are routinely harassed, beaten & arrested by the Castro regime. The executives of US corporations along with some politicians are calling for an end to the US embargo so that US corporations can do more business in Cuba. The Castro regime welcomes these calls and echoes their demands.

    So given the experience in China, when the US ignored democracy and human rights in favour of making money, what should the US policy toward Cuba be on the very same issues?

    Money or human rights? It is ironic to hear the same people who condemn the US for valuing profits over people around the world are in the case of Cuba demanding that the US government lift the embargo, let their corporations make money and to hell with the human rights of the Cuban people.

  • I’ve read Lattel’s book and it’s a great source of information on both sides of the Washington vs Havana struggle. Obviously, the US attempted many times to overthrow Castro, the bay of Pigs being only the most significant attempt. There were many others. Lattel’s book is most interesting in the details he presents about Cuba’s large and very successful intelligence operation against the USA. He is quite critical of the CIA & FBI in their failure to respect & appreciate the skill of their Cuban adversaries. He noted that the Cuban intelligence agencies have had spies in the CIA, FBI, the US State Dept, the Pentagon and working as aids to US Senators & Congresmen. Lattel credits Fidel Castro as the most brilliant spy master of the 20th century. That’s quite a complement coming from a veteran CIA analyst!

    There are many cases of democrats the US has supported, along with many dictators. There are also a number of cases where the line between which side is “pro-democracy” and which side is a dictatorship is less than clear. The Cold War was a fuzzy time.

    Take Chile for example. Allende assumed power through an election by the slimmest of margins, and he set about setting up a Marxist socialist state with the help of the USSR and Cuba. Pinochet was no democrat, and his coup was brutal (although his victims, in terms percentages of population, was much less that the number of victims of the Cuban Revolution). Washington was not going to allow the greatest opponent of democracy and freedom in the world, the USSR, to gain a toe hold in South America. The Chilean Pawn was sacrificed to block the Russian Queen from controlling that part of the board. Today, Chile is a free & prosperous democracy. There can be no doubt that if the US had left the country to the USSR & Cuba that Chile would still be a communist dictatorship today, in the mould of Castro’s Cuba.

    You are correct, Nazi Germany was not defeated by the US alone. Britain, France, Canada & the USSR (among others) also contributed to the victory. Yet it is painfully clear to millions of Eastern Europeans that the lands “liberated” by the Red Army soon fell under an equally brutal dictatorship of the Soviet Union and the local puppet regimes of the Warsaw Pact. Western Europe was feed from dictatorship and was restored to democracy. Their economies were rebuilt with American capital. A similar scenario played out in Japan, which eventually became a vibrant liberal democracy.

    During the Cold War, the American record on defending democracies is mixed. The record of the Soviet Union however is zero democracies defended, and everywhere they intervened the USSR supported dictatorships.

  • It is the Cuban American representatives who support the embargo as they rely on large campaign contributions from the old Cuban elite.

  • Marco Rubio has never been to Cuba. He drones on about prostitution there when, in fact, the police clamp down on it.There are no strip clubs and massage parlors as there are in his native Miami. He should clean up the mess in his own state rather than discussing things of which he knows little. And if he is worried about prostitution he should go to Las Vegas, Bangkok and Manila and see places where it is openly promoted. And where has Ted Cruz traveled to outside his native Canada?

  • I compare Cuba to other countries of Latin America. In Cuba I didnt see street gangs, I didnt see children begging, I didnt see massage parlors and strip clubs, I didnt see people using drugs, I didnt see massive shanty towns. Those are the norms in many Latin American countries. Cuba has its problems and should allow free enterprise to flourish but it is better off than many other developing countries even though it has been cut off of funding from international institutions such as the World Bank. It has performed well considering the restrictions we have placed. Had we done the same to Mexico it would have imploded. With new incentives for foreign investment and domestic private enterprise the future for Cuba is better than it has been in a long time.

  • It is what Kissinger calls “real politic”. We have to deal with countries as they are while making clear our preference for democracy and human rights. The people of China are much better off today than they would be if we and the international community continued to isolate them. The same is true in Cuba. Engaging socialist countries gradually orients them to democratic values. The thousands of Chinese students at American universities will gradually result in further democratic reform in China. More US contact with Cuba will further the democratic cause. We are already seeing a loosening in allowing travel overseas and allowing Yaoni Sanchez to continue her criticism. We cannot be the moral policeman of the world while all other countries have normal relations with Cuba. Our policy of 55 years is a failure as it has done nothing to help Cuba’s citizens. I didnt find anyone in Cuba who was in favor of our embargo.

  • I’m no legal expert, but I think Obama could lift the travel ban by directive as this is treasury regulations. If he could allow people2people visits he could probably also allow normal tourism.
    Like you say he could also resume diplomatic relations and remove Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. That would remove some of the restrictions on medicines (those that could potentially be used as terrorist weapons). I think he would also be able to stop penalizing international banks and other third country businesses.
    I agree that weakening the policy in a meaningful way would pave the way. An idea of mine is that they might be able to get a law passed which allowed Cuban-American businesses to trade or exempt them from the embargo. In the same way that first of all Cuban Americans were allowed visits which opened the way for the people2people visits or Cuban-Americans wanting to see their favourite bands brought about the end of the cultural embargo. It would be ironic if it ended up that Cuban-Americans were the ones that brought on the end of the embargo.

  • That is a bit of a US centric view. Most of those were done as one of many countries. You could argue that the US did nothing while Hitler and co were rampaging through Europe. Also Japan after the war had a nominally democratic government, but in fact every major and minor decision was made by the US administration. It seems to be a constant feature that they will support dictators as long as they are in America’s interest. Occasionally if a dictator seems to be losing their grip, they will jump ship as long as the contender also supports their interests eg Philippines.

    You would be hard pressed to find an example of US supporting an elected leader where they were critical of US policy or not in their interests. If they were genuinely democratic you would expect the US to have gone to the aid of Allende, Árbenz or the Sandinistas and blockaded Chile under Pinochet.

    Finally in “Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine” by Brian Latell the author clearly states that the US has spent a lot of effort over the years trying to instigate a military coup in Cuba. Members of the military were given cast iron guarantees that if they were successful the new government would be immediately recognized by the US.

  • You have embarrassed no one but yourself with your offbeat comments. It would appear that since you define US democracy as totalitarian, then any efforts made by the US to avail a similar form of government to a formerly oppressed country, whether successful or not, would not meet you definition of “democracy”. As you describe democracy, none exists in the world today. Holding that position is embarrassing.

  • Let’s not beat a dead horse. Your suggestion that these laws can simply be ignored is wrong. We passed legislation to lift the embargo with China, Iraq, and Myanmar. The same must take place to fully resume normal relations with Cuba.

  • Carter, Clinton & Obama all made statements about wanting to improve relations with Cuba, even hinting at lifting the embargo, while campaigning for President. But once they were sworn into office they quickly dropped the more dramatic gestures and backed off any talk of lifting the embargo.

    Can anybody guess why that is? Could it have anything to do with the lengthy and complete intelligence file they received on Cuba & Fidel Castro? My belief is that when these men finally learned the full truth about Castro and what sorts of things he had been up to, they realized the only possible policy was the one the US had been following for five decades.

    There will be no reproachment between the US and Cuba so long as a Castro holds power.

  • Germany, Austria, Italy, Vichy France, Japan, Grenada, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya…

    Whether or not you accept the sincerity of the US policy of promoting democracy in Cuba, that is the publicly stated policy and it is the key condition specified before the US embargo on Cuba can be lifted.

  • I would like to see democracy in Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam and all the other dictatorships around the world, including Cuba. But I take from your argument that you prefer all of these countries remain dictatorships?

  • While more than $5 billion in total remittances and transfers reached Cuba last year, which by the way far exceeds the $2 billion in Castro payroll to Cubans, it is hardly enough. Cuban infrastructure continues to crumble and the ‘pillars’ of the revolution, public health and education, are in a freefall. By Cuba’s own estimate, Cuba needs at least $7 billion more each year in capital investment just to maintain the status quo. The lack of democracy in Saudi Arabia does not mitigate our hope for Cubans to be free.

  • You have posted this exact comment how many times before? Is there nothing more you can say? As proven before, only you believe the embargo to be “genocidal”. Amnesty International makes no such claim. Only you choose to ignore the well-known exceptions to the embargo which permit the lawful sale of food, medicine and certain medical equipment. Finally, by what measure do you define “decent”? Your definition would allow a regime to harass, detain, arrest and even beat middle-age women armed with gladiolas. You give the regime that arrested more than 1100 peaceful protesters in May a free pass and that is “decent”? If that what you define as decent, count me out.

  • The WHO, Amnesty International, the UN, … have never called the trade sanctions “genocide”. that is just your propaganda lie.
    The US in no way wants to “destroy” the Cuban people as you falsely claim. In fact the 5 billion dollars of remittances mainly from the US keep the Cuban people alive.
    Genocide Watch only sees the Castro regime as guilty of genocide in Cuba.
    It is the regime that deprives the Cuban people of food and medicines as international experts and even Raul Castro have sated.

  • The so-called “Tea Party” is a movement of conservative minded citizens, not a political party with a formal ideology. However, the basic principles they ascribe to are smaller government, lower taxes, respect for the US Constitution, and a strong military. On foreign policy, the Tea Party opposes both Obama’s naive liberalism and the neocon strategy pursued by Bush. They support a realist non-adventurist foreign policy.

    Two Senators often associated with the Tea Party wing, Marco Rubio & Ted Cruz, are well informed about US foreign policy, especially with regards to Cuba. They will not support any lessening of the embargo.

  • OHO!
    Joining Moses are you.?
    Tell us all in what other countries the U.S. intervened to establish democracy .
    You need only cover post- WWII to present .
    It is a bald faced lie to say that U.S. foreign policy was ever about anything other than maintaining capitalism and the U.S. empire and suppressing democratic and human rights movements around the world.
    Source: “Killing Hope” : William Blum
    Read the introduction at the eponymous website and see just how ridiculous and untrue democracy seeking vis a vis U.S. foreign policy is.

  • It is a matter of self interest, but is no more than the consequence of the usual doublespeak amongst politicians and lawyers and it works as I told you.

    Case in point, the travel ban for US citizens. Yes, it is a law but as with all laws, it requires enforcement and enforcement requires money. If they feel inclined to do so, the congress can simply remove the financing of the enforcement without removing the law itself.

    My point is that once the policy is weakened in a meaningful way (like removing them from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism), the rest will fade to the background and is going to be eventually repelled, probably shortly after Raul leaves office.

  • Tell me again where and when the United States foreign policy ever had anything to do with establishing democracy rather than maintaining totalitarian systems .
    I have this need to continually embarrass you intellectually if just because of your mulish persistence in ignoring history and repeating your fantasies.
    What were those 3-4 countries you listed which we have now determined were not targets for anything but maintaining totalitarianism ?
    Make my day.

  • Oh, absolutely. The Democrats are likely to be in the minority in both Houses after the mid-terms. Obama will be a very lame duck indeed. He will have zero interest in doing anything about the embargo.

  • For purely moral reasons, the genocidal US embargo must be lifted. The international community including the USA’s closed allies at the UN, together with groups like Amnesty International have repeatedly rejected the rationalizations for these cruel and inhumane sanctions that have been posted in comments here.

    Amnesty International, for example, has reported that:

    “The RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY THE EMBARGO help to deprive Cuba of vital access to medicines, new scientific and medical technology, food, chemical water treatment and electricity.”

    “UN agencies working in Cuba, such as the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, continued [as of their 2013 report] to report the negative effects of the US embargo on the health of the population, particularly members of marginalized groups. Access to specific commodities, equipment, medicines and laboratory materials remained scarce as a result of restrictions imposed on the importation of items manufactured by US companies and their subsidiaries or produced under US patents.”

    This amounts to one of five forms of genocide defined under UN Genocide Convention of 1948 (the basis of international law on genocide). Article 2C states that the crime of genocide includes, among other things, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

    No decent person can deny that deliberately depriving a target population of “vital access to medicines, new scientific and medical technology, food, chemical water treatment and electricity” demonstrates an intent to kill. And that these cruel and inhumane sanctions amount to a form of genocide.

    No decent person is buying into the lies and rationalizations presented by the apologists commenting here.

    Makes you proud, don’t it, America?

  • AC, you are the one who is confused. The Cuban Democracy Act was a bill presented by Congressman Robert Torricelli and passed in 1992 which prohibited foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and family remittances to Cuba. The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms–Burton Act, Pub.L. 104–114, 110 Stat. 785, 22 U.S.C. §§ 6021–6091) is a federal law which strengthens and continues the embargo. The act extended the territorial application of the initial embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba, and penalized foreign companies allegedly “trafficking” in property formerly owned by U.S. citizens but confiscated by Cuba after the Cuban revolution. The act also covers property formerly owned by Cubans who have since become U.S. citizens.[ Removing Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism will not eliminate the restrictions imposed by these federal laws. It does not lift the embargo. The Congress must approve legislation that ‘deletes’ both the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts AND the President must sign it. Not as simple as you seem to think it is.

  • I did not intend to imply it was. I am only suggesting that given the political climate a Republican House (and maybe Senate soon) is growing more and not less conservative.

  • Of course the embargo wont be lifted and Latin America will continue its left ward march and seek other partners like China and Russia while eliminating the US from regional bodies. Even El Salvador has joined the leftward march. The US tries to shore up its influence in Asia while it is gradually losing influence in Latin America while Cuba solidifies its position. The increased allowancesof remittances to Cuban families gives the Castro government as much as it currently needs without a complete lifting of the embargo. And the US call for democracy is without foundation as we have no problem with Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states family rule or with China and Vietnam one party states.

  • You raise important issues here, but as an outsider and based merely in the tidbits I get from the press, the teabaggers are not as much anti-comunists as anti-government. They don’t seem particularly aware of what happens outside of the US, so for them Cuba or its political system is not an issue whatsoever.

    In the other hand, the restriction to travel to and do business in Cuba IS an intrusion to their fundamental rights and I would think they would dislike both things, at least in principle. Sure, they probably don’t like the Cuban government but if it comes to that, there are other ways to oppose it without infringing unnecessarily into their own rights.

    Also, you seem a little confused about how things work at a political level in the US: neither Obama or the congress have to repudiate the Helms-Burton act, they only need to defund it and thats not that much of a challenge, in particular now that businessman lobbies are smelling money over there.

    Besides that, Obama only need to remove Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism (the inclusion of Cuba is politically motivated and it should not be there in the first place). That alone is going to be enough to remove the most ludicrous restrictions and once the basics are established, the rest of the act will erode gradually to oblivion.

    The Cuban lobby know thats, thats why they invest that much capital of their own in keeping Cuba in that list for no real reason. But again, biology and demographics are against them, so it looks like a game of endurance at this point.

  • This is not a Democrat vs Republican thing. There is some support for lifting the embargo among the Republican Party, including Sen. Jeff Flake, from Arizona. However, there is even greater support for keeping the embargo among Democrats than there is for lifting is among the Republicans. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey will never allow the embargo to be lifted without the Cuban government making any progress toward democracy and respect for human right.

  • Today, across the US are a number of State primary elections pitting the far right Tea Party candidates against so-called ‘establishment’ conservative republican incumbents. The policy of conservative America is stridently anti-communist. The Tea party is to the right of that policy. Cubans who write posts like the one above continually fail to understand the immense challenge facing the handful of Congress members who would vote to lift the embargo. Fidel Castro, in a string of anti-US, anti-capitalism rants is the poster boy for maintaining the embargo. Despite the intellectual masturbation presented in the post above, the reality is that as long as the Castros reign in Cuba, there will be no lifting of the embargo. There does not exist 217 votes in the House nor 51 votes in the Senate to approve a bill repealing or amending Helms-Burton. No President, especially Obama, will expend the political capital required to back such a bill without significant political reforms in Cuba. Asking for the unilateral action in Washington without major movement towards democracy in Havana is a fool’s errand. And please, no more with the reputation in Latin America. Lifting the embargo will make us friends with Ecuador or Bolivia? With Nicaragua? How about Venezuela? The time is right to double-down on the embargo. With both biology and the problems in Venezuela working in favor of US policy, now is not the time to let up the pressure.

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