The Debate over the Cuba Embargo and Adjustment Act

Miguel Fernandez Diaz  (Café Fuerte)

Encuesta-300x191HAVANA TIMES — Cuba Poll 2014, a survey conducted by the Florida International University (FIU), has caused a great media stir and different factions within the Cuban community are venting their passions as they set out to ratify or challenge the results.

Some of the most significant upshots include the fact that, in Miami-Dade county, 52% of Cuban-born residents are against the US blockade and 86% in favor of maintaining the Cuban Adjustment Act.

These conflicts are of a psychological nature: from the legal standpoint, lifting the blockade that has been in effect since 1962 and maintaining the Cuban Adjustment Act (passed in 1966) is impossible. It is rather curious that even experts and analysts pour forth opinions without grabbing this particular bull by the horns.

There are two legal foundations that ought to be at the center of the debate and which are all too often neglected when people speculate about the Cuban dilemma:

According to the Helms-Burton Act (passed in 1996), the president of the United States can take measures to suspend the embargo if he believes that a “Cuban transition government” has come to power and notifies the pertinent committees of this following consultation with Congress. To lift the embargo, the Cuban government would have to give way to one that is “democratically elected” (as Section 204 establishes).

According to the Legal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibilities Reform Act (1996), the Cuban Adjustment Act would be revoked if and only if the “democratically elected government” demanded by the Helms-Burton Act comes to power in Cuba.

The contradictory aspect of the opinion poll is that those surveyed do not appear to adhere to the political decision that establishes that the Cuban Adjustment Act presupposes the embargo (and vice-versa), until the White House determines that Castroism has disappeared in Cuba.

Catch 22

Another far more significant contradiction thus comes to the fore: if the embargo were contributing to the disappearance of Castroism, the Cuban Adjustment Act would be helping perpetuate it, driving a constant exodus of Cubans that, after settling permanently in the United States (some 384,344 Cubans did so between 2001 and 2012), enter into the travel and remittances industry. The Havana Consulting Group estimates that Cuba takes in US $ 2.8 billion in cash through remittances and US $ 3.5 billion through in-kind remittances sent from the United States.

And, since a quarter of a million Cuban immigrants acquired US citizenship between 2001 and 2013, the anti-Castro electorate is being gradually eroded by voters who, in their overwhelming majority, are moved, not by the historical mission of establishing a “democratically elected government in Cuba,” but by the personal desire to make their lives in the United States more comfortable and helping their relatives back home, even if they’re aware that they are also helping the regime this way.

How will these contradictions within the Cuban community ever be reconciled?
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We also recommend: How Cuban Americans in Miami View US Policy on Cuba. 


28 thoughts on “The Debate over the Cuba Embargo and Adjustment Act

  • July 2, 2014 at 10:51 am
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    How does Obama fit into this thread! He is Commander-in-Chief and is responsible for the defense 330 million people. In the war on terror, those who would do harm to America can and should be punished by arrest, incarceration and even death if warranted. The Ladies in White are peacefully protesting with nothing more dangerous than gladiolas. Let the punishment fit the crime.

  • July 2, 2014 at 8:27 am
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    Oh please!
    Your boy Obama has his own personal drone hit list unencumbered by any legal process and the killings that result dwarf any sort of mistreatment given the LIW.

  • July 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm
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    Then where we really disagree is simple. I believe that if increasing tourism alone by lifting travel restrictions would somehow improve the political climate in Cuba, the nearly 3 million tourists who will visit Cuba this year would do the trick. This includes more than 500,000 Cuban-Americans who will visit the island. Instead, what is FACT is that political arrests and detentions have increased to record levels despite increased tourism. I would suggest because of it. The Castros use tourism revenues to fund their repressive regime and ignore whatever positive influences these bring with them. It seems that you are ignoring this fact and holding on to the fairy tale that 1 million more Americans will somehow trigger the Castros to reconsider the last 55 years of tyranny. Fat chance. We need a new Cuba strategy for sure. But giving in to tyrants will not work.

  • July 1, 2014 at 11:27 am
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    I said nothing about University staff being CPUSA members. I did say that Harvard is known for their left-leaning politics. I also addressed your boorish request for a definition of communism, which it appears you have begrudgingly accepted. This definition DOES NOT include your personal addition of “bottom-up” democratic principles. Indeed, the historical failing of communism is that in practice it has always reflected a top-down governance which has given it its totalitarian image. You, on the other hand have never reproduced even one credible source that agrees with your definition. It is time to put up or please, do everyone a favor and shut up.

  • July 1, 2014 at 11:11 am
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    “Personally, I only support the embargo as long as there exists no better option to influence greater democracy for Cubans.”

    Moses, the better option to influence greater democracy for Cubans has always been there staring you and your government in the face. But there is no intellegent foresight nor political will power within your government to fight to put the better option into practice. Your government’s current policies are grossly outdated, hypocritical, almost unanimously despised by the UN membership, and proven to be totally ineffective. In the face of world opinion, your country’s policies concerning Cuba equate to nothing more than cruelty. America’s better option is to allow ALL Americans to freely travel to Cuba as ambassadors for change, both as tourists, and as business supporters.

    “Now is the time when the US should have more not less influence.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Again, the means to effect more influence and change is there waiting to be implemented. Your government needs to shift from their old outdated and ineffective confrontationist stance to a more open and progressive policy built on the mutual integration of trade and services, supported by America’s capitalist framework and democratic business mentality. Agreements could be respectfully negociated to imbed American democratic ideals and business practices as a necessary and manditory prelim to much more open relations. Continuing to demand immediate change in Cuba’s political structure must not be a wall thrown in the way of baby-stepping Cuba in the right direction over time.

  • July 1, 2014 at 8:46 am
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    First of all, I am not in any way affiliated with nor did I ever approve of Stalinism and the Communist Party .
    Secondly, I don’t know if you’ve been reading John Birch Society material from the 50’s as the stuff you posted would suggest but I would take any serious wager that there are no more than one or two ,if indeed there are any members of the CPUSA , on any major university staff.
    You are really out of date and out of touch
    Thirdly, and for the umpteenth time , you willfully ignorant a-hole, I am an ANARCHIST .
    Which means that primary in my belief set is democracy .
    That makes Stalinism, Leninism, Maoism, Castroism capitalism and oligarchy, ALL totalitarian forms , all my natural opposition because I am a (small “d” ) democrat .
    What about this can’t you understand. ?
    Should I use smaller words ?
    I agree with the description of communism that is in that last paragraph . It is a good description of communism even though it did not mention democracy directly but only provided examples of the democratic nature of communism. It is a good BRIEF description but, by no means complete .
    It’s nice to see you deal with facts even though they don’t help your argument at all and even though you had to copy and paste, fact being the stranger to you that it is. .

  • July 1, 2014 at 8:40 am
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    How many arrests and beatings would it take for you to consider my comments “proportional”? I say when even one person is denied their due process, everyone should be concerned.

  • June 30, 2014 at 10:41 am
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    Not really. She, like other vote-seeking Democrats are crafting language to sound progressive but if you have read her book you would know that she still supports regime change in Cuba but is on record now as being willing to reconsider US strategy to bring it about. Obama effectively says the same thing. Personally, I only support the embargo as long as there exists no better option to influence greater democracy for Cubans. Clinton is correct that our Cuba policy is an obstacle to our progress in Latin America. Especially at a time when Venezuela is facing such extreme civic unrests and Argentina is on the brink of default on their national debt. Now is the time when the US should have more not less influence.

  • June 30, 2014 at 10:23 am
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    Your four comments are overly simplistic and therefore fail to correctly identify the problems you have alleged. (1) It is natural to work with terrorism-sponsoring countries in the national effort to confront terrorism. (2) Cubans who arrive on US soil are extended privileges as defined by CAA. Cubans captured sea are not protected by this Act. Easy enough to understand. (3) To qualify under CAA, self-declaration is only part of the proof necessary. Cubans failing to qualify are denied entry visas. Again, very coherent policy. The Ericsson sanction was based on the Swedish company’s failure to clearly identify the source of the imported phones. Inadequate OFAC documentation led to the levying of the fine. This is quite normal to any country who controls the import and export of equipment through its borders.

  • June 30, 2014 at 10:10 am
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    I hope you would qualify Harvard University as a major institute of higher learning. I also assume that you are aware of Harvard’s reputation as having a “Communist-friendly” faculty. Indeed, it’s nickname is “the Kremlin on the Charles”. I also would assume that you are familiar with the ‘John Reed Clubs’ chartered on several Ivy League campuses. According to Wikipedia, the John Reed Clubs were an American federation of local organizations targeted towards Marxist writers, artists, and intellectuals, named after the American journalist and activist John Reed. Established in the fall of 1929, the John Reed Clubs were a mass organization of the Communist Party USA which sought to expand its influence among radical and liberal intellectuals. The organization was terminated in 1935–closed that year by Joseph Stalin himself. The original charter of the John Reed Clubs, as amended, defines Communism as “a sociopolitical movement that aims for a classless and stateless society structured upon common ownership of the means of production, free access to articles of consumption, and the end of wage labour and private property in the means of production and real estate. In Marxist theory, communism is a specific stage of historical development that inevitably emerges from the development of the productive forces that leads to a superabundance of material wealth, allowing for distribution based on need and social relations based on freely-associated individuals. Do you agree with this definition or is Harvard wrong too?

  • June 30, 2014 at 10:07 am
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    Hilary Clinton disagrees with you. She argues in her book that the embargo is “holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.”

  • June 30, 2014 at 9:46 am
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    I’ll give you four examples of incoherence in US policy.
    1) Cuba remains on the list of terrorist sponsoring states yet there is cooperation between the two countries on countering terrorism.
    2) The wet-foot/dry-foot policy means that Cubans are forcibly stopped from reaching the US coast yet if they do manage they are rewarded under the Cuban Adjustment Act. This is reminiscent of the Running Man.
    3) The US claim to be help people fleeing the Castro dictatorship, but those people that successfully claim their lives are in danger if returned to Cuba are not allowed entry into the US.
    4) Communications equipment is exempt from the embargo, yet the Swedish company Ericsson gets fined for sending mobile phones originating in Cuba to the US to be mended. This is almost like a mafia protection racket.

  • June 30, 2014 at 8:24 am
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    Every major institute of higher learning shares my definition of socialism .
    It is only the ignorant or those with an ulterior motive that choose to mis-define the term.
    Ask someone you know where to find a university and do spend a day there talking to professors of economics and political science and see just how ignorant you are.
    Yeah, black is white and a democratic philosophy is totalitarian.
    How Orwellian .

  • June 30, 2014 at 8:20 am
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    There are 11 million Cubans in Cuba .
    95% of them are not Ladies in White or LIW sympathizers or counter-revolutionary.
    How can you so blow things out of proportion ?
    As usual you did not cite your source because it is a right-wing counter-revolutionary source without credibility outside the anti- Cuba extremists .

  • June 30, 2014 at 7:08 am
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    No need Moses to rush to judgment, since the world will continue to turn and reality will hit home sooner, rather than later. Please follow the list of countries and companies expressing interest in setting up shop in El Mariel.

    Yes. Ships docking in Mariel will be allowed to enter the US, as soon as financial imperatives determine that Torricelli/Helms-Burton are dead. Crawley Shipping Co. from Jacksonville, Florida has an exemption and weekly trips to Cuba. Can more exemptions be approved?

    Capitulating to Castro or anyone else, was not a topic of discussion in my response. Justice, Peace and Harmony is.

    Keeping GITMO operational, is the best anti US recruiting center in the world, which does not affect Cuba and its people, who do not live in fear of Al Qaida, Taliban or anyone else.

    The US goal should be, not to hold by force what is proved illegal, but to reduce and eliminate all of its enemies, bombing and fears.

  • June 29, 2014 at 9:16 pm
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    Your comment seems rational until one reads about the arrests and beatings that took place just today on a small group of Ladies in White who were peacefully protesting (armed with gladioli) on their way home from Sunday mass. How do you ignore this tyranny?

  • June 29, 2014 at 9:09 pm
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    You have obviously drank the ‘Mariel’ Kool-Aid. That project is operational but will never reach even half of its potential unless the embargo is lifted. No ship can dock in the US for six months after leaving Mariel. Cuba produces nothing quantities to justify the biggest vessels so for the near term Mariel is simply a transfer port. No worries for US ports for at least 10 years. The real question is why should Obama capitulate to the Castros? Just to make a handful of Canadians happy?

  • June 29, 2014 at 8:56 pm
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    Name one other source that shares your definition of socialism. Until you can substantiate your hare-brained ideas and definitions, no one is listening. Cuba is a ‘socialist’ dictatorship.

  • June 29, 2014 at 11:21 am
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    Hebephrenia !!!!
    Great word and one I had to look up .
    It is a perfect description of the embargo in many ways but I personally believe that the embargo has largely succeeded in impoverishing the entire population of the island which was the openly stated purpose of the embargo when it was put into effect by the Kennedy regime.
    What it has NOT succeeded in doing is overturning the “socialist-style” Cuban revolution, something it has failed to do (in much weaker countries) in some 60 other similar interventions since the end of WWII only in Vietnam .
    They are neither as inept as they would seem to be in the case of the embargo’s results nor are they now as omnipotent as they once were in the days when the Monroe Doctrine and Reagan’s Raging Imperialism were in effect.
    To many, the embargo is a relic of the Cold War but what many forget is that the Cold War was a war against socialism, against communism that began in 1918 and which is still in effect throughout the world .
    The only reason that the embargo is not being lifted is precisely because of that overriding imperative : to quash, suppress any democratic forms that may challenge the totalitarianism and classism of capitalism .
    If you try to figure out what U.S. foreign policy is about in the main , and omit the war AGAINST democracy on which U.S. foreign policy history is centered , you will come away puzzled and thinking they do not know what they are doing.
    They know exactly what they are doing.
    The general public does not .
    IMO

  • June 29, 2014 at 11:01 am
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    No SFB,
    Cuba’s is a state-run economy.
    It is run from the top down.
    For THAT reason alone it is not to be called socialist .
    I assume you have your own unreasoning reasons for wishing to note that Cuba is only somewhat socialist but unless you explain the difference between a socialist reality and the present-day Cuban reality, you’re doing us readers a disservice.

    It is confusing to use the term socialist even in quotes if you do not explain what you mean by utilizing the quotes.
    Explaining what you mean, right or wrong will help define socialism for the uninitiated.
    Thank you so much.

  • June 29, 2014 at 10:55 am
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    The United States has embraced dictatorships in far greater numbers than it has supported democratic movements in the past 60 years.
    To post such absolute nonsense; stating that the GOUSA is all, about democracy is unsupported by any historical fact and in fact, is contradicted by the fact that the GOUSA has made more than 90 interventions in the past 75 years specifically to deny democracy in the world .
    ( source: “Rogue State: A Guide To The World’s Only Superpower”
    Blum .
    I’ve challenged you repeatedly on this and the only country you came up with in which the USA supported democracy was Myanmar. j
    You and I and the Cubans and the GOUSA know that the ONLY objective vis a vis Cuba for the USA is the reestablishment of neo-liberal capitalism .
    PERIOD.
    There is no dictatorship too vile for the GOUSA providing they support capitalism and oppose socialism .
    The USA permitted trade with Nazi Germany all the while they were slaughtering Jews, Gypsies, communists and homosexuals and right up until forced into the war by the attacks at Pearl Harbor at which time the war had been going on in Europe for 2-3 years . Ford and IBM made big money selling to the Nazis .
    You are in deep denial as to the actual history of the GOUSA preferring your comfortable lies to what is the horrific truth.
    Your denial is openly displayed by your refusal to look at my source or to challenge their facts as they present them if and when you dare to challenge your own beliefs.
    As a religious person you are predisposed and trained from birth to accept the word of authorities without question .
    You LOVE dictatorships……..because they serve your undemocratic way of thinking.

  • June 29, 2014 at 10:17 am
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    I would like to make the point that most of the united states does not care about past history with Cuba, So if You believe in democracy Why are You letting Miami Decide the fate of a foreign policy for the entire country . It makes You all look pathetic petty and out right ignorant. Consider 67 % of Cubans in Cuba were not even Born at the start of the blockade .If You still believe Cuba is Communist Because they do not have a general election to decide who their leader is. Not that is any of Your Business .Then You should start Your blockade against Canada as our political structure is no where near as democratic as Cuba . As we have no general election decide who our prime minster is, Federally We only elect our MP’s that decide nothing. in fact in the house they have to represent their party,s not those that elect them or the whip will deal with them.But the senate decides every thing and all Senators are approved by the Governor General and the Governor General is appointed by the Queen who is not even Canadian.

  • June 29, 2014 at 9:52 am
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    As an ordinary Cuban I am convinced, had Cuba fought against the cruel and suffocating embargo in the economical field and not only in the social, moral and political arena, the embargo would have been history decades ago.

    Never before during the infamous 50 year old embargo, has the world experienced such a unified clamor of educators, politicians, business, social, religious and intellectuals around the world, demanding an end of this monstrosity.

    At the same time, the Obama presidency is overwhelmed by a dysfunctional Congress, a middle east on fire, schools massacres, a collapsing VA, gun violence and a southern border in crisis, all of which compounds GITMO worldwide anti US sentiments.

    As soon as the Mariel Special Zone becomes operational and its negative effects begins to reek havoc in the ports of Miami, Jacksonville, Houston and New Orleans, the US business world will seriously question the validity of this fossil.

    If the Cuban government would offer a special financial joint venture agreement to US enterprises by which, their taxes would be 25% less than other foreign investments for the next 10 years in hospitality, energy, mining, pharmaceutical, industry, agriculture, air and land transportation, how long would this proposal take to make it to the President desk?

    Guantanamo has an enormous, untapped, natural potential for the development of Latin America largest air cargo and distribution center, given its strategic location, perfect weather, endless unused real estate, largest water reserve in the Caribbean and tens of thousands of trained or trainable workers, should not be ignored by the US business community or left to more friendly countries.

    Why should President Barack Obama prolong the pain, delay the inevitable end of the embargo and not justify his premature Nobel Prize by returning GITMO to Cuba and succeeding where 10 of his predecessors failed, by unfolding a lasting, mutually beneficial and respectful relation with Latin America for generations to come.

  • June 29, 2014 at 7:09 am
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    Moses, we all know that your government’s policies regarding Cuba are outdated, illegal, and hypocritical. The US needs to stop meddling in Cuba’s affairs. Cuba poses absolutely no threat to the US. It’s impossible for anyone to argue that the US needs to continue pressuring the government of Cuba for more democratic reforms when the US has embraced other countries with similar governing systems around the world. That hypocritical fact alone says it all. The US cannot be taken seriously as all credibility for support of your governments policies regarding Cuba have been bargained away elsewhere. Given this, the only conclusion that can be drawn for your government’s continued repression of Cuba on the world stage is one of cruelty. You can’t have it both ways, no matter how much you might try to justify your country’s position. There is no credible response that holds water. Again, I reiterate, Cuba poses no threat to the US. It’s time they were treated as such, leaving all political aspirations for more democratic reforms to the forces of natural evolution….an evolution, I might add, that could be greatly accelerated with the US embracing Cuba as well.

  • June 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm
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    Please explain how the US policy towards Cuba is incoherent or delusional? Cuba is unabashedly a dictatorship. Fidel Castro said so himself. Cuba embraces other rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran and Syria. Cuba continues to deny even the basic human right of free speech and freedom of assembly. US policy clearly supports democratically elected governments which guarantee the rights of individuals and a free press. It is exceedingly ‘coherent’ that US policy would oppose a closed and undemocratic regime like the Castros. The criticisms of the Castro regime are factual not delusional. You either don’t understand what the word “hebephrenic” means or you are talking about a country other than Cuba.

  • June 28, 2014 at 1:31 pm
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    I noticed the shortage in Cam too recently…not only of Bucanero & Cristal (not ‘Crystal’ ;), but a dire shortage of H.Upmann too. My best amigo and resolver drove me all over the city looking for cases and cartons of cerveza and cigarro before we found what we were looking for. No hay problema…que es Cuba.

  • June 28, 2014 at 10:50 am
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    Having just spent several weeks around Cuba (again), the only thing that seemed to be in short supply was toothpaste and deodorant though we knew this prior to visiting and ensured that our friends around the Island were adequately supplied from both ourselves and people accompanying us.
    As for the local beers, namely Bucanero and Crystal, the brewery in Holguin is working at full stretch and we never had any problems purchasing either.
    I o recall several years ago a cargo ship losing several of its containers in the Atlantic, one of which was packed with toilet tissue. I don’t recall seeing or experiencing any problems of late.
    No doubt come the next hurricane season, Castroism will be blame by the myopics and propaganda merchants.
    Who ever would have thought that in the 21st Century such an infantile and petty act of hebephrenic behaviour could be implemented ad infinitum via an embargo, but then we are talking about the US of A.

  • June 28, 2014 at 8:09 am
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    My wife just got back from Cuba. In Havana she noted that the national beers, Bucanero and Crystal, were both in very short supply. There was also a shortage of toilet paper. Both of these items, considered staples in most parts of the world, are victims of Castro government mismanagement. There will be those who will blame the embargo for every shortage including beer and toilet paper. These shortages and many others are simply the result of failed ‘socialist’ principles.

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