US-Cuba Relations and the Internal Blockade

The fundamental question that those of us interested in the wellbeing of the Cuban people should ask ourselves is: how will such measures affect Cuba’s internal blockade.

Pedro Campos  

HAVANA TIMES — A New York Times editorial published on October 12 urges President Obama to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba – something that is beyond the scope of the embargo provisions and which falls within his presidential prerogatives – with a view to improving international relations with Latin America and setting in motion new forms of interaction with the island and its internal situation.

The US embargo (which some call a blockade) has thus become the center of all debates about Cuba’s problems once again, when many of us know that the main blockade, the one we need to lift once and for all so that the Cuban people and economy will be able to improve their lot, is the internal blockade, the one imposed by the Party-State on its citizens and which thwarts the development of their economic, political and social initiatives.

The fundamental question that those of us interested in the wellbeing of the Cuban people should ask ourselves is: how will such measures affect this internal blockade which is ultimately what keeps Cuba in chains (not the other, the external one, something which those who insist in maintaining the trade embargo agree on)?

Raul Castro’s reform process does not suffice to eliminate the internal blockade we Cubans are subjected to. Its extension and progress, without current obstacles, could however gradually lead to its dismantling and ultimate elimination. Its stagnation and ultimate neutralization by conservative forces within the Castro government would indeed be the worst thing that could happen to Cuban society today.

US policy does not determine but does have an impact on the correlation between the forces at play within the governing elite and, generally speaking, within the Party-government and Cuban society as a whole, as well as among those who support the deepening and broadening (to varying degrees) of the so-called “updating of Cuba’s economic and social model” and those who merely aspire to maintain only the semblance of this process to keep the old, hyper-centralized system in place.

Fidel and Raul Castro in Cuba’s National Assembly in 2013. Photo: granma.cu

Between the Two Castros

It is no secret that there exists a kind of “friendly” arm-wrestle – a permanent conflict arising from disagreements between Cuba’s historical leader, Fidel, and his brother, the army general Raul – as to the form and content Cuba’s domestic and foreign policy and the structure of the country’s economy.

It is easy to demonstrate that the first speeches pronounced by Raul Castro after he took office and the spirit of renewal of the “reform process” have not been adequately embodied by the application and the results of the policies implemented.

The most visible cause of this is Fidel Castro’s gradual recovery and his attempts at taking back the limelight.

The evidence for this are his “reflections”, his continuous public and media appearances, where he is seen receiving foreign personalities, and in the systematic praise for his thoughts and figure in the Party-controlled press – so frequent that they outnumber Raul’s public appearances and speeches, even after Fidel “retired and asked not to be called ‘Commander in Chief’ any longer.”

Are we expected to forget Raul Castro’s “glass of milk” speech and the suppression of his remarks by Granma, as well as everything that entailed?

Raul may have replaced the members of Fidel’s administration, but the traditional Fidelistas still remain within the Party leadership, particularly in the Party Secretariat, headed by Machado Ventura, the man in charge of all the Party’s concrete activities, the appointment and dismissal of cadres, propaganda and others.

This is the main Party structure responsible for keeping the positions of the “historical leader” alive. The second-in-command within the government, Diaz Canel, is not the second-in-command within the Party, Machado is.

Today, we bear witness to how Cuba’s critical economic situation, caused by the limitations of the “reform process” and its inability to overcome the stagnation produced by the near-absolutist model that was in place for nearly fifty years, is prompting a mass exodus of Cubans towards the United States through all imaginable routes.

The authority of these Party structures, at the top of the ladder, next to Fidel, but beneath Raul, was evident in the debates during the 6th Party Congress, which were manipulated by Party bureaucrats against calls for a free and democratic debate at the base level.

The general, Fidel’s brother, who knows Fidel better than anyone and was appointed by him, has had to govern in his shadow, with that particular handicap, caught between advancing his “reforms” and avoiding a confrontation with the leader – hence his increasing moderation and fewer and fewer public appearances.

Raul has been clear in his intentions of a rapprochement with the United States, while his brother, now recovering, does not miss an opportunity to try and distance himself from them as much as possible.

This, which could also be interpreted as the “good cop, bad cop” routine, could have served to achieve such a rapprochement if only it had been adequately encouraged, if Washington had been more consistent in its first appraisal of what Raul Castro’s ascent to power meant.

It is therefore worthwhile to recall that, at the time, the United States demonstrated much interest and willingness to work with him and his military officers, and rumors were even leaked to the effect that Washington was convinced the tough hand of the military and their “reforms” would prevent future migratory avalanches, the main concern weighing on US-Cuba relations.

However, the United States did not take any significant steps to help the Raul Castro government in its reform plans, steps that could have strengthened the General’s position in the Cuban government’s internal correlation of forces.

More effective support and the lifting of other important sanctions stemming from the blockade-embargo could have tilted the internal balance of power in favor of Raul’s reformers and allowed them to develop their “updating process” better – and, eventually, other democratic “reforms” that could have entailed deeper changes in the mid-term.

It’s possible the United States considered that the transfer of power was merely nominal and that “only the television had been handed over, without the remote control.”

Such developments could serve to appease those who blame all of our misfortunes on imperialist aggression, which is one of the fundamental pretexts with which the economic disasters of the State-command economy, the repression of the opposition, the absence of democracy and the lack of civil and political liberties and rights are justified.

Today, we bear witness to how Cuba’s critical economic situation, caused by the limitations of the “reform process” and its inability to overcome the stagnation produced by the near-absolutist model that was in place for nearly fifty years, is prompting a mass exodus of Cubans towards the United States through all imaginable routes.

The proposals now advanced by the New York Times may be coming a little too late, but, as they say, “better late than never.”

Should they yield results, they would have the immediate effect of easing tensions between the two governments and, without a doubt, many of those desperate to leave for the United States might consider that it is more advisable to stay a little longer, to see the concrete results of this rapprochement.

At the same time, it would suggest that the Obama administration is not chiefly responsible for maintaining the blockade-embargo, but that Congress is. It could clear the way towards the elimination of the embargo, inasmuch as it would entail previously removing Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism and make other positive relations between the two countries possible.

Such developments could serve to appease those who blame all of our misfortunes on imperialist aggression, which is one of the fundamental pretexts with which the economic disasters of the State-command economy, the repression of the opposition, the absence of democracy and the lack of civil and political liberties and rights are justified.

Most importantly, it would imply a measure of US support for Raul Castro’s updating process. The “reformist” current could be thus revitalized and the complicated balance of forces within the Cuban government could be tilted in its favor. Raul, in turn, would be unable to ignore such US gestures and would be forced to act accordingly. One development would prompt others.

The issue can be approached from many other perspectives. As far as Cuba’s internal situation is concerned, these are the ones I consider most important.
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31 thoughts on “US-Cuba Relations and the Internal Blockade

  • October 24, 2014 at 9:00 am
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    Richard: the Cuban telephone company uses GM trucks.
    I phones, PC’s with Intel chips, … all are available.
    Have you ever been to Cuba?

  • October 24, 2014 at 8:56 am
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    No further relaxation is merited. Every “easing” has been replied to with more repression.

  • October 23, 2014 at 3:34 pm
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    Not true. You misunderstand. Any company doing business with Cuba can not use equipment with more than 10% of its component parts that were made in the US AND then do business with the US government. Your Nikon camera example is either a lie or someone else misunderstood the law as Nikon cameras are sold in Cuba everyday. Canada and Mexico do business with Cuba. Are you suggesting that these NAFTA countries are prohibited from doing business with the US. Their largest trading partner. Really?

  • October 23, 2014 at 3:28 pm
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    I was in Cuba a couple of months ago.

    The reason why Sweden and many other nations hardly trade with Cuba is that Cuba has very little interesting to sell (nickle, tobacco, rum, ..) and is a notorious bad credit risk.

    Export insurers – including those of last resort and state owned – hardly cover receivables from Cuba. That puts lots of companies off from trading with Cuba.

    The way the regime treats foreign investors is another reason why few inward investment is happening (see the case of Michel Villand, the French partner of Fidel Castro from 1994 to 2007 “Pain de París” in Cuba).

    I live in Sweden because I wanted to be free and couldn’t be free in Cuba. I had no rights. I could not express my opinions. Working was not rewarded, only subservience was however inefficient the subservient idiots were. Sweden gave me a great second home and a passport that I can freely travel with.

    As far as the embargo goes: Sweden doesn’t trade with Cuba. It is far away from Cuba. The US is a lot closer and the risk that unscrupulous investors would ally themselves with the military oligarchy to create a new “maquiladora” country are very high.

    I believe that lifting the embargo has no real benefits for the US and would be very detrimental for the Cuban people as it would remove an important incentive to change from the Castro elite. You look at a “wrong” picture (see my previous post). The big and moral picture is not to reward the Castro military elite and not to help them consolidate what they stole from the Cuban people.

  • October 23, 2014 at 3:24 pm
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    The US does not fine “third countries”. The OFAC does fine corporations who do business with the US government who have chosen to violate US law by doing business with the Castros. It is our sovereign right to do business with whom we please. If a company chooses to do business with the Castros, as many do, they are free to do so. They may not however, at the same time, do business with the US government. There is nothing illegal about this business practice. As an American, I do not want my tax dollars supporting a totalitarian regime like the Castros. To this end, petroleum industry products and services, subsidized by my taxes should be used to sustain the Castro regime. I consider the 10% measure quite liberal. Likewise, any financial institution worldwide which uses US currency should not be available to tyrants like the Castros. If Cuba wants to take out a loan in Russian rubles or Chinese yuan, they are free to do so. But US dollar-backed loans should be off-limits to Castro bullies. And so on. First, the Castros must send Alan Gross home. Second, the Castros should release ALL political prisoners. Third, the Castros should allow freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and legalize all poltical parties. Fourth, the Castros themselves should retire. At this point, the President of the US will have been given enough political space to maneuver and would send the Secretary of State to negotiate with Cuba for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the understanding that open and independent elections authorizing political parties will be scheduled to take place. At this point, the US Congress would have no choice but to repeal Helms-Burton. The problem with your strategy is that it is one-sided. You have the US making all the substantive changes with Cuba’s response as vague and noncommittal. Your plan is politically unrealistic, especially for a powerful and democratic nation like the US.

  • October 23, 2014 at 3:18 pm
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    Yes, the Castro elite is developing from a “state capitalist communist elite” to a “capitalist elite” without the communist excuse.
    They dictatorship was “red fascist” = Stalinist since inception.

  • October 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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    If I was Obama I would drop the illegal or semi illegal aspects of the embargo ie no fining third countries, allowing US citizens to visit and cut out stupid things like boarding the oil platform to check the percentage of US products. I would allow Cuba access to international bodies both financial and political and would take them off the list of terrorist supporting countries. I would also restart diplomatic relations thereby recognizing Cuba as a sovereign nation. This would leave only the direct trade between the two countries left as part of the embargo. I would also make a statement that the US has no wish to invade or subvert the country or infringe on their rights to self-determination though obviously there remain concerns.

    I would then open negotiations. Of this a commission would be set up to sort out all financial aspects including issues of seized property and Cuban assets. Another commission would look at all aspects of migration including removal of the wet foot/dry foot. I would negotiate some changes to Cuban law around genuine human rights issues and get Cuba to ratify the human rights accords. Though mostly human rights issues would be monitored by third countries for example Latin American Human Rights organization, Amnesty International, United Nations and this would be done in a fair but realistic manner.

    That would leave issues like the elections, constitution, nature of the press. This I would leave these up to the Cuban people to decide .If you start arguing over whether the current Cuban constitution is democratic or not, you will get nowhere. They will say it is and that the US isn’t democratic. They will say that the US corporate media isn’t free either.
    So as I suggested before I would offer to suspend the remaining aspects of the embargo if Cuba agrees to hold a new referendum on its constitution (either existing or new) within three to five years and that this would be monitored by the international community and that the US would accept the outcome if the majority vote for it. Either the Cuban people will vote for the proposals or against.

  • October 23, 2014 at 9:34 am
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    A great rebuttal. But I disagree on one significant point:

    The Castro regime is not developing a capitalist elite. They have become a corporate-military oligarchy. The Raulist regime is now the closest thing to an old school Fascist state in the world. That’s where they are heading. Lifting the embargo without significant political reform will cement the oligarchy’s grip on power.

  • October 23, 2014 at 9:28 am
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    You make a good point for waiting. There is nothing to be gained by lifting the embargo now, except to empower the Castro regime.

    To answer the question, “Where will the Cuban economy be?”, this article paints a rather pessimistic view of where Raul is leading Cuba:

    “CUBA’S PROSPECTS FOR A MILITARY OLIGARCHY”

    “…it seems very likely that, upon Fidel and Raúl Castro’s disappearance from Cuba’s political scene, an oligarchy will be firmly established. This rule by military and/or former military officers will be felt particularly in the Cuban economy. A Cuban oligarchy will be similar to the one that has existed in Russia since the end of the Cold War. Cuba’s consolidated oligarchy will give the international community the impression that it is opening and enacting real political and economic reforms.

    “However, in reality it will only present more of the same to the Cuban people. Economic opportunities will remain in the hands of the oligarchs, making Cuba’s prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners unable to compete for their survival.”

    http://www.ascecuba.org/c/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/v21-werlau.pdf

    Granting Cuba economic concessions now will only serve to enrich the oligarchy and cement their grip on power.

  • October 23, 2014 at 8:41 am
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    Apparently you are not up to speed with the law. “Any product that has any US. components cannot be sold to Cuba. Products made in Texas cannot be shipped to Cuba even through Mexico. As an example: a young Cuban boy won a photo contest that was held in Japan and the prize was a Nikon camera. Since the camera contained parts made in US they couldn’t award him the camera.

    According to law, no Country doing business with the United States can sell or ship products to Cuba that include any parts made in the US — even a screw!.

    As I stated to Mr.Gonzales, There is no reason to continue this debate. Lets just say we both agree to disagree.

  • October 23, 2014 at 8:31 am
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    I will ask you the same question — When was the last time you were in Cuba? Although Sweden doesn’t do much trade with Cuba — they can, and that is the crux of the matter. Sweden is one of the countries in the UN that supports lifting the embargo.

    If you are so adamant about the Embargo — Why do you live in Sweden? You are being hypocritical by only taking a stand on the US policy toward Cuba. Also, you are apparently out of tune with the rest of the world.

    I do have counters to your expert opinion — but I don’t want to drag this on

    By the way, since you call Sweden home, why don’t you spend your time trying to convince Sweden to support the US Embargo.

    I am a US citizen and believe lifting the Embargo is good for Cuba and good for the US. I also believe lifting this Embargo will certainly help better our relations with Latin America. We need to look at the big picture and stop this vendetta against Castro -or stop doing business with other countries that are much more repressive.

    This is what is called “Selected Enforcement”

  • October 22, 2014 at 9:25 am
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    I have personally witnessed the Ladies in White marching and the repression of the Castro regime against them. There were about 30 women, dressed in white, silently walking two by two down San Lazaro crossing Infante. Each one was carrying a gladiola. That’s it! PNR patrullas were alongside while the secret police were screaming at them and throwing water on them. It was so sad to see women treated this way. The Cuban secret police are such cowards! The detainees in Guantanamo were captured on the battle field engaged in terrorists activities. Their guilt has yet to be adjudicated but their own countries don’t want them back so that says a lot. The US engages Mexico, Honduras and Saudi Arabia for the civil rights abuses in those countries as well. The US has made significant steps toward improving relations with Cuba. It is the Castros that seem resolute to maintain the status quo. Indeed, Raul is quoted as having said there will be no political reform. Are you suggesting that Obama is not a “great leader” because he refuses to capitulate to the Castros and make unilateral changes?

  • October 22, 2014 at 7:05 am
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    Minor issues in that they aren’t difficult to sort out if an effort is made. But America doesn’t care. As for the Ladies in White, please try and put it into proper perspective. They aren’t in prison let alone been there for ten years without trial like the inmates in Guantanamo. They haven’t been put in the electric chair like in the US and they haven’t been shot and put in shallow graves or beheaded like in Mexico, Honduras and Saudi Arabia – all of which are close allies to the US. Where is the “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”. And it isn’t a matter of the Castros – the issues between the two countries affects everyone in Cuba. A great leader would be less worried about his public image and more about settling such a longlasting conflict.

  • October 22, 2014 at 5:30 am
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    What do people think will happen if the embargo were to end tomorrow?

    Will the US start selling food,medicine, and medical supplies too Cuba? No, that is permitted now.

    Will Cuba start buying large amounts of other American goods? Not really since they simply have no money to buy anything.

    Will Americans start sending money to Cuba? Nope, already permitted.

    Will large numbers of Americans start going to Cuba? Well, 635,000 a year go legally already. It is quite simple and no hassle for any American to travel to Cuba now. Remember that Miami already has more flights to Cuba than any other departure point in the world.

    Will the US start buying large amounts of Cuban goods? Not really since Cuba has almost nothing to export. Name a potential Cuban export other than cigars which is an incredibly small market.

    Will Americans furnish capital for starting small private businesses such as paladars and casa particulars? No, this is happening already although illegally.

    Will Americans invest in Cuban industrial output? No, such is prohibited by the Cuban government.

    Everyone jumps up and down about ending the embargo. Yet I keep searching for major things that would change and find nothing. I simply cannot see where the embargo is doing much now other than creating a lot of rhetoric.

  • October 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm
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    Cuban born & U.S. based & educated. The U.S. embargo has been substantially relaxed in recent years to allow hundreds of millions of dollars of food and medicine exports, in addition to consumer goods supplied to Cubans by relatives in this country. The question is whether a further relaxation is merited. The regime’s persecution of dissidents is unceasing; it continues to imprison American Alan Gross on false charges. While Cuba has toyed with economic liberalization and lifted travel restrictions for some, we see no sign that the Castro brothers are loosening their grip. Fully lifting the embargo now would reward and ratify their intransigence. A concession such as ending the trade embargo should not be exchanged for nothing. It should be made when Cuba grants genuine freedom to its people…

  • October 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm
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    I live in Sweden. Sweden has very little trade with Cuba. The Swedish government and civil society also support a lot of human rights activity in Cuba. Rightly so.

    Indeed: you are no expert on Cuba and you lack a lot of first hand experience on Cuba.

    The fact that the US trades with dictatorships is shameful. That fact should not be a reason to trade with Cuba. If the got it right once, why change it?

    It isn’t the embargo that denies Cubans access to medicines, technology, affordable food, … that is your mistake. The US trades food and medicines freely with Cuba with one restriction: payment before the goods arrive. No credit. Note that that policy protects US exporters against unpaid bills. France, Mexico, South Africa, China, … all have had to write off millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

    It is the Castro regime that doesn’t follow though on lots of licensed deals to buy medicines and medical equipment. In 2008, the year the US became the largest food supplier of Cuba (30% of the 80% of food Cuba needs to import) $142 million in commercial and donated medical exports to Cuba were approved. Less than 1 percent of it get there because the Cuban government didn’t execute the deals. Why?

    “It’s not the embargo,” said John Kavulich, a senior policy adviser at the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Economic Trade Council, which provides nonpartisan commercial and economic information about Cuba. “These are economic and political decisions not to buy.” Cuba often waits for allies to donate what it needs.”

    Note also that the “tourist hospitals” in the Cuban apartheid system lack nothing. Is the “embargo” so selective that it succeeds in “harming” the Cuban people while the tourists that go to Cuba for treatment are very well supplied? No. The regime buys all it needs for the “tourist” part of the health system and blames the shortages it itself creates by not purchasing what is needed on the embargo.

    It is also the Cuban government that has decided to decrease the purchases of food from the US.

    So: Food, medicines, medical equipment, … blame the Castro dictatorship. Not the embargo.

    The reasons why Cubans have no access to affordable food is the result of the bad management of agriculture by the Castro regime. that Raul Castro himself has admitted.

    “Castro took a few swipes at the U.S. trade embargo that has been in
    place since 1962, but made it clear Cubans have only themselves to blame
    for agriculture shortages.”
    Castro calls for tight finances in Cuba – CNN.com (26 July 2009)

    So as far as your so called “arguments” on food and medicines go: rethink all.

    As far as travel to dictatorships goes: maybe morality should prevail. If travel would in any way benefit the people it would be a good thing, but the bulk of the Cuban infrastructure used in controlled by the regime that even takes 90% of the wages earned by the staff. Not very “social”, no?

    As for why the embargo didn’t “work” in the past: that has been explained by various people here and I will just remind you that the 33% of GDP the Soviet Union supplied in subsidies kept the ineffective Castro regime alive. The 7 billion dollars of aid from Venezuela annually kept it afloat though the “special period”. Even so the dictatorship has been forced to make changes – thanks to the embargo in part. With the Venezuelan subsidies in doubt the regime will have to make even more changes – the embargo helping.
    Those that argue that this is the moment to end sanctions have no clear understanding of the Cuban economy, it inherent defects, the nature of the Cuban elite and the historical context. Now the embargo will become ever more a motivating factor for change. Ending it now would be rewarding the “Castro communist elite” and help them to become a “Castro capitalist elite” all to the detriment of the Cuban people.

  • October 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm
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    Griffin, as I see it, as long as the Castros are determined to make no reforms toward greater democracy for Cuba, and this appears to be the case, any further improvement to US/Cuban relations will have to be unilateral. Let’s assume that we are correct that Obama can and will do NO MORE to improve relations during his last two years in office. That means that the next US President, sworn in in January of 2017 will have a little more than a year to negotiate with an aged and lame duck Raul Castro before his announced retirement in 2018. Why would a newly-minted US President make unilateral concessions to the Castros at that point in their administration? Why not wait until the midterm of their first term to try to engage a new Cuban government? My point is that at the earliest improved US/Cuban relations is at least 4 years away. In four years, where will the Cuban economy be? As it continues to spiral downward with annual growth of less than 1% and with nursemaid Venezuela growing even less likely to maintain their oil subsidies, I suggest that the Cuban leadership at that time will be even more desperate to negotiate better relations. Why not wait?

  • October 21, 2014 at 11:12 am
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    Here is the difference between how you think and how Americans think: Any American, unjustly imprisoned in a foreign land, is NOT a minor issue. We don’t think that way. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”. Again, you fail to see our perspective. The civil rights abuses of the Ladies in White offends American sensibilities. These issues, Alan Gross particularly, are important issues and remain significant obstacles to improving relations between the US and Cuba. BTW, Obama’s “great leader” attributes will be measured by matters of far greater import than how he dealt with the irrelevant Castros.

  • October 21, 2014 at 11:06 am
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    The embargo is not Cuba’s biggest problem. As a result, the suffering you mentioned is more likely caused by the Castro-style socialist economy that has eroded the social and economic structure for three generations. You did not mention that you have visited the island or that you have a relationship with any Cubans who have lived there. Cubans who live in Cuba and those who have left don’t share your views on the US embargo. Food and medicine sales to Cuba are permitted by the embargo. Many medicines not sold in the pharmacies to regular Cubans are readily available in military pharmacies or tourist hotels. This debunks the accusation that the embargo is to blame for the lack of medicine. Besides, Mexico trades with Cuba, as you noted, and every technology you can purchase in Texas can cross the border to Mexico to be sold to Cuba…probably cheaper! Nonetheless, the embargo, as originally intended has failed to trigger citizen revolt against the Castro dictatorship. It has however, strongly curtailed Cuba’s extraterritorial goals to export their failed socialist system. Even with the embargo, we see the heavy hand of the Castros in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Imagine the reach of the Castro tyrants had they had the funding supplied by unlimited US tourism and trade? It is curious as well that while you have expressed your likely valid concern for the Cuban people you mention nothing about the abuse of human rights imposed by the Castros on the Cuban people. You seem to ignore the internal embargo imposed by the Castros and lack of basic freedoms of speech and assembly. I agree that it is time to lift the embargo. I only hope that when the US does repeal Helms Burton, we have done so because Cuba is free.

  • October 21, 2014 at 10:40 am
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    Mr. Gross’ trial was not open, agreed. The laws of the country where the alleged violation took place, in this case Cuba, is what rules over the case. Open or not. Mr. Gross was distributing “items” that in the given country are prohibited. Mr. Gross was “funded” by an organization whose purpose is to create problems for the given country’s government (right or wrong is not material here). Mr. Gross entered the country as a “tourist” which he was not and he knew that. Mr. Gross is guilty, simple.

  • October 21, 2014 at 9:14 am
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    My background is American born – second generation, also well educated. I have been in my own business for the past 30 years — does that satisfy your request for information on my background. My question regarding your background didn’t have anything to do with your education. It had to do with the reasoning behind your feelings on the subject.

    What country do you live in — is it a country that trades with Cuba? By the way, if you don’t live in the USA why are you so concerned about the embargo, particularly if you live in a country that already trades with Cuba.

    I don’t claim to be a expert on Cuba but I have done my research and read quite a few books on the subject, including the reasons for the embargo. and even the Helms Burton Act — Talk about being a Dictator.

    if we are trading with Communist countries and other countries with dictators,what makes Cuba different? Why are all the other countries doing business with Cuba? Why does every country in the UN constantly vote against the Embargo?

    The embargo harms the people of Cuba, not the government as intended. Cubans are denied access to technology, medicine, affordable food, and other goods that could be available to them if the United States lifted the embargo. A report by the American Association for World Health found that doctors in Cuba have access to less than 50% of the drugs on the world market.
    “it is our expert medical opinion that the US embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering-and even deaths-in Cuba.”

    The United States should not have different trading
    and travel policies for Cuba than for other countries
    with governments or policies it opposes. The United States trades with China, Venezuela, and Vietnam
    despite their records of human rights violations.

    Americans are permitted to travel to other communist countries, nations known for human rights violations, and even places on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
    Citizens may go to countries like Burma, Iran, and North Korea if given a visa, so there is no justification for singling Cuba as the one nation in the world that is off limits.

    The embargo harms the US economy. The US Chamber of Commerce opposes the embargo, saying that it costs the United States $1.2 billion annually in lost sales of exports. A study by the Cuba Policy Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former US diplomats, estimated that the annual cost to the US economy could be as high as $4.84 billion.

    American allies, such as Canada, Britain, Italy, Mexico, and France are the leading suppliers of tourists to Cuba. During his Mar. 2012 visit to the island, Pope Benedict XVI said the embargo “unfairly burdens” the Cuban people.

    The U.S. Embargo has existed for over 50 years and has not achieved its goal — It only hurts people in a country that is only 90 miles off our shores.– to me it is just a vendetta. Reminds me of the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys — it has been going on for so long people can’t remember how it actually started.

  • October 21, 2014 at 8:18 am
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    I agree completely. Obama did the most he could to improve relations with Havana shortly after he assumed office, when he had the greatest political capital in Congress. For his efforts at outreach, he got nothing in return from the Castros. There is no political pressure in the US to do anything more, whatever the outcome of the midterm elections.

  • October 20, 2014 at 9:33 am
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    In fact, we can not be sure what Mr. Gross was convicted of as his trial was not public nor have trial transcripts been released. Moreover, the reality is that if the worst of his ‘crimes’ is that he was giving away equipment then the punishment should fit that crime. He was not subverting the government. He was not training counterrevolutionaries. He wasn’t even distributing anti-government propaganda or material. He was giving away technology that could have POSSIBLY been used in an illegal fashion. This should not even be a crime, let alone merit a 15 year sentence.

  • October 20, 2014 at 9:28 am
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    What does my background have to do with the merits of this thread? It is clear that while you may be well-intentioned you are ill-informed. The comment below from ERNESTO GONZALEZ is well developed and fully addresses the errors in your comment. I heartily agree with his suggestion: if you feel strongly about helping the Cuban people you should direct your energies at the Castro regime. Good luck with that.

  • October 20, 2014 at 3:42 am
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    Once again Pedro is absolutely right. If Obama had any of the attributes of a great leader he would do his part to bring the conflict between the countries to an end. And minor issues like Alan Gross, the Cuban 5 and the ladies in white would be sorted out along the way.

  • October 19, 2014 at 2:04 pm
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    My background is simple: Cuban born and Europe based. Well educated. What is yours?

    Using the term “blockade” isn’t fitting for the US embargo. Food, medicines and remittances flow freely. The only “blockade” is the internal Castro blockade.

    From Europe I tell you: Floridians “under 50” don’t rule Cuba. Cubans of all ages both in exile and in Cuba should.
    They want an end to the Castro dictatorship though those in Cuba aren’t allowed to say so.
    It may also surprise you that most Cubans – both in and outside Cuba – know that the embargo isn’t the problem. The “internal blockade” that blocks Cubans is.

    The Cuban people suffer because their leaders make them suffer. Bad management of the economy and repression spring to mind. The embargo is used as a propaganda excuse. Food, medicines, remittances … flow freely to Cuba from the US. They alleviate the lives of Cubans on the island. 60% of Cubans get remittances from abroad – mainly the US. That helps them to survive.

    I appreciate your good intentions but stooped as they are in factual ignorance you become an enemy of the Cuban people while thinking you are a friend.

    Offering aid to the Cuban people: great, but the Castro dictatorship controls the flow and denies aid in lots of projects. Even food aid after hurricanes was rejected by Fidel. Direct aid to projects like “commandante Tondique” to feed poor Cubans in soup kitchens: all for it and last time I was in Camaguey I made a donation. The regime doesn’t allow foreign NGO’s to assist these people.

    As far as “trading with Cubans” goes. The only Cubans that can freely trade with foreigners are artists. I have a couple of great Cuban artists amongst my friends and I help them sell their works.

    That is where the ability of Cubans to trade with the US or world ends. So: as longs as there is the internal blockade even after lifting the embargo there are no Cubans but the dictatorship and some artists to trade with. That makes your case rather flimsy, no?

    Allow me to digress: I have great friends in the Pinar del Rio area. They are independent farmers and also grow some of the best tobacco Cuba has ever known. They keep part of the production and the family makes cigars “old style” that make even the best of Castro’s exports look like lower grade. Even if the embargo is lifted they can’t sell them for export. I can get in trouble each time I take some of their cigars abroad to enjoy and to sell some on their behalf to top of the line European restaurants. That is reality.

    Your arguments may be humane, but you are starting from completely erroneous presumptions.
    You would be better to target your energy at the Castro dictatorship so that small private enterprises ready to trade with the world can exist and the argue the US should trade with them. Now you basically are arguing the US should trade with and support the Castro dictatorship.

  • October 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm
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    There is an old saying: go for the ball, not the player.
    Stick to looking at what is posted instead of aiming at the posters.e are “in line” with what most Cubans want: and end to the Castro regime.
    As most people in Cuba and the US want and end to sanctions they also want an end to the dictatorship.
    When Cubans under 50 say that the sanctions should be lifted the majority of those doesn’t say “immediate and unconditional”. Most Cubans – on the island and in exile – still believe in a “two sided” process where real changes in Cuba are met by changes in the sanctions.

    Note that: even if the US would allow the import of Cuban goods to the US Cubans would still be prohibited by the regime from exporting to the US.
    You are blissfully ignorant or consciously avoiding Cuban reality. You act as if there is a free Cuban people ready to trade and interact with the US. If there was I would agree with you. As is I can only question your motives and knowledge.

  • October 19, 2014 at 11:47 am
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    One single comment as an answer with due respects to Moses Patterson. Alan Gross is in a Cuban jail for violating the laws of Cuba. We hold three additional Cuban citizens convicted in a court room in Miami, of all places, of spying in this country. So, we could say that Mr. Gross was also doing the same. Too many people see this Mr. Gross matter one sided, although I feel for the gentleman and how “he was sold to crap by the US”, the fact is that he violated the laws of that country.

  • October 19, 2014 at 9:11 am
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    Mr Patterson;

    I would like to know the background of Moses Patterson and CUBAQUS that made the above comments. They are certainly not in-line with the rest of the country and Florida. There is an interesting 2014 study by FIU that shows the majority of Floridians are for lifting the Embargo on Cuba. In fact, most Cuban Americans under 50 believe the Embargo should be lifted. There are similar studies on a national level that shoe the same results. As far as using the term “Blockade” it is fitting. Not only did we stop trade with Cuba, we try and make other countries follow suit by penalizing them if they do business with Cuba. If you want to export a product to the U.S. and any of it’s components were made in Cuba (even one screw) you can’t. Also EVERY country in the United Nations has voted for the U.S. to lift the embargo for the past 10 years.

    It doesn’t make me proud to be an American when we make millions of people suffer because we have a problem with their leaders. Don’t we offer aid and trade agreements with countries in a similar situation?

  • October 19, 2014 at 12:49 am
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    Castro sycophants must be blind and deaf. There is NO WAY Obama is doing anything to improve relations with Cuba while Alan Gross remains in a Cuban gulag. If Republicans gain control of the Senate in November, and it looks like they will, Sen. Menendez will lose his chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and yet NOTHING will change. Nobody wants to help make the Castro family even richer and help the regime beat and arrest even more Ladies in White without a significant first step towards democracy in Cuba. Let’s talk about failing agricultural production, or water and power shortages, or the pace of buildings collapsing. Anything but lifting the embargo. That issue is a waste of time. By the way, people who use the term “blockade” should look up what that word means in the dictionary.

  • October 18, 2014 at 7:50 pm
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    Mindlessly ending the trade sanctions on Cuba will only provide the Castro elite with more means – and a bigger incentive – to increase the “internal blockade” and the repression in Cuba. The elite in Cuba only acts in its won interests. It will only change when its interest dictate that and leave them no other choice. the fall of oil prices is one very important element as Venezuelans aren’t prepared to keep subsidizing a failed economy for dogmatic reasons.
    Whe Venezuelan subsidies dry up, the elite will start negotiating. The US should not give the dictatorship a way out now.

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