For approximately half of a century, the United States has maintained a limited interaction with the Cuban state. On issues ranging from economic trade to the participation in the World Baseball Classic, the United States has unfairly singled out Cuba as the lone recipient of US containment. The international community has repeatedly called for the end of the Helms-Burton Act as the 1996 reinforcement of the 1962 Cuban Embargo because of its shear hypocrisy. Aside from the blessing the United States would receive from organizations like the United Nations, opening up trade completely would mean an economic boost of immeasurable value. Finally, the repealing of this legislation would mean the destruction of a barrier that has gradually been accumulating cracks in the past several months revealing its ineffectiveness.
In the last twenty years, the United Nations General Assembly has voted numerous times on whether or not it supports the US’s financial exclusion of Cuba. The most recent vote in October of 2008 echoed a recurring sentiment: there is absolutely no support for the embargo. In a vote of 185 states opposed 3 states for, the United Nations overwhelmingly disapproved of the legislation. (Havana Journal, 2008)Their resentment has justification; the US maintains trade ties with the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam and Laos; all of which are Communist. The resentment that the United States has garnered from its policy decision has repercussions. In the last week of March, the Latin American, Caribbean Economic System (or SELA) stated that repealing the embargo would be the first necessary step in establishing relations between the Latin American continent and its neighbor to the north, the United States. (Permanent Cuban Mission to the United Nations, 2009) The implications of this are extensive when taking into account member states’ proximity to the US. The US must maximize cooperation with Mexico and Panama, which can only be achieved through the perception of fair US policies. In order to impede the drug smuggling that has found a haven in Mexico, the US needs the suppot of the Mexican government. Another member nation, Panama, is a crucial point of oceanic trade for the US. The Panama Canal specifically has been in dire need of a structural make over. However, due to Panama’s authority over the canal, such repairs are contingent on good relations with the United States.
Aside from a potentially larger and faster lock system in the Panama Canal that would be financially beneficial to both the US and Cuba, the mere opening of trade between the two states would yield enormous advantages. This policy reversal would provide the US with a new market for exportation which would begin to balance out the growing gap between our overwhelming imports and exports. This new market would greatly increase both consumer and business confidence and could very well contribute to turning around the United States’ economy. Simultaneously, because of decreased transportation costs, Cuba would have access to cheaper food and basic construction supplies that the country has been in need of since Hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck last fall. Although lifting trade restrictions would allow for this in larger quantities, companies out of Texas in particular have already begun to increase sales to Cuba. In addition to agriculture, the US has allowed Cuba to purchase medications as yet another exception to the embargo. (Early, 2009) Counter to these sales though, the US does not have the ability to purchase nor learn from medical advancements, such as a lung cancer vaccination, that have been made on the island. This single preventative could be the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
From both net beneficial and ontological perspectives, Cuba could serve as a new frontier if only the US would let go of what has become little more than an unending grudge.
The Trade Embargo is One of the Few Measures the United States has to Limit the Power of the Cuban Dictatorship
Contrary to popular belief, lifting the Helms-Burton Act would by no means help the Cuban people and it would not benefit the United States economy, in fact, the end result would be quite the opposite. This is because those in favor of its removal and of the current US legislative envoy to Cuba work off of three faulty assumptions: first, that any US aid would directly benefit the people of Cuba. Second, that Cuba would pay for United States’ imports and third, that Raul Castro is more liberal than his brother, Fidel.
Since Raul took over the Cuban dictatorship previously held by Fidel, he has undertaken initiatives to increase the freedoms of the Cuban population. He has allowed for the sale of cell phones, DVD players, and most recently, he has given millions of acres of farm land to private individuals. Sadly, those farmers do not have the capital to purchase the necessary farm equipment. With the introduction of a larger quantity of US agricultural goods flooding this already small, delicate market, farmers will have no way to competitively sell their goods to the government. As a result, farmer can never escape poverty. Thousands of Cubans would suffer further if the embargo were lifted because their income would drop and they live off of the scarce food rationing as a result.
Proponents of lifting the embargo also argue that opening up free trade between the two states would ultimately result in financial benefit for both. This line of logic assumes that Cuba has the liquidity to pay for those goods, while in fact lifting the embargo allows Cuba to purchase goods on a credit system that Castro is incapable of paying off vis-à-vis his dealings with other creditors. Japan, for instance, has denied Cuba the ability to purchase medical technologies until they have paid off their hundreds of millions in loans.
The previously mentioned changes in terms of freedoms seemingly indicate a more receptive type of leadership, but recent political happenings show otherwise. “Felipe Pérez Roque, the foreign minister, and Carlos Lage, the vice president and de facto economics czar” have been removed from their offices according to the New York Times on April 5th, because they convinced other political leaders that the Cuban leadership was willing to change previously held positions. Even with the new economic influence the US would hold over the country, Raul has made it clear that the leadership is centralized and founded on the principles of Communism and any dissidents will continue to be jailed and denied their basic rights.
Allowing Cuba the same opportunities as other countries means that they too are held to similar standards in the area of human rights and debt. Until that time comes, the embargo is keeping the right distance between the US and Cuba.
Early, Bryan R.. “To lift the US economy, lift sanctions on America’s foes.” The Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2009.
Permanent Cuban Mission to the United Nations, “SELA Opposes US Blockade on Cuba.” April 1, 2009.http://embacuba.cubaminrex.cu/Default.aspx?tabid=10229 (accessed April 12, 2009).
“United Nations votes 185 to 3 against US Embargo on Cuba. Havana Journal (2008), http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/united-nations-votes-185-to-3-against-us-embargo-on-cuba/. (accessed April 13, 2009).
Urbina, I. “In Cuba, Change Means More of the Same, With control at the Top.” April 5, 2009.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/06/world/americas/06cuba.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=cuba&st=cse (accessed 4/5/09).
Weissert, Will. “Raul Castro meets with 7 visiting US lawmakers.” April 6, 2009.http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iAmsicW8N2RLyDMGseghZNrEpiNgD97DAJIO0 (accessed 4/6/09).