THE U.S. ECONOMIC EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA AT 50
Diego Trinidad, PhD
Some brief comments on the 50th anniversary of the US embargo against Cuba. The policy was first imposed by the Eisenhower administration in response to the Cuban revolutionary regime’s confiscations of American properties in the summer of 1960. It was tightened by the Kennedy administration in 1961-62. I will not go into the historic details of the policy; I have done it elsewhere and it is not necessary. But Marzo Fernández, and Eugenio Yañez in the excellent website Cubanalisis.com, offer good summaries for those interested. My analysis of the failed policy can be found in Cubanalisis.com and in NuevoAccion.com. I merely want to point out something very obvious: the total failure of the embargo policy to bring down the Castro regime. Furthermore, I want to offer a few modifications to the obsolete policy that may yet make it viable to influence changes in the Castro regime.
Although the embargo was not at first designed to bring down the new revolutionary government in Cuba, it was soon modified by the Kennedy administration for exactly that purpose. It was a two-pronged approach, one military, one economic. The military side (direct military intervention) came to an end after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, but it had a complementary paramilitary component to assassinate Fidel Castro, which culminated in Operation Mongoose, directed by Robert Kennedy until the assassination of his brother the president in November 1963. The economic part, after many changes, still continues as official US policy after more than half a century. It has been a total failure in ending the Castro regime. That is indisputable. It is time for a change of policy.
Now we hear talk of moral imperatives (from Eugenio Yañez) to keep the failed policy. Many others, such as Jaime Suchlicki, Director of the Cuban and Cuban American Institute at the University of Miami, insist that the embargo must be kept as a weapon to gain concessions from the Cuban regime, especially under a new future government in Cuba. I share both opinions, to an extent, but I do not believe either position is strong enough to continue a senseless policy that cannot be defended anymore. Laws -and the embargo, when it was codified by the Helms-Burton Act of 1997, is US law- should not be passed, much less kept, simply by inertia.
Laws which are obsolete, unjust and even unconstitutional (parts of the Helms-Burton Law, particularly those which prohibit US citizens to travel to Cuba, are clearly unconstitutional) damage the moral fiber of nations that implement such bad laws and promote disrespect for all laws in general. For those reasons only, the embargo should be repealed. Yes, there are moral imperatives, but to repeal, rather than to keep, the embargo.
There are perhaps more important reasons to repeal the embargo, although I do not agree with them. The propaganda value to the Cuban regime (which calls the embargo a”blockade”) and the excuse that the embargo/blockade is responsible for all the economic chaos in Cuba since 1959 are both false and neither is remotely important to change a 50 year old policy, no matter how obsolete and how much of a failure it has been. Moreover, even if the embargo has not caused the fall of the Castro regime, it has done a lot of damage to the regime (not, as Castro claims, to the Cuban people), if only by the limitations it has imposed on it, which have prevented many activities, especially terrorist activities, that the Castro regime might have attempted. Propaganda is important, and as Yañez points out, Cuba has won the propaganda war, but propaganda is not that important, especially in a less ideological world, and its influence must not be exaggerated, nor must it blind us as something determinant.
The famous “world opinion” is, and always has been, invalid and even ridiculous that ought never be seriously considered by any government in the formulation and implementation of national policies. Only the national interest must be primarily considered by legitimate governments in the formulation of any policy.
Yes, morality should be considered, and it has been throughout American history, but it must not be the determinant factor. Therefore, those criticisms of the embargo are not impressive and they are certainly not enough to change the embargo policy. But there are, indeed, valid reasons to change the policy. Justice and US national interests are reasons enough. Some suggestions follow.
First, the unilateral repeal of the economic embargo by the US. But with an important proviso. American banks and financial institutions, including international organizations which are partially funded by US money, are prohibited, under any circumstances, from extending credit to the Cuban regime. If private US corporations wish to sell merchandise to Cuba on credit, they may do so, but the US government may not guarantee those transactions and no taxpayer money can be used to cover private losses in cases of Cuban default. The policy of caveat emptor should apply in reverse: let the seller beware.
Second, all US citizens -and Cubans who live in the US and who are legal residents- can travel to Cuba without restrictions. But again, the US government is not responsible for any problems travelers to Cuba may have because of actions by the Cuban regime.
Third, there will not be any restrictions on money sent to Cuba from the US, except that any money may not be sent through Cuban government entities. The Cuban regime may not directly benefit from money transfers. If those receiving the money are taxed by the Cuban government, or if the regime imposes fees on transfers once the money is in Cuba, that is between the Cuban citizens and the Cuban regime, but the US government may have nothing to do with such money transfers. Private companies such a Western Union are capable of handling those transactions without US government interference.
Fourth, the US will keep its interest section in Havana (and Cuba in Washington), but the US government WILL NOT recognize the legitimacy of the Cuban regime and no diplomatic relations will be established with Cuba.
Finally, the US government shall suspend, indefinitely, its neutrality laws in reference to any legal activities against the Cuban regime originating in US territory. The US government publicly rejects any contractual obligations arising from the “understanding” between Kennedy and Khrushchev reached after the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962, or any subsequent agreement between the US and the former Soviet regime, that in any way guarantee the physical integrity of the Cuban regime and it proclaims its moral support for any change in the Cuban regime that respects the individual freedom of Cuban citizens.
The US government proclaims its traditional friendship towards the Cuban people and offers any aid and support to any legitimate government that Cubans, by their own efforts, may freely adopt.
This should be enough to bring order and justice to the relations between Cuba and the United States.
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