Although diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States have gradually been improving, contrary to popular misconceptions, the 1960 United States embargo (el bloqueo) against Cuba is still in place. The president cannot remove the embargo, only an Act of Congress can. Below are ten critical reasons why the embargo and its related policies should end:
1) The embargo is undemocratic
Every year since 1992, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly has passed a resolution declaring the embargo to be a violation of the Charter of the U.N. and international law. In 2015, nearly every country except the United States and Israel voted to lift the embargo.
Beyond being in violation of the democratic will of the international community as expressed in United Nation votes, the embargo also represents a direct violation of third state sovereignty, and has also been criticized by the United Nations:
“The unilateral imposition of extraterritorial laws on third States was contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the Charter, and the embargo itself ran counter to the principles of multilateralism, international law, sovereignty and free trade that the Organization traditionally championed.”
This opposition is not just international. From 2008 to 2014, various polls concluded that the majority of Americas favor normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
There is, however, a notable exception to the embargo's opposition: Cuban exiles and their descendants. Most critical are the Cuban-Americans living in the swing state of Florida. Historical initiatives show that these pro-embargo Cuban-American exile’s votes can be so crucial in Florida that they have swayed many politicians to adopt their stance. Such is the case with the Bacardi family member’s close ties to the American political elite. Bacardi’s lawyers played a critical role in the Helms-Burton Act which strengthened the embargo against Cuba. As well as the Cuban-American Lobby group, who continuously influence U.S. policies towards Cuba. However, even among this demographic, polls show a declining support for the embargo especially with the younger generation.
2) The embargo is a human rights violation
Supporter’s of the embargo claim that it serves to pressure the Cuban government to stop committing human rights violations. However, the embargo itself is indisputably a human rights violation. The embargo hurts the average Cuban people, not the people who the supporters of the embargo oppose. If the U.S government aims to free a country from oppression, then why punish the people it is supposedly trying to help?
“Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba… [and to] make the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
3) Cuba is no longer a threat to the United States
On May 29, 2015, the Obama Administration removed Cuba from the state-sponsored terrorism list.
The force behind the embargo partially originated from the Cold War Era fear that the Soviet-aligned government posed a security threat. Such concerns were rational in 1962 during the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. But these fears no longer exist today. It has been decades since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed.
Cuba, clearly, is no longer a threat.
4) Ending the blame game
Lifting the embargo (and its related policies) could mean that the Cuban government could finally have to take full responsibility for inefficiencies going forward. The embargo can currently be used as a scapegoat for the Cuban government to blame economic shortcomings. It is ironic that those who support the embargo, because they resent the Castro regime, support the one policy that many argue, sustains it. Although ending the embargo would not necessarily remove the justifications for policy failures by the Cuban government, it would give fewer reasons for them to vilify the United States.
5) Millions of American citizens could see the real Cuba for themselves while promoting private entrepreneurship and the exchanging of ideas and information
Today, American tourism to Cuba is still strictly prohibited due to the embargo. This is stopping millions of Americans from seeing first hand what it is really like in Cuba rather than hearing conflicting narratives, many of which are from people who have not been to Cuba in decades, or worse, never been to Cuba at all. American tourism would help everyday Cubans exchange ideas and connect with Americans.
Moreover, when Americans spend dollars in Cuba, some of it usually goes directly into the hands of Cubans. This is partially because many Cubans are permitted to have private businesses such as hotels and restaurants in their homes, and taxis with their personal cars.
6) The embargo is bad for the U.S. economy
The Cuban government estimates that the embargo costs the island $685 million, annually. Money, at least some of which, could be invested to support the Cuban people.
But did you know it costs the United States, even more money? The United States Chamber of Commerce estimates that the embargo costs the American economy $1.2 billion per year in lost sales and exports and approximately 6,000 American jobs. And this is considering that the United States is already the island’s second-largest food supplier ($710 million in sales in 2008).
7) The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) is a disaster
The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) is inextricably tied to the embargo. It is a federal law that allows Cuban nationals to enter the United States so long as they touch American soil. They can apply for government aid and a year later, American residency. No other group of immigrants in the world is allowed this luxury.
Since the CAA does not grant travel visas to Cubans, the policy has enticed Cubans to embark on dangerous land and sea migrations to the United States since 1966. Most of these perilous sea voyages can cost upwards to $10,000 in Cuba, a country with an average salary of $25. This means that many if not most Cuban nationals who flee, had resources that could have been invested in Cuba.
Cuba can never fully prosper on its own if every citizen who begins to gain some capital decides to invest it to “flee”. Cuba not only loses potential investment but also the resources spent in providing free healthcare and education. These migrants often compete with Americans for jobs while adding costs to the U.S. government.
Cuba, of course, has many issues to address. Although there are exiles who left Cuba out of fear for their lives; today, most of these migrants leave for economic opportunity instead of political persecution.
And sure, things are not very glamorous for most people in the developing world. But Cubans receive subsidized food, most live rent-free, and healthcare and education are provided by the government. There are far worse conditions in many other countries which we do not have an embargo against nor extend these immigration privileges to.
More recently, this policy has caused a disaster at the borders of Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, where thousands of Cubans have been stranded. Many Cubans have turned to human traffickers to finish their land migration to the U.S. border.
8) It is inconsistent and discriminatory
Pretending the embargo is based on moral or political principles is hypocritical and inconsistent, when the United States is known for keeping a country like Saudi Arabia as a close ally.
In the 1980’s, Richard Nixon took measures to resume trade with Communist China which helped China lift millions of people out of poverty while lowering American costs for goods, among many other mutual benefits.
The palpable, disturbing difference between China and Cuba was that the preceding administration in the People’s Republic of China, the Kuomintang, fled to Taiwan when its leaders lost the revolution.
Conversely, the supporters of Fulgencio Bautista found haven in Miami, where many continue influencing American laws against Cuba.
9) It can be a negotiation chip
Removing the embargo could be a major negotiation chip to promote changes within the Cuban government to better the lives of the Cuban people.
Perhaps by pressuring the Cuban government to allow more freedom of the press, better access to the Internet, and more private entrepreneurship, Cubans could better prosper.
Several forms of these sorts of progressions have already been implemented since Raul Castro filled his brother, Fidel Castro’s, seat. These are positive signs that the Cuban government could be open to further negotiations.
10) The Embargo has never worked
An admittedly cliché definition of insanity is said to be the act of doing the same thing over, and over again while expecting a different result. It has been 56 years and the embargo and its related policies have done nothing but isolate 11 million people from the world economy.
Generations of Cubans have lived their entire lives under the dire effects of the U.S. embargo and the Cuban Adjustment Act.
These Cold War relics have outlived their historical significance long ago.
Let's save the sanctions for real enemies of the state, and allow Cuba the opportunity for some prosperity through trade and opportunity.
It is time to let go of policies that punish the Cuban people and antagonize a potential business ally. It is time to end the embargo.