The Cuban Embargo

Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean that is 90-miles from the US border (from Key West, Florida).  With it being so close to the country, it’s history and that of the US has been intertwined many times throughout history.  Christopher Columbus first set foot on the island in 1492.  It would be a colony of Spain until after the Spanish-American War when Spain would give up its authority over the island.  US President Theordore Roosevelt would grant Cuba its independence in 1902; however, the US retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and supervise its foreign relations and finances. This would continue until the 1959 revolution lead by Fidel Castro.  And it’s at this time that things go awry and quickly.

The US was out and didn’t like the way Castro was going about things.  The government nationalized about $25-billion in private property (of which $1-billion was American property). The CIA actually tried to assassinate Castro both in 1960 and 1961 (according to declassified documents in 2007).  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy approved the Bay of Pigs invasion that was to be done by Cuban exiles living in the US to overthrow Castro… which ended in a complete disaster.  Castro was also getting help from the Soviet Union to help bolster his power.  Things went to the extreme in 1962 when the US learned that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear weapons in Cuba.  The world braced for a nuclear war as the two super-powers (the US and Soviet Union) stared each other down.  Eventually, after some tough talks, the Soviets backed down and took the missiles out of Cuba.  In 1963, the US imposed a complete commercial and diplomatic embargo on the country.  To this very day, the embargo still continues with Cuba.  Since 1963, the overall laws have been strengthened (Helms-Burton Act); however, there has been some lifting with Cuban-Americans being able to travel to Cuba and students being able to do so, as well, so long as they meet certain requirements.  And despite the embargo, Cuba still receives imports (6.6%) from the US.  The US is the 5th largest importer into Cuba, but they have to pay in cash… no credit is allowed.

We are now living in the 21st-century.  The Soviet Union has collapsed long ago.  Communism exists in only a handful of nations… some of which we have trade relations with.  And yet, a nation so close to our own still has an embargo upon it that was put in place in the 1960s.  It sounds a little out-dated to me.  We are in a time where we are looking for new trading partners to help bolster American jobs and our exports.  Wouldn’t it make sense to ship things to Cuba?  We technically already do, so why not make it official?  Yes, it is run by an authoritarian regime that doesn’t necessarily help its people (though some things have been loosened a bit since Raul Castro took over for his older brother Fidel Castro a few years ago), but yet we supported the authoritarian-Mubarak regime in Egypt that was basically the same thing.  The difference… Mubarak was our ally and Castro was an ally of the Soviet Union.  But the Cold War is long over and communism isn’t the threat that it once was.  We even have open trade relations with China… the biggest (and most populace) communist country in the world.  But yet, this little tiny island we just can’t seem to let the past go.

We were never involved in an active (or hot) conflict with Cuba.  Everything was mostly covert operations instead of open hostility.  It probably helped save the US and Soviet Union from going to nuclear war that way.  At the time we were handling this, we were diving head first into a bigger situation in Vietnam… where we supported an authoritarian regime in South Vietnam to protect it from the communist North Vietnam.  In the end, the US would lose and South Vietnam would fall to communist forces in the 1970s.  The country of Vietnam is still a communist nation to this very day.  Despite being involved in an active conflict in that country for a couple of decades, where US lives were lost and money was spent, we now have open trade relations and diplomatic relations with that nation.  But again… Cuba is left to itself despite being so close.

2008 Immigration Statistics

There is also an immigration point to this, too.  Did you know that any Cuban citizen that touches US soil is granted amnesty and allowed to stay legally within the US no matter how they got here? (previous blog entry on immigration)  Quite frankly, they should have to go through the same process as any other immigrant to this country.  Just because they live in a communist nation run by a dictator is no longer grounds for immediate amnesty within our borders.  If we are going to raise an outcry over illegal immigration in this country, shouldn’t Cubans be included in that?  In 1994, the US and Cuban governments agreed that the US would grant 20,000 visas annually in exchange that the Cuban government would crack down on unlawful departures of boats.  And though the Cuban government may or may not be complying with this, people still arrive from Cuba every year by any means necessary and are allowed to stay.  According to the Congressional Research Service, 3,351 Cubans were apprehended by the US Border Patrol in 2008… down slightly from 4,295 in 2007.  Cubans reaching ports of entry without documents showed similar trends… 11,278 in 2008 which was down from 13,019 in 2007.

The overall point that I’m trying to make is this… our relationship with Cuba is substandard to our needs here in the 21st century.  We need to find new markets for US goods… especially as we are coming out of this economic recession.  Why shouldn’t a nation so close be one of those markets?  Why can’t we finally ease the diplomatic and economic sanctions?  Again, the Cold War is long gone.  The government says that the embargo will stay in place until the Castro’s are no longer in power.  Must we really wait until then?  What sense does it make?  We trade and have diplomatic relations with other authoritarian regimes, so why not one that’s right off our coastline.  It could prove to be greatly beneficial to the US economy and for US jobs.  I’m sure the Cuban people have plenty to catch up with.  And if we are wanting to bring about a social revolution within the country, wouldn’t that be the best way to bring it about?  In the end, it could also help with the Cuban immigration problem… especially if we start making them come here legally like we want everyone else to do instead of just allowing them to stay once they are here.  Our history with Cuba is in the past.  So why must we continue to hold onto it so dearly when we have progressed with other nations that too were once our enemy?  It just doesn’t make sense anymore, and it’s time our federal government woke up to it.  It’s no longer the 1960s, it’s time to let it go.

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