It has been over sixty years since Fidel Castro entered the scene and over six years since he died. His brother Raúl stepped down as head of Cuba’s Communist Party and is now in retirement. Cuba now has a president, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, that is the first non-Castro leader of Cuba since the revolution. Times have changed. It is time for the never-ending, unnecessary drama between our two countries to end.
First and foremost, Congress should lift the misguided, antiquated U.S. trade embargo against Cuba — in its entirety — at once. The steps taken by the Obama administration to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba was a necessary first step, however even those actions did not go far enough.
Although President Obama’s new provisions allowed certain American businesses to trade with Cuba, the embargo continued to ban most Cuban exports, prohibit American tourism, and make banking virtually impossible. This paradox created confusion and made potential investors uneasy.
Early in his administration, Donald Trump erased even those minor concessions, restoring travel restrictions on Americans and re-instituting constraints on U.S. investments and commercial dealings in the country.
In April 2019, he declared that U.S. citizens can once again sue for “trafficking” in property that was taken as a result of the revolution; limit the amount and frequency of money that Cuban Americans can send back to Cuba; and established even stricter travel restrictions on U.S. citizens.
The Cuban embargo should be lifted for at least three reasons:
We need to get with the program, people.
It is an important economic move for America. The United States International Trade Commission estimates that: “U.S. exports to Cuba in the absence of sanctions, based on average 1996-98 trade data, would have been approximately $658 million to $1.0 billion annually; this is equivalent to about 17 to 27 percent of Cuba’s total imports from the world. This estimate would increase marginally, to $684 million to $1.2 billion, if U.S. exports were to increase by the amount of estimated additional net foreign exchange flows from the United States to Cuba from telecommunication services payments, travel and tourism payments, and U.S. foreign direct investment.” And those numbers are based on data from over twenty years ago! Imagine what that number would be now! Not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend every year “enforcing” the policy.
In 2014, research from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think tank, estimated “U.S. merchandise exports of goods and services to Cuba could reach $5.9 billion annually, while Cuban exports to the United States could reach $6.7 billion annually. The stock of direct investment from all foreign countries in Cuba might reach $17 billion, up from less than $1 billion today.”
It is an inconsistent policy. The embargo was enacted, in part, to take a hard stand against a repressive regime. However, it is ridiculous to link this embargo to human rights when we have no problem doing business with China, which is way more authoritarian and repressive than Cuba. And remember, the Castros are GONE.
The embargo simply has not worked. Instead of the sanctions punishing the Cuban government and forcing them into submission, the embargo has served as their scapegoat for all of Cuba’s economic hardships and as a way for them to further repress the people of Cuba.