Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

February 19, 2008

Tuesday Open Thread: Time To Lift The Cuba Embargo ?

by Doug Mataconis

With today’s announcement that Fidel Castro is stepping down as President of Cuba, the curtain is drawn on one of the longest international rivalries of the 20th Century.

Yes, Fidel’s brother Raul is taking his place, and, yes, Cuba remains a one-party dictatorship, but this announcement leaves me with the feeling that we are seeing the beginning of the end of Cuba’s totalitarian history.

Which leads to a question — is it time for the United States to lift it’s near total embargo against Cuba ?

For the past 50 years, Americans have not been able to travel to Cuba (although people do go there through Canada and Mexico), they haven’t been able to sell anything to the Cuban people, and they haven’t been able to buy anything from them. The United States doesn’t even have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

From the beginning, the rationale for the embargo was that the United States didn’t want to strengthen the Cuban regime, but that rationale never made sense. Even during the height of the Cold War, we were trading with, and had diplomatic relations with, the USSR, China, and all of Eastern Europe behing the Iron Curtain. We’ve been trading with Vietnam for nearly two decades now and we have an ambassador there. But not Cuba.

Politically, it’s simply been impossible to even address this issue before now. No President — Republican or Democrat — wanted to raise the opposition of the powerful anti-Castro Cuban lobby in South Florida. But now that Fidel is basically gone, isn’t it time to start treating Cuba like every other nation in the world ?

I think the answer is yes.

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  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    I agree 100%, which is no surprise, as I’ve been advocating an end to the embargo for a very long time.

  • Ben

    Why are so many people in South Florida opposed with trading with Cuba? Are they economically ignorant and not able to see that spreading capitalism to Cuba would eventually weaken Castro much more than the embargo, or do they have ulterior motives?

  • http://pith-n-vinegar.blogspot.com Quincy

    Lifting the embargo and opening trade with Cuba would be the biggest thing we could do to debase the communist party in that country. Social freedom never exists without economic freedom.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Ben,

    Because there is still a class of Cuban emigres who think that, when the Castro regime does finally fall, they’ll be able to waltz into Havana and take over. Anything that strengthens the existing economy works against that strategy.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Quincy,

    Lifting the embargo and opening trade with Cuba would be the biggest thing we could do to debase the communist party in that country. Social freedom never exists without economic freedom.

    Exactly ! And isn’t that exactly what was happening in the Soviet block in the 80’s ?

  • oilnwater

    cuba’s economy, including it prices and trading partners, doesnt fit with the economy the state department wants cuba to have.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    I hope the U.S. is not anointing someone to waltz in and take over when the regime falls.

  • Orlando

    As a long-time reader of this blog, I’m appalled at some of the things you guys are saying.

    You want to open trade with Cuba? Fine, an entitled opinion not without merit… but to call people “ignorant” or to claim to know the rationale of people you don’t know simply because they share a different perspective…..?

    First, some missing facts: the embargo was in no small part instigated by the stealing of private property and assets belonging to US citizens when castro seized control of anything he could get his grimey hands on. How can libertarians forget about the sanctity of private property? Hugo’s given us a recent reminder of what that’s like…

    And the motivation to keep the embargo in place by those “intransigent south Florida Cuban Americans” has nothing to do with “waltzing back in and taking over”… or even reclaiming lost land or anything like that.

    As the Americans who send more dollars into the island than anyone else and communicates with people on the island more than anyone else (speaking of perspective…), they know that any trade with Cuba is not trade with the people. It’s trade with the regime, which strengthens the stranglehold and the apartheid.

    Plus, what about every other nation in the world that trades with Cuba? Is US capitalism the only antidote for the castro disease? All those Canadians and British tourists? How do their liberty-infused lives spread capitalism on the island? Why, by buying cute trinkets hand-crafted by trained doctors who make more money by crossing the no-locals-allowed line and risking jail time selling souveneirs than their masterful profession spreading that world-renown health care, of course!

    And as far as hurting the hungry people of Cuba, the US is the biggest supplier of food and drugs for the country.

    The embargo hasn’t worked because it’s too passive. But unconditionally lifting the embargo is not the answer. After all, if Cuba wanted the embargo to end, they simply need to perform a few god faith acts that prove the days of the corrupt asset-sezing regime is poised for change: end human rights abuses and apartheid, free some prisoners, and maybe try a real election. Otherwise, any US assets on the island as a result of the lifted embargo could be confiscated yet again.

    The *Cuban* government can end the embargo at any time…

  • http://pith-n-vinegar.blogspot.com Quincy

    Orlando –

    You’re expecting the Cuban government to instigate social reforms while they still have the Cuban people under the economic jack boot. That’s simply not going to happen.

    The slow process of bringing down the communist party in China began with trading with them. When the trade becomes vigorous enough, people begin to think independently of government because they have the economic power to get away with it.

    Contrary to what the Chinese communists would have you believe, the internet filters they use leak like a sieve when pressed by determined users. Had we not been trading with China, private citizens would never have had internet access. (I’m sure the communist party would never have given it to them.)

    The same process is possible in Cuba, and it does mean we’ll have to forget our lost property, spend time and money trading with the regime, and risk further property seizures. In the end, it will still result in a weakening of the regime, just as it has in China.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    I completely agree with Quincy’s argument…free trade is the ultimate corrosive to authoritarian regimes like Castro’s and China’s. Sadly, though, many of our elected leaders seem to think that government pissing contests work better.

    They don’t.

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