The Cuban Embargo: Punishing the Children for the Sins of the Father. The key to understanding the foreign policy of a nation state is understanding that state’s national interest. The key to successful foreign policy is, as Henry Kissinger stated in 1998, defining “an achievable objective”. Thus United States policy towards Cuba fails because it neglects these two key ingredients of foreign policy. The US embargo of Cuba is four decades old and no longer serves the country’s national interest, rather it has proven to be a economic and political hindrance for the US. The embargo also falls short in terms of having an achievable goal, since many of the requests that embargo legislation calls for are simply not within the ability of the Cuban state. By examining the sanctions and their economic, political, and humanitarian affect on both the Us and Cuba a strong case can be made for a revision of US policy.
US policy towards Cuba and the government of Fidel Castro has, since the 1960’s, been a policy based on the objectives of removing Castro, instituting a democratic system, and gaining reparations for confiscated US holdings. The initial sanctions were instituted because the US considered the close proximity of a communist state to be a national security threat, and also because Castro’s regime confiscated US holdings, and thus US control, on the island. By enacting a policy that unilaterally cut Cuba off from economic and political contact with the US, the US felt that it could force Castro from power. In the decades since the embargo’s conception legislation has been created to even further enforce these concepts. In 1992 Congress passed the Cuban Democracy Act, which prohibited US subsidiaries abroad from having business relations with Cuba (Ratliff and Fontaine 22).
This law pushed Cuban profits even further from the grasp of US businesses. Three years later when the economic sanctions of the Cuban Democracy Act had failed to oust Castro from power, the US Congress once again increased the standards Cuba most adhere to for the embargo to be lifted. It accomplished this by passing the Helms-Burton Law. Three of the stated purposes of the helms-Burton Law focus on the democratization of the Cuban government, two deal with protecting the US, and the last one is concerned with global sanctions. The law also increases the amount of compensation Cuba most pay before the US will drop the sanctions. The Helms-Burton law, by insisting that Cuba pay compensation to over 400,000 Cuban Americans, makes it literally impossible for the Cuban state to reach the Embargo supporters claim that sanctions against Cuba must be maintained because Cuba is still a national security threat to the US, however current facts about security reveal this to simply be untrue. Initially, Castro’s socialist platform and alliance with the Soviet Union did indeed pose a threat to American security.
The reason for this is that the state of international politics in that era was one of bipolarism between liberalism and communism. This meant that the US felt that its balance of power in its own hemisphere was being threatened by the Soviet’s presence in Cuba. Also the Soviet’s armament of Cuba posed a severe threat to US security, as was seen during the Cuban missile crisis. However, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, Cuba ceased to be an issue of national security. Present day Cuba does not have the economic ability or military ability to be a threat to the US. This conclusion was supposedly supported by a classified report issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1998 (Ratliff and Fontaine 31). Many embargo supporters disagree with this statement saying that Cuba is still a base for intelligence activities and that Castro could develop biological weapons to use against the US. If these concerns are actually warranted, then would not US security be better served by lifting the embargo so that the US intelligence community can better
The US embargo proves to be ineffective in both democratizing Cuba or removing Castro from power. US sanctions against Cuba have been held for the last forty years or so and Cuba is still very socialist society. Also Castro’s power has not wavered in any significant way that would indicate that the embargo was working. US policy makers feel that by debilitating the Cuban economy that it will be able to influence the Cuban people to rise up in rebellion against Castro. In many ways the embargo has exactly the opposite effect on reformers with in Cuba. By tightening sanctions on the island the US is hurting those people who would be the most likely to revolt, the people of Cuba.
Sanctions have made it necessary for the Cuban people to rely very heavily upon the government for basic needs like clothing and food. Since there are no outside markets for Cubans to buy from they most accept what the Castro government doles out. It would go against a person’s common sense to rebel against the person or people on whom he or she was totally dependent. If Cubans need Castro they are very unlikely to take the risk of overthrowing him for fear of punishment. The sanctions also increase the unlikelihood of rebellion because it has increased the class divisions. Class mobility is very difficult in even the most flourishing economies and is very nearly impossible in a non-solvent economy. Thus those with power maintain that influence while those without power have no hope of gaining more influence than that which they were born into. Of those who have power the military is most definitely in this category. The Cuban military, which is controlled by Castro, has a great deal of authority and has made it clear that it will use all its force to repress would-be reformers.
Dependency on Castro’s government, a lack of economic independence, and fear of a strong loyal military make reforms very rare and very dangerous for those who would Current US policy towards Cuba does not serve US economic interests because it blocks off a very profitable market from US farmers and businesses and hinders consumers from getting the best possible prices. In 1999 the American Farm Bureau. Federation stated that without US sanctions agricultural trade with Cuba would amount to $500 billion initially. It also estimated that this would quickly grow to $2 billion in five years or less. An article written in May 2000 for CNN.com entitled US Farmers Lobby to Ease Cuba Sanctions states that Cuba imports $700 million dollars of food a year. For struggling US farmers this huge market would be immensely helpful in making use of their untapped and badly needed wheat and rice markets. Farming is not the only business suffering from the embargo. A lifting of US sanctions would also help US pharmaceutical companies.
Currently Cuba has very little access to medicine, especially new medications. Most recently developed medicines are created by US companies. Cuba’s severe lack of medical supplies would make it a very profitable area of export for the pharmaceutical companies. The embargo also effects the price of some goods in the US. The goods noticeable effected are citrus and sugar, which are produced in abundance in Cuba. Opening the US market to trade with Cuba would create competition between Cuban producers of these goods and US producers which would ultimately lead to lower prices for consumers. Not only would competition lower the price of goods but cheaper importing costs would also lower the price since the US could import some goods from Cuba rather than from countries that are farther away. An easing of sanctions on Cuba would help better US businesses and thus should be in the. The US has often claimed morals grounds for the embargo, and yet US imposed sanctions on Cuba are considered by the international community to immoral as they severely compromise the health and safety of Cubans . A 1997 report by the American Association for World Health concludes that the US embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering-and even deaths-in Cuba. It states that the embargo has caused malnutrition among Cubans, poor water quality, and a severe decrease in the availability of medications and medical equipment.
The US embargo denies Cuba access to treatments for diseases such as AIDS, breast cancer, child leukemia, and cardiac illness. The US government has spent enormous amounts of time and money on research to prevent these illnesses because of their awful impact on human life and yet the US is knowingly allowing the Cuban people to suffer. The condition of the Cuban medical practice is in many ways that of a third world country, even though it is only 90 miles from the coast of a world superpower. It is obvious that the embargo is not affecting its desired target, Castro and his supporters. Instead it is causing unnecessary suffering While it is clear that both the US and the Cuban people would greatly benefit from a unilateral lifting of the embargo, it is also clear that due to Cuban-American lobbying influence only partial revisions can be made. Cuban-Americans are one of the most heavily politicized minority groups and represent a large voting block in the country, but most especially New Jersey and Florida. Cuban-American influence in Florida is very important because of the state’s 25 electoral votes. The lobby can use these votes to gain favor with any presidential hopeful. It is obvious that sanctions on.
Cuba can not simply be lifted but rather must be peeled away one layer at a time to be successful. A peeling away of the first layer started in October 2000 when Congress passed legislation to allow food and medicines to be sold to Cuba. A poll in the Miami Herald indicated that this bill had the support of over 60% of the Cuban-American community. This measure, however, is inadequate because it still prohibits US financing of these sales, public or private. That provision makes the new legislation basically null. The US government should fully drop legislation against the sale of food and medicine to Cuba. The US should in regards to these two items allow and endorse trade with Cuba as it does with other countries. Such a policy, while seemingly small, would benefit American businesses and help increase the health of the Cuban people and also would receive enough support to be passed through Congress.