Ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba is a win-win: it will save lives and create wealth.
Isaac Dektor, Staff Writer
The United States embargo against Cuba is an oppressive and counterproductive policy that must end.
A bit of background — in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, president John F. Kennedy placed an embargo on trade on Cuba through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, in response to the Cuban Revolution. The intention of placing an embargo on any country is to isolate that country’s economy. The initial intent of the embargo on Cuba was seemingly to sabotage the nascent Cuban government. Nearly 60 years later, the embargo is still intact.
The upcoming 60th anniversary of the embargo is not a cause for celebration in Cuba, nor should it be in the U.S. The embargo’s original intention was effective, though its consequences for the Cuban people are not commonly discussed. For example, the policy disrupted the Cuban agricultural market. It has directly contributed to the malnutrition of thousands of Cubans - men, women and children - many of whom have starved to death as a result of this market disruption.
Former president Barack Obama made waves in 2009 when he eased travel restrictions and remittances, making it possible for Cuban-Americans to send money to Cuba without limitations and U.S. citizens to travel to the island for educational and religious purposes. The move signaled the potential normalization of the relationship between the two countries, but the newfound diplomacy was squelched under the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuba’s foreign minister, condemned the embargo for causing a humanitarian disaster.
“It qualifies as an act of genocide under Articles II (b) and (c) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted in 1948,” Parilla said, as reported by UN News. “There is not one single Cuban family that has not suffered the consequences of this.”
The United States rarely cites humanitarian concerns when pressured to undo its foreign policies. While the moral argument should be sufficient, the economic argument is unfortunately the more effective one.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has estimated the cost of the embargo on the U.S. economy to be $1.2 billion each year. This revenue could have accumulated through imports and exports over the last 60 years. The toll on the Cuban economy is unsurprisingly higher, with the Cuban government estimating a total loss of $753.69 billion.
Any country that champions free trade as one of the core tenets of its democracy should be kicking itself over revenue loss of this magnitude.
The United States embargo against Cuba is akin to its endless wars in the Middle East — it still exists due to policization as opposed to any concrete functional benefits.
The initial justification for the embargo was to topple the communist Cuban government in a strategy to hinder the spread of communism, which has been irrelevant since the Soviet Union collapsed 30 years ago. The fear of communism achieving global domination has ostensibly disappeared in popular discourse, but the embargo is anything but benign — it has very real humanitarian and economic consequences each and every year.
Moreover, every year the U.N. overwhelmingly votes in favor of ending the U.S. embargo against Cuba. In 2018, the United States and Israel were the only members to vote against a resolution to end the embargo in a 189-2 vote. The U.S. can block any resolution using its permanent veto power as a member of the U.N. Security Council.
“It’s anti-democratic for one country to go against the wishes of the 191 countries in the U.N who voted to end the embargo in 2016,” said Cassio Mendoza, Co-Chair of the LA U.S. Hands Off Cuba Committee, a non-partisan organization formed to end the embargo of Cuba.
“If Biden really wants to use diplomacy like he says,” said Mendoza, “it’s anti-diplomatic to go against what the rest of the world wants on a measure that supposedly isn’t a war.”