Since the day when President Kennedy issued the US-Cuban Trade Embargo which prevented any trade being done with Cuba either directly or indirectly it has left the island of Cuba isolated and deprived of the wealth of tourism. “The United States never remembers and Latin America never forgets,” is a well-known Latin American clich which illustrates the depth of Cuban distrust about the United States and the everlasting revelation of Americans manifesting about Cuban dictatorship. Americans today ponder upon the question in which haunts politicians of the past and present, How the United States could have let a small island nation only ninety miles from its shores produce a communist regime that has outlasted the USSR? (Paterson 263). On the contrary, Cuba continues to be outraged at the way the United States still undermines and ignores Cuban dominion. The issue at hand is as we (the United States) have embarked on the twenty-first century we still remain entangled in an economic war of slow destruction with an island market begging for U.S. dollars . After forty-two years of isolation, deprivation and failed objectives against the island of Cuba, its time for a change, a revision, the lifting of a failed trade embargo.
Can we ever move on and change the embargo when flamboyant leaders continue to wave the bloody flag and open decade-old wounds. A European diplomat asked a Clinton official, “Why should the U.S. maintain economic sanctions against Castro if it is willing to trade with Hanoi and Beijing?” a senior Clinton official could only reply, “History matters” (Fedarko 54). History matters to the United States, but the history of prosperity of the Cuban people also matters as they remember history before the trade embargo. It is difficult for a generation of Americans to forget events such as the failed military blockade of the Bay of Pigs and threat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the threat of nuclear war was at hand. However it is also difficult for Cubans to forget the way their country was the second wealthiest country of the world before the embargo when their impoverished rate was substantially lower than it is today (Mc Allister 32).
Ironically, many Americans continue to harbor an intense antipathy toward Fidel Castro and his communist Cuba. Although they are open to President Bush having close relations to red China. The American public is unwilling to cooperate in reinstating trade with Cuba which might, in any way, benefit the well-hated dictator. If history is of such importance to the United States, let us further examine it. In 1972 President Nixon went to China (a country of communist regime) to normalize trade relations with them, why cant we do the same with Cuba? In 1977 Jimmy Carter lifted the travel ban against Vietnam only two years after the end of the Vietnam War, how come after forty-two years the United States cant do the same with Cuba? Right now an American can travel to Iran, where they have not only held American hostages for as long as 444 days, but have openly despised our country entitling it, The Great Satan. Why must Cuba be the exception in the rule, considering embargo? Americans are hell-bent on punishing Fidel Castro for his anti-American record but are significantly oblivious to the fact that they are punishing the Cuban people and not their dictator (Curbing Castro 17).
Our governments policy towards Cuban communism points many similarities to the failed military attack on the Bay of Pigs as the U.S. objective was not to topple the government like the days of President Theodore Roosevelt, but to spark the Cuban people into overthrowing their own government without any American bloodshed. Our countrys presidents must have forgotten the clich Speak softly and carry a large stick and adopted Speak loudly and carry a small stick as our objectives in the embargo alongside the ones in the Bay of Pigs were without military aggression, but verbal aggression and unaccomplished threats. The embargo is not targeted at directly squeezing Cuba’s leaders, but rather at starving the Cuban citizenry into action (End the Embargo 6). This proposed answer to communism in Cuba, of continuing to hold a trade embargo of isolation of an island in need, is unorthodox and ethically wrong.
In the case of Cuba, much of the pressure to keep our economic embargo in force derives from the long-standing belief, especially among many in the Cuban exile community, that this is the best way to bring a swift end to the cruel and destructive Castro regime (Nixon 137). Economic conditions on the island, bad before, have now become far worse to the point in which Cubans highly depend on the small five American dollars sent from exiled relatives in the U.S. to maintain their livelihood. In a 1995 interview with Time, Castro admitted to manipulating a slight form of capitalism to banish the threat of an economic collapse (59). The dollar was legalized as a form of currency on the island in 1993, and for the first time, the entrepreneur farmers were finally permitted to sell some of their produce on the open market which permitted them some financial gain. Nevertheless, Castro’s dictatorship has maintained tight control of the island (Nixon 138).
Even Cuban exiles are finally beginning to recognize that after forty-two long demoralizing years of Castro’s rule, the attempt to relieve him from power by the embargo has failed miserably (Mc Allister 53). President Nixon viewed the embargo as sign that “It is time to shift the central focus of our policies from hurting Cuba’s government to helping its people” acknowledging that it is time for revision and change of the Cuban Trade Embargo (Nixon 137). Finally after forty-two years, a former president, a growing number of Cuban exiles living in the U.S. and the TIME magazine have all begun to realize the failure of the embargo. The question in which leaves me baffled is that why was one of the most dedicated anti-communist of political history, President Nixon willing to normalize relations, but our current government is not?
As a response to the downing of two unarmed Cessna planes in international airspace by the Cuban Air Force, Senator Jesse Helms proposed tightening the embargo even further, later being known as the Helms-Burton act (Purcell 161). The proposed law would punish foreign companies that do business with Cuba by denying visas to company officers and preventing US banks from loaning to these companies. Its real teeth, however, lie in a provision which would allow Americans to sue foreign companies using property in Cuba that was confiscated from U.S. companies during the revolution. The act was passed by Congress yet President Clinton has twice delayed execution of the final clause as along with President Bush this year as well.
The effect of the Helms-Burton act, The U.S. has recently come under great pressure from the international community to stop punishing other countries from trading with Cuba. The United Nations general assembly has overwhelmingly condemned the U.S. embargo as recently as 1995, when it voted 117-3 to condemn the United States policy against Cuba and its traders. The United States dismissed the U.N. vote as irrelevant, believing that the embargo is a bilateral matter between the U.S. and Cuba (Overwhelming UN vote 2). America has ironically has failed in the objective of complete isolation of Cuba and actually isolated themselves from U.N. members upon the issue of trade. Why does the embargo continue when the objective of isolation been a proven failure? Yet another example of a question in which the U.S. can not afford to answer.
If the embargo were lifted, the United States could quickly capitalize on the ripened Cuban market. Due to its prime location of only ninety miles away from the largest island of the Caribbean, the US has the advantage over all other countries which trade with Cuba. The U.S. could receive revenues of up to 1 billion dollars the first year of lifting the embargo as speculated by American economic analysts (Diconsiglio 12). The embargo is only effective if Cuba needs U.S. trade dollars, and as international competitors such as France, Mexico, and Bangladesh move in, that time is being squandered by the United States.
Let us all remember the great words of Maya Angelo at the inauguration of Bill Clintons presidency, History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, Need not be lived again. Will the courage of facing history overthrow the embargo? After forty-two years of isolation, deprivation and failure of objectives, we continue in an economic war. The time to help the citizens of Cuba is now, the time to allow free-trade is now; the time to lift an embargo which has only further deteriorated the livelihood of the citizens of Cuba is NOW.
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