As we all know, the US placed an Embargo on Cuba since the early 60s. Why does the Embargo still in place? What benefits does it bring to the country?
There are quite a number of articles published regarding this, but it's a little opinion-based. I'll try to list sources as I explain:
Why was the embargo stated in the first place?
The origins of the embargo go back even further, to when Fidel Castro came to power Jan. 1, 1959. He quickly lost American support as he publicized private land and companies, and imposed heavy taxes on imports from the U.S. In the first year of Castro’s regime, U.S. trade with Cuba decreased 20%. (Source: Time)
Why can't the President end the embargo now?
Congressional approval is required to lift the embargo and since it's the election season this year, it would be very difficult to overturn the ban with the presidency and the Congressional majority belonging to different parties.
Why isn't the embargo lifted now after 55 years?
Some have argued that Cuba hasn't yet met the conditions for the embargo to be lifted. The Proclamation signed by President Kennedy stated one reason was to reduce "the threat posed by its alignment with the communist powers."
The conditions for the embargo to be lifted include the requirements to: (Source: ProCon.org)
- legalize all political activity
- release all political prisoners
- transition to a representative democracy
- grant freedom to the press
- allow labor unions
Cuba hasn't met all the conditions listed above.
Another reason is that it currently isn't the right time. Raúl Castro's successor remains unclear. The US can use this as a bargaining chip when the next leader comes into power.
More pros and cons of lifting the embargo can be found at this article by ProCon.org.
How did it affect Cuba?
- Initially, Cuba traded with the Soviet Union and was not severely affected by the embargo. However, after Soviet Union was dissolved, it has weakened Cuba's economy.
- Currently, Cuba's economy is in quite a bad state, with the embargo being one of the main factors. Mexico, Canada, Italy, and Spain are Cuba's largest trading partners today.
- Cuba said in 2011 that the economic damage of the U.S. embargo has topped $1 trillion in its five-decade history.
- A commentary in The Huffington Post does describe the first-hand experience of the effects of the embargo.
Some articles to check out:
It also should be noted that there is still significant support for the embargo in the Cuban-American community. It's shrinking as the first generation immigrants die off, but the second generation is still very much against eliminating it. For example, all three Cuban-American Senators (Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz) are against ending the embargo.
It's not as bad politically as it once was. There was a time when opposing the embargo would have guaranteed a loss in Florida. Note that Obama waited until after the 2014 elections to liberalize Cuban-American relations. But it is still an issue in Florida.
It isn't just the OP that thinks the embargo is 'criminal', in an interview with an unofficial envoy, French journalist Jean Daniel, who was going to Cuba in late 1963 to meet with Castro, President Kennedy of the USA said:
“I believe that there is no country in the world, including all the African regions, including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime . . . I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins.”
Is a 'sin' a kind of crime? Perhaps not in a strictly legal sense but surely so on the terrain of politics and ethics - one would not have expected such strong language otherwise - and off-the-record too; its also rather difficult to imagine the embargo on Cuba as the US paying 'for those sins', rather they were being paid by the Cubans themselves.
In short, the embargo is probably best envisaged as a punitive measure against Cuba for defying US hemispheric hegemony a la the Munroe doctrine.
According to Noam Chomsky:
"The conduct of international affairs resembles the Mafia. The Godfather does not tolerate defiance, even from some small storekeeper."
In February 2009, Chomsky described the publicly stated U.S. goal of bringing "democracy to the Cuban people" as "unusually vulgar propaganda". In Chomsky's view, the U.S. embargo of Cuba has actually achieved its stated purpose. The goal of the embargo according to Chomsky has been to implement "intensive U.S. terror operations" and "harsh economic warfare" in order to cause "rising discomfort among hungry Cubans" in the hope that out of desperation they would overthrow the regime. In lieu of this goal, Chomsky believes that "U.S. policy has achieved its actual goals" in causing "bitter suffering among Cubans, impeding economic development, and undermining moves towards more internal democracy."
In Chomsky's view:
"the real 'threat of Cuba' is that successful independent development on the island might stimulate others who suffer from similar problems to follow the same course, thus causing the "system of U.S. domination" to unravel."