The Cuban Economic Embargo: Unfair & Unbalanced


We’re ready for the US trade embargo against Cuba to be over. The policy has had more than 50 years to achieve its goal of democratization in Cuba and it has failed. With the advent of normalized trade relations with China in 2000, the moral argument for the Cuban embargo lost all credibility. (Not that there aren’t many other examples of moral inconsistency in US trade policy, but China and Cuba are easily compared.)

If the goal is to weaken the Cuban government, the embargo may just have the opposite effect. With sanctions in place, the regime has a convenient scapegoat for all that ails the country. The embargo acts as a shield, deflecting the frustrations of the Cuban people away from the Cuban government and towards the US government. It’s the Yankee Imperialist’s fault that you don’t have enough of anything you need; stand firm with your government against their arrogance and intimidation.

A new approach is long overdue. 

Some targeted easing of trade restrictions has occurred. The Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 opened the way for the export of US food and agriculture products and further relaxed restrictions on the export of medical equipment, supplies and pharmaceuticals to Cuba. Since then, hundreds of US companies have established trade relationships with Cuba. Large annual trade shows in Cuba are flooded with US businesses seeking contracts there. The US has exported over 4 billion dollars of goods to Cuba in the last decade.

Why allow trade access to Cuba only to these specific industries? At first glance, it seems reasonable and neighborly to lower the wall enough to let a few essentials through. But Cuba is free to trade with other countries and they do; they can get food and medicine from elsewhere. The food and drug exceptions are more likely the result of powerful agriculture and pharma lobbies than benevolence.

Pharmaceutical companies are consistently among the most profitable in the US and agriculture is doing very well too, not to mention the government subsidies both industries enjoy. From US business perspective they are among the least in need of privileged access to a sanctioned market.

In the meantime Cuban Americans are allowed to travel freely and export remittances to family members. We’re 100% in favor of this. However, a good portion of these “remittances” are sold on the black market in Cuba and profits are returned to the US. Essentially, some Cuban Americans are trading with Cuba with little or no restriction. Good for them but unfair to other American businesses. They’ve cornered the market and guard it fiercely, fighting all attempts to remove the trade embargo. Currently, remittances from the US to Cuba are around 1 billion annually.

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