US embargo on Cuba


The UN general assembly is expected to overwhelmingly condemn the US economic embargo against Cuba today, adding pressure on the Obama administration to abandon its 47-year-old policy.

Since 1960, Americans have been barred from trading with, investing in, or traveling to Cuba. The embargo may have possibly made sense before 1991, when Castro served as the Soviet Union's proxy in the Western Hemisphere, but all that changed with the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, more than a decade after losing billions in economic aid from the Soviets, Cuba is only a poor and dysfunctional nation of 11 million people who pose no threat to America or any other country.

More recently some officials in the Bush administration charged that Castro's government may be supporting terrorists abroad, but the evidence is pretty shaky. It is much more likely that the Bush administration simply wanted the Cuban vote in Florida, than it really believed Cuba was paying the bills of terrorist. As a foreign policy tool, the embargo has aided Castro’s government authority by giving him an excuse for the failures of his socialist programs. He can, and has, railed for hours about the suffering the embargo inflicts on Cubans, even though the damage done by his domestic policies have been far worse. If the embargo were lifted, the Cuban people would be a bit less deprived and the Cuban government would have no one else to blame for the shortages and stagnation that will persist without real social reforms.

If the goal of U.S. policy towards Cuba is to help its people achieve freedom and a better life, the economic embargo has completely failed. The economic effects have made the people of Cuba worse off by denying them low cost food and other goods that could be bought from the United States. Given the current economic situation, lifting the embargo could create just the jump start that the US economy needs. Open markets are the best real way to encourage more personal freedoms and government reform.

Spencer Aland blogs regularly here.