Lessons from the Embargo on Apartheid South Africa for Castroite Cuba pt. 2
Unfortunately one of the new lessons from the campaign to impose an embargo on the South African Apartheid regime is that that since 2000 with the Supreme Court decision citing the Supremacy clause in Crosby versus National Foreign Trade Council which means that relations or trade with a foreign country is governed by the federal government and that state and local governments can no longer place their own sanctions on foreign governments unless it is in accordance with federal government policy. In 2000 the Supreme Court forced Massachusetts to do business with companies that had done business with the military junta in Burma.
In recent days it appears to be being repeated with Cuba in Florida where a Brazilian multinational is suing over a state law that bans companies that do business with the regimes in Cuba and Syria. The Miami Herald in a June 5, 2012 editorial stated that:
The U.S. Constitution does not give states the right to conduct their own foreign policy — indeed, imagine 50 states conducting their own foreign affairs; that would be disastrous. The Civil War clarified where “states’ rights” stop.
The history of the United States indicates otherwise. Governors of states are considered subnational foreign policy actors pursuing commercial agreements on behalf of their respective states. Would the Miami Herald call on the governor of Florida along with other state and local officials not to pursue commercial opportunities for their respective state and local governments? Furthermore, the rights of states and local governments to impose restrictions on nefarious regimes and unjust practices has a long history. John Kline from Georgetown University in a paper titled “Continuing controversies over state and local foreign policy sanctions in the United States” exposes the inaccuracies in The Miami Herald’s editorial:
Recent state and local government sanctions on business with Burma and certain Swiss banks renews a debate over foreign policy powers in federal systems that operate in an integrated global economy. International business promotion has become an accepted function of state and local governments. More controversial is the imposition of foreign policy sanctions, where economic involvement becomes a lever to pursue political goals rather than an objective in itself. When compared with past cases, including South Africa and the Arab boycott, recent state and local initiatives demonstrate both continuity and fresh departures in federalism’s evolving adjustment to the global economy. These developments can be used to examine theoretical concepts such as constituent and multilayered diplomacy. They also argue for improved practical cooperation among the multiple and diverse actors engaged in foreign policy issues.
That is to say that the tactics and strategies used by the anti-Apartheid movement to organize a grassroots campaign that obtained national sanctions against the South African government by first passing sanctions at the local and state level to build momentum nationally would be impossible today. Grassroots activists and US citizens have been stripped of that power while corporations in business with despicable and brutal regimes such as Burma, China, Cuba and Syria have been empowered.This is another example of the centralization of power in the central government that in fact undermines federalism.
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