One of the big arguments against the embargo lately is that by “standing on the sidelines” the U.S. is missing an opportunity to move Cuba toward democracy. That through trade and people to people exchanges Cuba will learn democracy and develop a market economy through some sort of osmosis.
Well there’s an interesting article in today’s Herald about the Bush administration urging those countries that do business with Cuba to do more to pressure the regime to respect worker’s rights. I bring your attention to this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows that trading with a totalitarian regime is not an instant answer to human rights abuses. Spain and Canada are heavily invested in Cuba and have been for 15 years or more and there has been no improvement on the island. Why? Because those countries did not set any conditions or regulations on how their companies should operate in Cuba. Of course if they had, fidel castro would have rejected those companies. Now that they are in bed with the regime, the companies doing business in Cuba have even less of an incentive to agitate about worker’s rights. They know the regime can expel them on a whim.
Becoming the business partner of a murdering sociopath hardly seems like the way to get that murdering sociopath to change his ways. At least to me.
Secondly, if Bush has historically been paying lip only service to Cuban-Americans then why these statements, now that he’s not running for anything. Now that he’s a very lame duck? I think the president knows he has a moral obligation to continue to condemn castro and those who aid and abet him.
U.S.: Nations should demand labor standards in Cuba
The Bush administration says countries should lean on Cuba to demand higher labor standards.
BY PABLO BACHELET
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department is asking foreign governments to demand greater respect for labor rights from foreign companies that operate in Cuba, U.S. officials say.
Castro opponents say Cuba violates internationally accepted labor practices and foreign firms should not do business there much the same as when many companies balked at investing in apartheid South Africa. In Cuba, companies can’t hire or pay workers directly but must go through a state agency, which pockets the lion’s share of the wages.
The issue is controversial because there is talk of suing foreign firms in the United States because of the labor abuses. In the 1990s, Cuban dissident Gustavo Arcos proposed minimum labor standards for foreign investors to operate on the island, such as hiring directly without political discrimination and allowing Cubans access to hotels and beaches.
”We’ve talked to governments how they might use economic engagement to push for greater freedoms,” Kirsten Madison, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said Tuesday. “We’ve specifically talked to governments about the Arcos principles.”
Since Fidel Castro became ill in July of 2006, the State Department has embarked on a campaign to have countries bring more pressure on Cuba to enact democratic reforms.
”We hope that working in concert we can help define a shared expectation in the international community of what a transition in Cuba should look like,” she told a gathering at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, noting most countries agree Cuba should free political prisoners.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former union leader, was in Cuba this week, and Madison said the Brazilians could raise the labor issue with the Cubans.
”As a government of democratic left in Latin America they are particularly well positioned to talk to the Cubans and to lay out some basic expectations about what they would like to see,” she said. “Labor rights is a particular area where I think they would have something to say.”
Activists are watching the case of the Curacao Drydock Co., which was sued by three Cubans who were allegedly employed as virtual slave laborers. A Miami federal judge may decide Friday if the case should be tried in the United States or in Curacao.
One Western diplomat, who requested anonymity to discuss delicate international issues, said his country does not support Cuba’s labor laws but that firms have no choice because they are presented contracts on a ”take-it-or-leave-it” basis, and that many nations have questionable labor practices — not just Cuba.
H/T: Carlos Navarro