The embargo, part 4013

The last few days I’ve been posting Cuban vacation videos that people upload to youtube. They have inspired yet another round of debate about the embargo. The thing that gets me about this debate is how simplistic the arguments from embargo opponents are. “Well, it hasn’t worked in 50 years” is the most popular. We can all agree that the embargo hasn’t toppled the regime, not that that was the original goal, but it’s not an either/or situation. Getting rid of the embargo doesn’t guarantee the desired outcome, but there are some very undesirable outcomes that are probable if we drop the embargo without obtaining concessions from the Cuban (mis)government. What am I referring to? Well, consider what lowering the embargo REALLY means.
1. We would be rewarding and legitimizing this man:
Yes, that’s a young raul castro, dictator jr. strapping a blindfold on a man about to be executed. Someone recently told me the embargo was morally unacceptable. Well to me it’s morally unacceptable to forget the man in the blindfold and the many others who have met their fate at the hands of raul the munificent, granter cellular phones and microwave ovens.
2. And what about political prisoners like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, whose freedom is a current requirement for removal of sanctions against Cuba?
What message do we send Biscet and the other political prisoners if we decide tomorrow that Cuba is just another country with which to conduct business as usual? How does removing the embargo get us any closer to obtaining their freedom?
3. Now, consider that removing the embargo means that Cuba would be open to American tourism. Many see this as potentially destabilizing to the regime. I don’t. As I have shown, Canadian and European tourists flood the island and act like…well they act like tourists. Which is fine under normal circumstances but it strikes me as a bit ridiculous to be frolicking in an all-inclusive resort while outside the walls there’s no human rights. The idea that tourists bring with them the magic bullet that will kill the regime has been disproved over the last 15 years.
4. And it’s not just American tourists that would gain access to the island, it’s American corporations. Under current Cuban policies American companies that would do business in Cuba would HAVE TO do it as minority partners in joint ventures with Cuban STATE OWNED enterprises. So the United States goes from a position of condemning the castro regime and restricting trade with it to a position of sanctioning trade with it and American corporations would become business partners with bloody murderers like the one pictured above.
5. Not to mention the fact that there’s about $8 billion worth of American assets that castro, inc. stole that hasn’t been resolved yet. Is raul the munificent going to give the “Havana Libre” back to the Hilton corporation? Doubtful? So what we end up saying is that you can steal from the U.S. as long as you remain recalcitrant for 50 years all will be forgiven, borrón y cuenta nueva.
The problem here is the same fundamental problem we’ve had for 50 years. The regime doesn’t change because it does not want to change. Even in the face of extreme privation in the 1990s the reforms implemented by castro, inc. were miniscule and they were rolled back once Chavez’ petrodollars replaced Soviet subsidies. The things that weren’t rolled back were those that the regime could manipulate to its advantage with little or no downside from its perspective, like allowing the aforementioned drunken tourists to visit.
There is no doubt that removal of the embargo given the present structure of the Cuban economy can serve only to STRENGTHEN the financial position of the regime. I challenge anyone to explain to me how that gets Cubans closer to freedom.
The key words are PRESENT STRUCTURE. We’ve heard a lot of talk about the Chinese model in Cuba but it has not YET been implemented. There’s still no private property rights, there’s no significant private sector economy allowed. There’s no competition for labor or other resources.
I DO BELIEVE in the power of free trade to democratize, under the right circumstances. I don’t think the regime would last 12 months under the Chinese model. Cuba is not China. And that’s the exact reason the regime has not implemented the Chinese model to date. The purpose of a totalitarian regime is perpetuate its power. Castro, inc., it’s chairman and its board of directors simply aren’t going to put themselves out of business. They’re just looking for another in the long list of suckers they’ve conned over half a century.

10 thoughts on “The embargo, part 4013”

  1. Muy bien dicho. I wish I could always remember this analysis, word by word, for those situations when I have to talk to people completely perdidos en el llano about the embargo issue.
    The one that I still don’t quite understand is when Americans say their own government is going against their freedoms –or something like that–for prohibit them travel directly to Cuba.
    How does that fit in the analysis? Obviously, after you repeat to them for the 125th time that the goal of the embargo was not eliminate castro’s inc, but punish them for expropiating American assests without the due what’s the name? payment, indemnization?

  2. Cubanita,
    The courts have ruled that the commercial embargo on Cuba and the travel restrictions (which are really trade restrictions) are part of legitimate foreign policy. The federal government is constitutionally invested with the responsibility to set trade policies for the country.
    Tell people they that they should exercise their “right” to visit North Korea first.

  3. Henry,
    Nice post. It appeals to emotion, particularly by starting out with a photo of an execution.
    Lets set emotion aside for a moment, and sort through some facts.
    1. Most dissidents, in Cuba, in the trenches, oppose the embargo. Some are Marta Beatriz Roque, Oswaldo Paya, Miriam Leive, Oscar Espinos Chepe and Elizardo Sanchez. By some accounts the vast majority of recognized, prominent dissidents in Cuba oppose the embargo. Are they “rewarding” raul? Are they forgetting the victims of the dictatorship? You often complain that when the MSM looks for “experts” on Cuba, they seldom select a Cuban. These people who oppose the embargo are in Cuba fighting the good fight. Will you defer to them?
    2.A tourist is a tourist. Leave it to their conscience whether they travel there to frolick, proselitize, or simply to screw around. We can’t continue to advocate a failed embargo merely because oblivious tourists might behave badly.
    3. American corporations would have an opportunity do do business there. Fine, the dissidents I listed above, other dissidents, and many other well intentioned people firmly believe this would improve the lives of ordinary Cubans. That is a good thing, and probably one of the reasons the dissidents “on the ground” oppose the embargo.
    4. Finally, there is $8 billion in today’s dollars that has not been paid. Pardon me if I find this unimpressive. I am concerned with the lives of ordinary Cubans and, ultimately bringing democracy to the island. Whether US corporations recover for their lost investments is secondary. This argument should be of concern to Americans, not those whose primary focus in on Cuba and Cubans.
    Finally, yes the Cuban government will do whatever the Cuban government wants to do. We should be in a posture of ACTING in the best interest of our Cuban brothers, not merely REACTING to the Cuban government’s moves.
    Most dissidents oppose the embargo. Have you ever wondered why?

  4. You are asking to set aside more than emotion. You are asking to set aside contact with reality.
    The first thing you should know is that I USED to believe the fairy tale that trade with the regime would bring change to Cuba. Then I really analyzed the situation and realized that with the regime controlling virtually the entire economy, they control exactly how much makes it to the everyday Cubans.
    Secondly, I’m quite sure that there are a lot of things that I would disagree with Cuban dissidents on. That doesn’t make their opinion anymore valid than mine. Though I don’t have a Ph.D. in economics like Chepe, my degree is in that field and I didn’t study the Marxist variety.
    Thirdly, how tourists behave is relevant because they are a large source of revenue for castro, inc. which doles out to the populace only what it deems adequate.
    How can the lives of ordinary Cuban improve by having American companies working under rules set by a totalitarian regime that has been oppressing them all along. Your theory seems to be that somehow if we are nice, raul castro and the other thugs that lead the regime will be nice to the Cuban people, CONTRARY to ALL available evidence.
    I don’t feel that giving the jailers more money, credit, and loans will do a damned thing to improve the lives of average Cubans. It will certainly improve the lives of the ruling class and the generals that run the Cuban economy.

  5. Oh and as far as the $8 billion is concerned, you should be impressed because you are asking for the U.S. to set a trade policy that would treat Cuba as if it were an honest trading partner. We trade with China today, I hear that all the time. You know why it was that we didn’t for more than 30 years? It was because they expropriated FAR LESS in American assets. It wasn’t until they settled that trade was re-established. That’s a fact. That’s not emotion.

  6. Henry,
    What a coincidence! I used to believe, until very recently, the oft repeated misconception that maintaining the embargo would bring freedom to Cuba. I guess we have been bombarded with this canard for so long, and by so many, that we accept it without question.
    The converse is also true. The fact that you disagree with people who have first hand knowledge of the situation in Cuba, does not work to make your opinion any more valid than theirs. In fact, objective observers would probably come to the conclusion that THEY know better.
    I’ll skip the tourist thing, because I don’t think how tourists behave has any relevance to anything.
    No, I don’t expect raul to be nice just because anyone is nice to him. As I said before, raul will do what raul will do. But, more companies working in Cuba, trading with Cuba (and more tourists in Cuba), will mean more opportunity for more ordinary Cubans to have access to dollars, Euros, etc. and more opportunity to “resolver” by liberating food, toilet paper, bedsheets, soap, shampoo, and even the occasional bottle of wine from the hotels, tourist shops, etc. Yes, it may seem like small potatoes to you, but it can make a BIG difference to people who don’t enjoy what you and I have. And, it may even lead to greater and more vocal demands for more freedom to work, to be enterprising, etc. Think independent cab drivers, independent tour guides, homeowners renting to more tourists, small paladares, etc. etc. None of these is state controlled. Just a small sampling to whet the appetite.
    Finally, you “feel” these things won’t improve the lives of ordinary Cubans. I, on the other hand, KNOW that the current tourist industry, such as it is, has ALREADY improved the lives of thousands upon thousands of Cubans. That is why I know that a significant influx of American business, dollars and tourists will have a very real effect. The dissidents on the Island know this too. That is why they oppose the embargo.
    Anyway, think about it. Anyone can form an opinion about how to throw a great curve ball. But If Luis Tiant is telling you that you are wrong, perhaps you should listen. The dissidents IN CUBA are telling you that something is wrong with your ultimate premise on this issue. Perhaps you should try to find out why.
    Enjoy Cuba Nostalgia. There is good food, lots to drink, and many happy people. Cheers.

  7. I challenge to to find a single time ANY of our contributors said the embargo would bring freedom to Cuba. What your not seeing in your binary view is that just because condition A does not bring the desired outcome does not mean that removal of condition A will bring the desired outcome. And furthermore that removal of condition A may prove to be damaging to achieving the desired outcome.
    Your idea that Cubans are somehow better today because of Canadian and other tourists reminds of a joke I heard just tonight.
    A Cuban woman asks her girlfriend, “How did that date go last night.” The woman answers, “Not well at all. He told me was a bellboy at the Havana Libre but it turns out that he’s only a neurosurgeon.”
    The point is that the castro regime, not the U.S. embargo has inflicted a perverse system upon the Cuba people in which everything is backwards. So you’re saying the U.S. should set aside its own interests, get into bed with a murderous regime on the chance that a handful of Cubans might make some extra coin based on tips.

  8. OK – For discussion – Let Me ask a Baseline Question. From 1992 on, why does the US still honor the 1962 US-Soviet “Non-Aggression” Agreement as regards Cuba? Comments anyone? -S-

  9. Because the world in 1992 isn’t the same world that existed in 1962. castro, inc. has way too much support in the international community to conduct any aggressive action against Cuba. Consider the stink that has occurred because our country took out just as despicable a character in Saddam Hussein who wasn’t 1% of the propagandist that fidel was.

  10. Embargo, what embargo, Bloqueo?? it does not exist. The U.S esports millions of doallars worth of food to Cuba for cash. That goes to who knows. It ccan go to tourist or Cubanos. When someone sells something we don’t check who they give it to or how they use it. Again the current U.S policy does not work against changing the government in Cuba.

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