Today’s Must Read: Why sanctions on Cuba must remain

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki in the New York Times:

Why Sanctions on Cuba Must Remain

Jaime SuchlickiIn his Nov. 18 speech at the Organization of American States, Secretary John Kerry failed to make a compelling case for keeping U.S. sanctions on Cuba. While correctly pointing out that the Monroe Doctrine is no longer valid, Kerry insisted that “people to people” travel, the visits by Americans under U.S. license to Cuba, is having an impact in penetrating the Communist system.His assumptions are incorrect. First, the Castro brothers and their allies aren’t naïve; U.S. tourists have no chance of subverting their regime and influencing internal developments.

Second, American tourists won’t bring democracy to Cuba. Over the past decades several million tourists from Europe, Canada and Latin America have visited the island, and nothing has changed. If anything, Cuba is more repressive, with the state apparatus strengthened by the influx of tourist dollars.

Third, tourism and trade don’t lead to economic and political change. No study I know of has found that tourism, trade or investments had anything to do with the end of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. A disastrous economic system, competition with the West, successive leadership changes with no legitimacy, a corrupt and weak Communist Party, anti-Soviet feeling in Eastern Europe and the failed Soviet war in Afghanistan were among the reasons for change.

Fourth, engagement with a totalitarian state won’t bring about its demise. Only academic ideologues and some members of Congress interested in catering to the economic needs of their state’s constituencies cling to this notion. Their calls for ending the embargo have little to do with democracy in Cuba or the welfare of the Cuban people.

Repeated claims that the embargo is the cause of Cuba’s economic problems are hollow. The reasons for the economic misery of the Cubans are a failed political and economic system. Like the communist systems of Eastern Europe, Cuba’s system does not function, stifles initiative and productivity and destroys human freedom and dignity.

What’s more, ending U.S. sanctions without major concessions from Cuba would send the wrong message to the Castro regime and to the rest of Latin America. Supporting regimes and dictators that violate human rights and abuse their population is an ill-adviced policy that rewards and encourages further abuses.

If the travel ban and the embargo are ended unilaterally now by the U.S., what negotiating tool to encourage change in Cuba will the U.S. government have with a future regime? Countries don’t change their policies without a quid pro quo from the other side. Unilateral concessions are pocketed by our adversaries without providing meaningful changes.

Sanctions should be ended as a result of negotiations between the U.S. and a Cuban government willing to provide meaningful and irreversible political and economic concessions, not only to the U.S. but, more important, to the Cuban people.