Friday, April 3, 2009

Cuban embargo: a sham and a waste

So long as U.S. foreign policy toward Fidel Castro was designed to pander to the vote power of Cuban-Americans in South Florida, Republican and Democratic presidents kept alive the myth that increasingly tough trade and economic sanctions would subjugate the communist dictatorship and force a change in its ironhanded policies.

Now 50 years since Washington isolated Havana, the Castro regime has survived the worst dished out by American policy—including the Bay of Pigs invasion—and the pique of exiles that pressured American politicians into the ludicrous measures.

Now the era of hard-line cowboy diplomacy is ending. President Obama is willing to resume talking to Iran, restore warmer relations with Russia and sit down with communist mainland China's rulers. Cuba's sins are pale compared to the human rights abuses in those tyrannies.

The obvious has been discovered by Harvard international affairs researcher Bryan Early—that sanctions on Cuba haven't worked nor do they work generally anywhere.

U.S. allies—Canada, Japan, Spain, Britain, France and Italy—have profited mightily during the U.S. sanctions on Cuba by accelerating their trade while Washington stood virtually alone in its attempt to isolate Castro.

When Washington lifted the embargo on food and medicine, U.S. exports to Cuba leaped from $6 million in 2000 to $350 million in 2006. Imagine the business boom if the embargo were totally ended.

How can Washington justify closing off Cuba as a U.S. export market at a time when the American financial crisis needs jobs and sales abroad to rebuild the nation's faltering economy?

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