Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy embargo-versary

If you enjoy celebrating big old failures, the 50th anniversary of the U.S. embargo against Cuba has just passed.  Get yourself some rum and have a ball.

One feature of the embargo has been its changing justifications over time: a response to expropriations, an instrument with which to demand that Cuba break its ties to the Soviet bloc and its projection of military power outside its borders, a tool for pressure for the release of political prisoners.  These days, the honest justification of it on the part of its partisans seems to be that it will one day serve as leverage over a future Cuban government when Fidel and Raul are no longer around.

Meanwhile, more than 300,000 Cuban Americans per year are traveling to an island they still consider in some measure to be home.  Some are just visiting, many are investing at the family level. 

To add another layer of absurdity, consider what would happen if two things happen in Cuba in the next five years: a big move to ethanol production supported by Brazilian technology and capital, which is a matter mainly of political will; and a discovery of oil from the Repsol rig that is now clearly visible from the Malecon.  Cuba, now producing half its energy, could become self-sufficient if not an oil exporter. 

But the embargo would remain, poised to bring the place to its knees.

It’s a good occasion to read this April 1960 State Department memo on “The Decline and Fall of Castro.”  It explains how the embargo and other measures were intended “to weaken the economic life of Cuba” by making “the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”


Anonymous said...

The embargo may have some sense as a negotiating chip that may allow the US to speed up the Cuban Democratic Transition.

But the way it is implemented today is simply stupid and goes against US interests and the democratic transition itself.

The way to best implement an embargo would be to restrict the way Cuba gets US dollars not US exports to the island.

We allow Cuban Americans to make yearly remittances of over a billion dollars and to spend several huundred million more traveling to the island each year and then do not allow US business to export freely to the island.

As a result the US balance of payments deficit is aggravated because the Cubans spend part of this bonanza in third countries and US unemployment goes up.

US planes and ships including ferries should be allowed to travel to that island to carry freight and passengers and recover another portion of those dollars.

What kind of an embargo is that when we allow dollars to be sent or spent in Cuba but make no effort to earn them back?

US firms should be allowed to invest in the Cuban private sector provided without allowing conditions of slave labor.

This means that American companies in Cuba should be allowed to hire their own workers directly from the labor force without political discrimination and also to pay them directly so as to avoid the Cuban government taking over 95% of the value of their salaries.


Anonymous said...

After breaking the Alan Gross, five Cuban Agents deadlock and allowing unlimited US exports and transportation to Cuba,the next US efforts to help Cuba become a mixed economy with a growing private sector should be directed at establishing a US commercial bank in the island that would allow the Cuban government to pay for US exports without using third countries' banks and provide legal US travelers with ATM services.

This should be followed by allowing US investments in the oil and tourism sectors once the prerequisite rules of employment mentioned in the previous message are accepted by the Cuban government.

After that US investments should be authorized in private importing and wholesale distribution companies for productive inputs and in road, rail, air and ocean transportation in the island.

The last stage would be in investing in the other productive sectors of the Cuban economy.

But all that should be accomplished step by step in exchange for Cuban government reform measures that will allow proper enjoyment of human rights, democratic governance and efficient functioning of a mixed market economy.

Given this huge road ahead, wasting time in taking the first step, overcoming the obstacle of the Gross, five agent prisoner exchange and initiating the process of seeking solutions that would allow the Cuban people to progress and permit better relations between both countries, is inexcusable.


Anonymous said...

the 1960 state department memo is as valid today as it was then -- the blockade and siege of cuba is solely designed to starve the people into overthrowing their own government. Talk of using the blockade as any sort of bargaining chip really just perpetuates the myth that destruction is somehow equated with helping a process of reform. end the embargo and all those who try and justify it as a tool to encourage 'proper behavior' from the cuban government. It's long past time that idiotic notion was laid to rest.

Anonymous said...

"Intentions are of no consequence, except maybe in a criminal trial." Though the embargo was intended to hurt the Cuban dictatorship it, in fact, has served as their Berlin wall. A wall that keeps corrosive freedom out, while allowing Billions of Dollars in, along with thousands of exiles who bring much needed goods and just as good...provides an excuse for Castro's failures. After all, let's not forget that he has spent 50 years reminding us how the embargo is destroying Cuba and is the reason for all the revolution's shortcomings.

Anonymous said...

The notion that the US can simply completely end the embargo unconditionally from one day to the other without solving a lot of pending issues is absolutely unrealistic.

Could this be done while:

1- Alan Gross remained in jail?
2- Gross human right violations continue in Cuba?
3- If the Cuban government would decide who could work in US firms that were created in Cuba and used this right to discriminate against its pokitical opponents?
4- If the Cuban government confiscated 96% if the value of the salaries earned by the employees of US companies?
5- If some agreement for the repayment of US properties nationalized in 1960 has not been reached?
6- If some agreement is not reached to guarantee that new US investments will not be subject to future expropiations?
7- If some agreement is not reached to ensure that US citizens arrested in Cuba receive due process rights and fair and speedy trials?

The lifting of the embargo should be done gradually and through the negotiation of all outstanding issues between both countries and the implementation by stages of all the reforms Cuba needs.

It is the sole remaining istrument for the US to use in influencing Cuba's policies and the US should not hesitate to do so or feel guilty for doing so.

This would be both in the best interest of the Cuban people and of the US itself.

A return to multiparty democracy and to a market economy would be the fastest possible way for the island to integrate efficiently to economic progress and to the competive global society.

The commercial interests of individual sectors of the US economy should be looked after.

But this should not be allowed to interfere with the long range economic and political interests of both countries and their historical relationship.

The US should use its economic clout and bargaining capacity to help Cuba exit gradually, but as speedily as possible, from its totalitarian nightmare.

The fact that using the embargo for regime change was stupid does not mean that the idea of using the negotiations to end it to accelerate necessary reforms is unintelligent.

I am in favor of finding a solution but each side must make a contribution for this to happen.

A unilateral lifting of the embargo by the US government should not be expected.

The Cuban government must participate in seeking the solution to the existing differences between both countries.

By being stubborn and expecting the US to cave in, the Cuban government is simply digging a deeper whole for itself and placing its own hold on power in danger!

A word of advice, it should not continue to press its luck! The Cuban people have suffered considerably and for a long time and are reaching their breaking point.

Procrastination only helps the Cuban government's opponents