U.S. Trade Embargo on Cuba Essay

The United States embargo against Cuba (dubbed by its opponents in Cuba and Latin America as el bloqueo, Spanish for “the blockade”) is a commercial, economic, and financial embargo partially imposed on Cuba in October 1960 (almost two years after the Batista regime was deposed by the Cuban Revolution. ) It was enacted after Cubanationalized the properties of United States citizens and corporations and it was strengthened to a near-total embargo on February 7, 1962.Today is December 8, 2012. Around 50 years. Has anything changed? We have achieved the bare minimum, if anything, with this embargo. It doesn’t work.

Of course, if the embargo were the last outpost of Cold War politics and it produced results, that might be an argument for continuing it. But scholars and analysts of economic sanctions have repeatedly questioned the efficacy of economic statecraft against rogue states unless and until there’s been regime change.And that’s because, as one scholar put it, “interfering with the market (whether using sanctions, aid, or other government policies) has real economic costs, and we rarely know enough about how the target economy works or how to manipulate the political incentives of the target government to achieve our goals. ” Isolating Cuba has been more than ineffective. It’s counter-productive.

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It’s also provided the Castro brothers with a convenient political scapegoat for the country’s ongoing economic problems, rather than drawing attention to their own mismanagement.Moreover, in banning the shipment of information-technology products, the United States has effectively assisted the Cuban government in shutting out information from the outside world, yet another potential catalyst for democratization. On to the pros for lifting this present embargo that should be history. It’s good economics. It’s long been recognized that opening up Cuba to American investment would be a huge boon to the tourism industry in both countries.

According to the Cuban government, 250,000 Cuban-Americans visited from the United States in 2009, up from roughly 170,000 the year before, suggesting a pent-up demand.Lifting the embargo would also be an enormous boon the U. S. agricultural sector. One 2009 study estimated that doing away with all financing and travel restrictions on U. S. agricultural exports to Cuba would have boosted 2008 dairy sales to that country from $13 million to between $39 million and $87 million, increasing U. S.

market share from 6 percent to between 18 and 42 percent. Not only is it good economics, but it’s good politics. Supporters of the trade embargo — like Cuban-American Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.

J. — have long argued that easing the restrictions would only reward Castro for the regime’s ongoing repression of political dissidents. We need to keep up the economic pressure on Cuba, so this logic goes, in order to keep pressure on the regime to do something about human rights. But there’s a long-standing empirical relationship between trade and democracy.

The usual logic put forth to explain this relationship is that trade creates an economically independent and politically aware middle class, which, in turn, presses for political reform.It’s not clear that this argument actually holds up when subjected to close causal scrutiny (although the reverse does seem to be true — i. e. , democratic reform creates pressure for trade liberalization).

Still, it’s difficult to disagree with the proposition that by enabling visiting scholars and religious groups to stay in Cuba for up to two years (as the presidential order would allow) rather than a matter of weeks (as is currently the case) we’d be helping, not hurting, democracy in Cuba.First, easing the current travel restrictions would allow for far deeper linkages between non-governmental organizations from both countries, which some see as a powerful mechanism for democratic reform. Second, because American visitors would be staying on the island longer, scholars and activists alike would gain much better insight into where the pressure points for democracy actually exist.


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