The Cuba Taboo
There is a certain mystique about Cuba. Travelers are intrigued by its vintage cars and cigars, its music and culture. The island is only 90 miles away yet everything about it feels foreign. For Americans, Cuba is the Caribbean’s forbidden fruit. It’s time to take a bite.
The US embargo against Cuba is 57 years old and counting. The rationale was to isolate the Cuban economy in order to undermine the Castro regime. It hasn’t worked. The Cold War ended a long time ago, yet the embargo lingers like a bad hangover. To benefit America and the Cuban people, it’s time to lift the embargo.
Why? Because change in Cuba is underway. For the first time, a non-Castro is in power. Pending a referendum, a new Constitution will follow. Noteworthy elements in it include private property, protection of foreign direct investment, separation of powers within the executive branch and term-limits.
Lifting the embargo will support change. Cubans are entrepreneurs and the best agents of reform. One-third of Cuba’s workforce is self-employed. Non-state businesses are competing against state-run conglomerates. This has spooked the regime. Predictably, the regime had announced tighter controls. However, the Cuban people raised their voice in opposition, and the regime backed down. Change in Cuba is intertwined with the private sector. Through lifting the embargo, the US will partner with it and the Cuban people.
Lifting the embargo is good for US business. US farmers and the Cuban people alike would benefit. Cuba relies on imports to feed its population. Lifting the embargo will earn billions of dollars for US farmers and give Cubans access to high-quality American produce. Due to geographical luck, the US enjoys a competitive advantage. Low shipping costs and faster delivery capabilities makes the US – not China nor Russia – the natural trade partner of Cuba.
Lifting the embargo is good politics. Relations with our Latin American partners will become much more productive. At the Summit of the Americas, they will no longer harangue US diplomats about Cuba. Instead, areas of mutual interest will take priority — issues like immigration, narcotrafficking and response to natural disasters. Lastly, the Cuban regime will be forced into accountability for its own actions. Playing the victim card will no longer be possible.
The Cuban government continues to be repressive and Communist. No one is under the illusion that lifting the embargo will transform Cuba into a paradigm of human rights. Reform will likely be difficult and frustrating. Yet Cuba is in transition – on its own terms and speed. We can remain isolated – or the US can decide to participate and push Cuba in the direction of positive change.
The Cuban people have signaled they are looking for change. The regime is listening. Trusting the Cuban government is a hard sell, but we must trust the Cuban people. They’ve earned our trust. The US should lift the embargo, to benefit both America and the Cuban people.
Cubans love liberty and have freedom in their DNA. The fact that Havana and Miami both claim freedom-fighter Jose Martí as one their own, proves it.