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Cuba’s embargo: U.S. does huge commerce with China boycotts Cuba as communists

Varadero Beach, Cuba

Varadero Beach, Cuba

New York News: Cuba is perhaps the most fascinating island in the world, a destination where stunning beaches an extraordinary natural beauty, but to talk to the people, listen to their music, and explore their cities and towns — this is the essence of traveling to Cuba.

The US citizens interested in traveling to Cuba should review the Regulations and OFAC’s Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba. Authorized travelers to Cuba are subject to daily spending limits and are prohibited from bringing any Cuban “souvenirs” or other goods into the United States,

Albanian Minerals President and CEO Sahit Muja said “Cuba’s embargo was set in place because of the “Communism is a threat to democracy” but US fourth biggest trading partner is China who shows no sign of leaving their communist ways. The United States’ sanctions on Cuba have been in place for five decades, yet have failed to topple the Communist regime. With the Cold War long over, Cuba poses no threat to the United States, and therefore the sanctions are unnecessary”.

Mr Muja said “It is time for the United States to remove the embargo against Cuba. The U.S has no business getting involved in how people in other countries live their lives, unless they actively threaten us or are being systematically oppressed by a cruel regime. The economic sanctions against Cuba were intended to pressure them to give up their communist government.
That obviously hasn’t worked at all. Cuba has had a communist government since 1959. It’s hypocritical that the U.S. does so much commerce with China, also a communist country, and boycotts Cuba because they’re communists”.

Sahit Muja said “The United States should drop its sanctions on Cuba in order to open lines of communication that would be beneficial to both countries. Communism for all intents and purposes is dead globally, and Cuba and it’s allies no longer pose any threat to the United States. To continue sanctions is purely inactive and serves no real practical purpose. The US sanctions against Cuba have gone on far too long. Most people probably don’t even remember or know why they were put in place to begin with”.

“This happened originally in 1962, so it just seems ludicrous to still have them in place. This is a neighbor of ours, a country we could have friendly relations with, do business with. By lifting the embargo, America would get more jobs and money in more people’s pocket. Sanctions were placed on Cuba, for specific reasons. Those reasons never did actually materialize and, as a result, the sanctions serve no purpose today, except to continuously punish a country for failing to collapse under the pressure of an economic embargo. All it does is continue to hurt the people of that country that could be doing much better, if their nation had better trade opportunities”. Mr Muja said.

The government in April 2011 held the first Cuban Communist Party Congress in almost 13 years, during which leaders approved a plan for wide-ranging economic changes. President Raul CASTRO said such changes were needed to update the economic model to ensure the survival of socialism. The government has expanded opportunities for self-employment and has introduced limited reforms, some initially implemented in the 1990s, to increase enterprise efficiency and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, services, and housing.

The average Cuban’s standard of living remains at a lower level than before the downturn of the 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. Since late 2000, Venezuela has been providing oil on preferential terms, and it currently supplies over 100,000 barrels per day of petroleum products. Cuba has been paying for the oil, in part, with the services of Cuban personnel in Venezuela including some 30,000 medical professionals.
n that spirit, here are 10 reasons that lifting the embargo makes sense:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. It’s a double standard. Another reason to question the link between the embargo and human rights is that it’s a double standard that flies in the face of U.S. foreign policy toward other high-profile authoritarian countries, most notably China. Stephen Colbert once quipped that Cuba is “a totalitarian, repressive, communist state that — unlike China — can’t lend us money.” Unless and until the U.S. pursues a consistent policy of sanctions against politically repressive regimes, the case against Cuba doesn’t hold up very well.

4. It’s out of date. To argue that U.S.-Cuban policy is an anachronism is putting it mildly. In an international climate marked by cooperation on issues ranging from terrorism to global financial crises, holding on to this last vestige of the Cold War foreign policy no longer makes sense. (Bear in mind that the young people now entering college were not even alive when Czechoslovakia existed.) Sure, there’s still tension between the United States and Russia. But the recent renegotiation of the START agreement on nuclear proliferation reinforces the notion that the Cold War is no longer the dominant prism for understanding that bilateral relationship, much less the Cuban-American one.

5. 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.”

6. It’s counter-productive. Isolating Cuba has been more than ineffective. 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.

7. It’s inhumane. If strategic arguments don’t persuade you that it’s time to end the embargo, then perhaps humanitarian arguments will. For as anyone who’s traveled to the island knows, there’s a decidedly enclave-like feel to those areas of the economy where capitalism has been allowed to flourish in a limited sense (e.g. tourism) and the rest of the island, which feels very much like the remnant of an exhausted socialist economic model. When I went there in the 1990s with my sister, I remember the throngs of men who would cluster outside the tourist haunts. They’d hope to persuade visitors like me to pretend to be their escort so they could sneak into the fancier hotels and nightclubs, which they could not enter otherwise. Horse — yes, horse — was a common offering on menus back then. That situation has apparently eased in recent years as the government has opened up more sectors of the economy to ordinary Cubans. But the selective nature of that deregulation has only exacerbated economic inequalities. Again, one can argue that the problem here is one of poor domestic policy choices, rather than the embargo. But it’s not clear that ordinary Cubans perceive that distinction. Moreover, when you stand in the airport and watch tourists disembark with bucket-loads of basic medical supplies, which they promptly hand over to their (native) friends and family, it’s hard not to feel that U.S. policy is perpetuating an injustice.

8. There’s oil there. Another reason to think that it might be time to reconsider our Cuba policy is this natural resource. Cuba has begun exploratory drilling in search of oil in its territorial waters, with some reports estimating the island could become a major oil producer — and refiner — over the next five to 10 years. In an era where geopolitical realities may make places like Venezuela and the Middle East less reliable sources of oil for the United States, we need all the friends we can get, particularly when they’re right next door.

9. It’s unpopular. According to the travel-service provider Orbitz Worldwide, 67 percent of Americans favor lifting the travel ban, and 72 percent believe that expanding travel to Cuba would positively impact the lives of Cubans. Orbitz has collected more than 100,000 signatures in favor of restoring travel to Cuba through its drive. And according to Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), one of the leading proponents of lifting the embargo, if a vote in Congress were taken secretly, the ban on travel and trade would most likely fall. In other words, the environment to lift sanctions may be ripe politically in a way that it wasn’t even six months ago.

10. It restricts Americans’ freedom of movement. Cuba is the only country in the world where Americans are restricted by their own government from visiting freely. Yes, that’s right. It’s easier to go to North Korea (from the American end of things) than it is to travel to our Caribbean neighbor. In a country whose “great American novelist” — that would be Jonathan Franzen — just published a national epic titled “Freedom,” one need not underscore this irony.

Edie Gonzales
New York News