01/01/13 - Globe and Mail - Now's the time to lift the US embargo on Cuba
The Globe and Mail
Now that the election is over, the United States has a rare opportunity to
do away with one of its most pointless and ineffective foreign policies -
the embargo of Cuba - that is as obsolete as the "cool" 1950s and 1960s
sedans still running on the streets of Havana.
Just a few weeks ago, U.S. President Barack Obama sat down with leaders in
Myanmar, an international pariah for many years with a military
responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. The United States now trades
actively with Vietnam, which remains under the control of the same
Communist Party against whom it once fought - and lost - a terrible war.
The U.S. has a normal, albeit complex, diplomatic and commercial
relationship with China, another Communist country.
Yet, Cuba is still treated as a pariah, a bizarre relic of the Cold War. I
just returned from a visit there and realized that lifting the embargo
would be to both countries' advantage. Americans would have full access to
Cuba's rich culture and natural beauty, and some new trade and investment
opportunities. Cuba would have expanded economic options, which it needs
to improve the material well-being of its citizens.
The U.S. has had normal diplomatic and commercial relationships with
regimes and despots of all stripes - from Mobutu in Zaire to Mubarak in
Egypt. The list is long. So what makes Cuba so special?
Is it because it is so close to the continental United States? No - the
U.S. has had a good, if testy, formal relationship with Mexico for many
years, including when it was a one-party state.
Is it because Cuba poses a military threat? Maybe, once upon a time. But
if Americans got over the Vietnam War, they surely can put the Cuban (or
was that Soviet?) missile crisis behind them, especially since the U.S.
now has quite a normal relationship with Russia.
What about a security threat? Arguably, almost every country could be
wittingly or unwittingly harboring extremist plotters. Somehow, though, I
don't think al-Qaeda operatives are drinking mojitos on Cuban beaches.
Cuba loosened its ban on organized religion some time ago, but imagining
either the government or its people sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism
is quite a stretch.
Is it because Cuba lacks economic opportunities for U.S. business?
Granted, it's not a potential powerhouse such as Russia, China or even
Vietnam for commercial purposes. But the U.S. has maintained good
relationships (and made money) with many small, poor countries. What's one
Is it because Americans are standing on principle over Cuba's human-rights
record or strident rhetoric? It's hard to argue this when the White House
has entertained leaders of countries with even worse records and
positions. Moreover, many of those countries do not have education,
health-care or food systems that reach the poor. Cuba does, although
increasingly it is a challenge.
Of course, America should care about human rights and, along with that,
everyone should have access to adequate food, education and health care.
But sadly, none of these reasons explain why the U.S. keeps a strict
embargo on Cuba and has no diplomatic relationship with it.
No, the real reason is because of a small vocal minority (Cuban-American
exiles and their families) who happen to be clustered in an electoral
swing state (Florida) that gives them political clout. Some say the
attitudes of the younger generation are softening toward Cuba. Does
Washington really need to wait another generation or two?
The U.S. stand on Cuba is incomprehensible and only serves to look
hypocritical and arbitrary in the eyes of a world that doesn't understand
the intricacies of American politics. Now that the election is over, there
is a window of opportunity to open up a full commercial and diplomatic
relationship. Mr. Obama should use the full extent of his executive powers
to immediately relax restrictions, and Congress should pass legislation
lifting the remaining legal obstacles.
It's time to forget about old grudges and remember that the best way to
convert an enemy into a friend is to embrace him. Instead of admiring
Havana's old cars, Americans should be selling them new ones.
Phyllis Pomerantz is a professor of the practice of public policy at Duke
University's Sanford School of Public Policy and a former staff member of
the World Bank.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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