Following the death of Fidel Castro, the United States stands on the edge of a new path with Cuba. At the moment, we just don’t know what that path is. In 1962, President Kennedy began the Cuba Embargo.
At that time the U.S. was staring down a cold-war Soviet Union. The threat of communism was a violent one. During this time, the Soviet Union allied with Cuba to have a physical presence in the Western Hemisphere.
Today, things have changed. While Russia is still a concern, we are no longer facing certain nuclear war. Despite a large nuclear arsenal, the Russians seem as determined to avoid war as the United States. Even if they did want to attack the U.S., the longer range missiles would no longer need a close base from which to strike.
This year, President Obama lifted the Cuba embargo. Recognizing that the embargo had little impact, President Obama opened trade and business with the communist country.
It seems many Americans approved of the lifting of the embargo, believing the embargo harms the people more than the politicians. Until now, the issue seemed mostly settled.
A few days ago, Fidel Castro died, his death sparking a new wave of controversy. Many Americans, ignorant of his human rights abuses, mourned his death. While others, those who understand the violence of his reign, responded with relief.
President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, took the opportunity to inform the world that the Cuba embargo would be reconsidered.
Economic Impact Of The Cuba Embargo
The economic impact of the U.S. – Cuba Embargo is difficult to know for sure. For the Cubans, a lack of tourism has lowered the national income. So too has a lack of exports on products like cigars. How much of these profits would have gone to the people is impossible to know.
Undoubtedly, the Cuban government and its politicians would have benefitted most from increased economic prosperity.
As for America, estimates vary wildly on the economic potential. Certainly, some companies stand to gain from improved relations. These companies are mostly large companies in the tourism industry. However, losses could offset these gains. Opening the borders between the two countries could lead to increased outsourcing. It could also lead to increased illegal workers.
How It Affects Cubans
Ultimately, the most important aspect of this is how it affects the Cuban people. A 2015 poll from Bendixen & Amandi International revealed that 54% of Cubans living in Cuba think that new U.S. – Cuba relations will not impact their political system. The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 defined clear sets of standards for ending the embargo. Those standards included democratic elections, freedom of press, and human rights adherence among other things.
How can the United States be expected to change its policy when Cuba isn’t willing to provide its people with basic human rights?
Ultimately, Castro’s death did not change anything. Castro passed the reign of the government off years ago. Castro’s death simply highlighted the issues again. Bit by bit, Cuba’s people have been regaining rights since he stepped aside. However, those small openings haven’t changed the political dynamics or aggression of the government.
I certainly hope that if Trump renegotiates this deal, human rights and the release of political prisoners are a bare minimum. I struggle to imagine how President Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, managed to negotiate with Cuba without coming to any terms on the abuses of the Cuban people.
What is your take? What would you demand from Cuba in order to ensure that the people benefit from any trade deals — not just the tyrants in power?