University of Pittsburgh, The Pitts News
BY: ERIK JANSEN
February 16, 2006
In the June, 2004 issue of GQ Magazine, chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell Larry Wilkerson called the U.S.’s policy toward Cuba “the dumbest policy on the face of the Earth.” After 47 years of Castro in power, the U.S. still maintains that the embargo is doing its job.
For 13 consecutive years, the U.N. has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the embargo. Still, the United States firmly stands its ground, an embodiment of the true American spirit — illogical, self-centered and hopelessly stubborn. Perhaps during the Cold War, at the height of the containment policy, travel restrictions and economic warfare made sense. However, with the spectre of world communism going the way of the dodo and union labor, perhaps the time has come to warm relations with Cuba.
If U.S. policies in Latin America have been anything, they have been consistently pro-business. So why, then, when Cuba opened its hermetic shores to investment in the tourist trade in the 1990s in response to quickly evaporating Soviet aid, did the U.S. not allow capital back onto the island?
In 1992, Congress passed the Cuban Democracy Act. In 1996, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, also known as the Helms-Burton Act, was passed. In 2000, the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act was passed and in 2004, President Bush tightened travel restrictions and remittances to the island by Cuban Americans. Collectively, these bills have made it impossible to negotiate a iplomatic end to the near 50 year standoff.
Have we caught on to the trend? As we all learned in 2000, Florida can make or break a presidential election. With the Cuban American vote being so important in Florida, and Florida being so important to national elections, could it be that our great country’s foreign policy is being dictated by a group of ultra-conservative Cuban expatriates — by people more worried about reclaiming the estates they abandoned during the 1959 revolution than about the well-being of their fellow countrymen?
In a mid-’90s poll, the majority of Americans favored a normalization of relations with Cuba. Ignoring public sentiment and pandering to a special interest group is certainly not unheard of in the United States. However, the Cuban American National Foundation has been able to win almost universal political support by their unequalled ability to mobilize the Cuban-American vote.
This isn’t right-wing Christian fundamentalists hijacking American domestic policy, nor is it left-wing pandering to minority interests. This is a picture-perfect example of pure political opportunism. In 2000 a bipartisan group of 23 congressmen investigated the possibility of lifting the curtain around the island. It was an effort to reduce the possibility of military intervention in the event that Castro dies or leaves power. Their recommendations went unheeded.
With Fidel Castro in his 80s and Raul Castro only two years younger, the United States has been anxiously awaiting the Castros’ fall from power. At this point, people are beginning to wonder if the man will ever die. Castro, known throughout the rest of the world simply as “Fidel,” has survived exploding cigars, poisoned foods and other zany, CIA-financed attempts on his life or reputation.
If a peaceful settlement is secured and a Cuban-born representative government is created without shots fired after Castro leaves power, the majority of Cubans on the island will most likely have their current property or housing rights secured. However, if a U.S.-backed intervention occurs on the island, in the free-for-all to follow we can all count on wealthy Cuban Americans suddenly feeling very homesick for their multi-million dollar estates. No problem, right? Right — except for the 20 or so people living in that home now. You know, the ones that have been living there for the past 47 years?
If military intervention is to be avoided, helping to stabilize the island’s economic situation is a good first step. In stabilizing the economic situation on the island, removing the trade embargo is a vital first step.
You can e- mail Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org.