Wednesday, October 31, 2012

US must end shameful embargo

Updated: 2012-10-26 08:07

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

US must end shameful embargo

Updated: 2012-10-26 08:07
By Chen Weihua ( China Daily)

US must end shameful embargo
There have been many talks and articles this week in the United States to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, a Cold War episode that at one point seemed to herald a global nuclear showdown. But missing is attention to the 50-year-old US embargo on the Caribbean island nation.

The longest unilateral economic sanctions in modern history have caused huge suffering for 11 million Cubans, including all women and children. The blockade will go down in history as an immoral and cruel act, just like the treatment of American Indians more than a century ago and the racial segregation in the US before the 1970s.

On Nov 13, the United Nations will again vote on a resolution to denounce the embargo. It will be the 21st consecutive year that the UN has called for an end to the sanctions. In last year's vote, 186 nations, including most of the US' closest allies, supported the resolution. Israel was the only one that sided with Washington.

US leaders like to accuse other nations of being on the wrong side of history. Yet on this issue they have steadfastly chosen to stay on the wrong side.

In fact, US leaders have not only chosen to ignore the rest of the world they have also chosen to ignore the will of their own people. Various surveys have shown that most Americans favor lifting the sanctions and re-establishing formal diplomatic ties with Cuba.

The reason the US persists with this inhumane policy is a shameful one. Cuban-Americans in Florida who are against the Cuban government are important voters and financiers for both Democratic and Republican parties in the critical swing state.

As a senator in 2004, Barack Obama called for an end to the embargo, which he described as a failure. He promised during his 2008 campaign to start negotiations with the Cuban government once elected.

However, except for some easing of travel bans for Cuban-Americans and groups, Obama has done nothing to end the full-blown embargo. Under the embargo, it is illegal for ordinary Americans to visit Cuba and for US companies to do business there.

If Republican candidate Mitt Romney becomes president on Nov 6, the eased travel rights for Cuban-Americans and groups could be taken away. His 10-point Cuba plan includes reinstating travel and remittance restrictions.

When I described to some Americans the fascinating culture, beaches and people I discovered during my two trips to Cuba last year, I could see the envy in their eyes.

It is interesting that when late president John F. Kennedy announced the embargo on Feb 3, 1962, he cited "the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet Communism with which the government of Cuba is publicly aligned". The Cold War has long been over, there is no Soviet Union and China is a major trading partner of the US. Yet many US politicians still cling to a Cold War mentality.

The embargo on Cuba continues despite the fact that Cuba, under Raul Castro, has embarked on political and economic reforms in the last two years. Just a week ago, the official newspaper Granma reported the government will ease travel restrictions for its citizens.

Economic sanctions hurt ordinary people more than government leaders. Even Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi did not like the idea of sanctions. Speaking at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on Sept 18, she said: "I don't think we need to cling on to sanctions unnecessarily."

In 1962, the US embargo on Cuba was imposed to isolate Cuba. But now the US itself has become totally isolated on this issue. And the UN vote on Nov 13 will be a fresh reminder.

The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

(China Daily 10/26/2012 page8)


JG: Hear! Hear!

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