Guest Post by Anya Landau French: In The Washington Post – Why U.S. Policy Isn’t Affecting Cuba

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(Photo by Anya Landau French, of a Havana art fair where private Cuban entrepreneurs can earn hard currency income selling to foreign tourists)
Anya Landau French directs the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative.This post originally appeared at The Havana Note.
Last Friday, The Washington Post editorial board questioned the value of engaging Cuba, following the death of a hunger-striking Cuban prisoner of conscience last week. In light of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s tragic death, the Post asked advocates of greater contact with Cuba how the ongoing “thaw” with the island nation is working out.
I offered my thoughts to The Washington Post, which published them today:

Why U.S. policy isn’t affecting Cuba
The death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo was an avoidable tragedy, one for which the Cuban government alone is accountable.
Yet the Feb. 26 editorial overlooked many Cuban dissidents’ views that that U.S. sanctions harm the people, not the government, of Cuba. Even if Congress eases travel and food export restrictions on Cuba, the larger trade embargo will remain among our toughest restrictions against any other country in the world.
The effort to remove U.S. restrictions on travel and food exports to Cuba is not driven by love for Fidel or Raúl Castro but instead by three ideas: the fundamental right of Americans to travel freely without our government’s interference, advancing the national interest at a time when America needs job growth and export opportunities, and a belief that we can do far more good in Cuba by reaching out to rather than isolating the people.

Another reader wrote to echo the Post‘s earlier viewpoint, and called President Obama’s “Castro-friendly” approach naïve. But what exactly has been so friendly? Other than easing restrictions on private humanitarian donations and families’ travel, allowing U.S. communications providers to try to service the Cuban population, and resuming migration talks held by Presidents Reagan, Clinton and G.W. Bush, what, exactly, has been so friendly toward Castro? (And besides, isn’t our policy supposed to be about the Cuban people? The U.S. laser-like focus on the two Castro brothers always seems to come at the expense of 11 million Cubans.)
One year into this Administration, U.S. policy is still far cooler toward Cuba after than anyone expected. (In 2004, Barack Obama called for lifting the entire embargo because, he reasoned, it was harming the innocents in Cuba.)
The President who as a candidate called U.S. policy a failure and said he would be willing to meet Raul Castro is largely running the same Cuba policies he inherited from President Bush. The vast majorities of Americans are still not free to visit Cuba when they wish – and draconian restrictions remain on educational, cultural and professional travel that we encouraged fully a decade ago. And, the United States continues to hamstring food sales to the island in nearly every way imaginable, despite real hardship on the island (does it matter who inflicted it?) and despite a 38% drop in American farm income last year. This more aptly dubbed “South Florida-friendly” policy hardly constitutes tearing down the wall between our two countries.
Those of us who advocate freer contact with the Cuban people do so because we believe it will be good for us and good for the Cuban people. But the fact is, if you can’t see measurable results for U.S. engagement with Cuba, that’s because it hasn’t happened yet. Until we really try engaging Cuba, there’s nothing to judge.
— Anya Landau French

Comments

6 comments on “Guest Post by Anya Landau French: In The Washington Post – Why U.S. Policy Isn’t Affecting Cuba

  1. Ted Adams says:

    It is going to take time to heal old wounds with Cuba, I am not sure that the embargo did much except to satisfy a sense of punishment.

    Reply

  2. Carroll says:

    Posted by Maw of America, Mar 04 2010, 3:26PM – Link >>>>>>>>>
    You could get a group of old folks…maybe some AARP travel group to organize a trip to Cuba so they could get arrested on their return.
    Lovey pictures in the papers of a bunch of innocent travel loving old folks being persecuted for freedom of travel.
    Actually this could work if done large and often enough. One thing not many people know about is that after the press on and outrage of older people and others taking those bus trips across the border to Canada to buy their drugs because they were less expensive.
    Bush Jr. signed a presidential ‘executive order’ forbidding the immigration border checkpoints from enforcing the drug importation law or seizing legal drugs of US citizens.
    So we have a “law”… hehehe…that basically can’t be enforced because of an executive order.
    One of the few good things Bush did.
    So in spite of having a “law” (from congress) forbidding us to travel where we please maybe Obama could be embarrassed into signing an executive order to prevent it being enforced?

    Reply

  3. Maw of America says:

    Arguing against the ridiculous embargo on Cuba is futile and useless. But what else can we do? I only hope that the day will arrive before I die that I can travel freely to this island nation. 40+ years has yielded NOTHING!
    Please, someone remind me of the definition of insanity again…

    Reply

  4. Mr.Murder says:

    Normalization with Cuba would spur domestic job creation when it allows offshore oil in the Gulf into our market.

    Reply

  5. ... says:

    the washington post and new york times are the main propaganda outlets for the usa, a country that has run amok and not able to set itself on a healthy path… good luck trying to change that thru these same mediums…a better idea might be to look to alternative media like steves blog and etc….the writing is on the wall for these corrupt institutions and the sooner everyone ignores them, the better…

    Reply

  6. charlie says:

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the entire cuban ban is
    unconstitutional.
    I’ll grant you that the President has a right to impose restrictions
    on how we can spend out money. But that comes from the
    money. If I am a US citizen with money earned in Europe, there
    is no constitutional reason why I can’t spend that euro-sourced
    money in Cuba. Extraterroritality goes to taxes, not how I
    spend it.
    The government already recognizes that: you won’t be
    prosecuted for buying cuban cigars in Europe.
    The current regime of dividing us into Cuban/non Cuban
    heritage is a clear equal protection violation, and needs to be
    considered with strict scrutiny. The compelling government
    need isn’t there.

    Reply

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