America’s Wrong-Headedness on Cuba


When I find myself nodding in agreement with about 75% of what Jorge Mas Santos, the Chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, is saying in a critique of George W. Bush’s wrong-headed US-Cuba policy, I know the world is changing and sense that South Florida politics may be undergoing a sea change.
I don’t agree with Mas’ views on regime change in Cuba, but this essay blasts John McCain for status quo-ism and embraces Obama’s “flexibility” in thinking through how to turn away from failed policies.
And Sarah Stephens, Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, has an outstanding piece out today on the human costs of the anachronistic, failed, but painful embargo which most of the world strongly criticizes.
Here is a piece of her Huffington Post essay:

UN Members are now digesting a report compiled by the Secretary-General that measures the impact of our sanctions in chilling detail.
The embargo hurts Cuba’s health care system. Last year, it forced Cuban children with heart conditions to wait for needed operations because a US-based firm, Boston Scientific, has refused – as it must, under U.S. law – to sell needed devices to Cuba’s William Soler Pediatric Hospital. It prevented the purchase of spare parts for diagnostic equipment used in cancer detection, and delayed the delivery of 3 million syringes for vaccinations against communicable diseases. It forced Cuban medical authorities to buy antiretroviral drugs from secondary suppliers in grey markets, at significantly higher prices – straining an already thin public health budget.
The embargo also takes food off the table in Cuban homes, by blocking the government’s access to imported seeds, fertilizers, and spare parts for farm machinery, and by imposing exotic payment rules that add tens of millions of dollars to its bill for importing food from overseas.
In other words, the sanctions we aim at Cuba’s government actually hit and hurt the health and diet of the Cuban people instead.
But the embargo is more than a bilateral matter between Cuba’s government and ours. US law reaches companies and countries across the globe in an effort to bend their policy to our will, rallying the rest of the world to Cuba’s side
Brazil calls our policy a violation of international law. Mexico condemns the embargo as an abandonment of diplomacy. Colombia, our closest ally in the region, says of the US embargo “this kind of action should stop.” The European Union, now negotiating directly with Cuba on human rights, objects to the extra-territorial reach of our sanctions. China calls on us to negotiate our differences directly with Cuba. Russia – without a trace of irony – refers to the embargo as “a remnant of the cold war.”
It is no wonder that last year’s sanctions vote went against America 184-4. Only Israel, Palau, and the Marshall Islands stood with us. Every one of our European allies, Canada, Japan and Australia, and nearly all of Latin America (save El Salvador, which was absent) deserted us. It will happen again this year. Already, close to one-hundred fifty countries filed statements with the Secretary General for this year’s debate that bear witness to our isolation.

The funny thing about Israel voting with us on the embargo is that Israeli interests are managing citrus groves in Cuba.
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “America’s Wrong-Headedness on Cuba

  1. Cee says:

    I’m glad to hear that those brothers may be history.
    McCain was just on talking smack about what he would say to the Castro brothers.
    I can’t wait until McSame is history too.


  2. Bartolo says:

    Sitting down with Cuba to negotiate is fine, as long as the proper preconditions are agreed to: Namely, that we are allowed to import as much rum, mangoes, and pineapples as we want from Cuba.


  3. jonst says:

    “The funny thing about Israel voting with us on the embargo is that Israeli interests are managing citrus groves in Cuba”.
    Yes, well, {cough, cough}……….


  4. carol says:

    That’s why we need Sen Obama as he is willing to talk to other coutries and why not, we can’t be telling the whole world what they can and can’t do, as we live in this bubble thinking we are so superior to anyone else!!!
    It’s about time America got it’s reputation back as a leader in the free world and not just as a dictator, we need the rest of the world as our friends not always as our enemies.


  5. annjell says:

    I agree that we should open trade and travel to Cuba. It’s amazing how the U.S. hold these decade after decade policies against other countries. Meanwhile, Europe, and China goes in and establish ties with our so-called enemies. Example, China is getting oil from Africa.
    Is it any wonder, the U.S. have no clue about their nuclear threats until it’s too late. Not only that, since we have no diplomatic relations with these countries, it’s harder for Americans to to gain access to these countries, and when we do, either end up missing, or put in prison, or worse.
    We are no longer the super power we once were. Thanks to starting a war without warbonds, tax breaks…we have financed this war with borrowed money from foreign countries.
    I notice when traveling to the caribbean, the locals tend to favor the Europeans, British and Canadians over the Americans.
    Look at what we’ve done, and how we have treated people in the past. Two of our territories, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands openly say and display anti-American sentiments.


  6. bangzoom14 says:

    I believe opening up trade and travel to Cuba can and will happen under an Obama presidency. But of course it has to be done the right way. Since this ridiculous embargo has been going on for decades, it would deserve a prime time speech followed by a press conference. The new president would reveal all the many positive benefits that will be felt by Americans, Cubans and those in other countries once the changes are put forth. I believe the new president would capture a lot of sympathy around the country for this major project. There are thousands of younger Cuban Americans that don’t agree with their older generation. And for those that don’t want to jump on the new bandwagon, well, what can I say? Your old policy is exactly that. Old. It’s time for a change. Change. Now where have I heard that word before?


  7. ... says:

    >>South Florida Democrats are almost as bad on Cuba as the Republicans are.<< when does the race to the bottom end? lol… and who will win it? anyway, steve – i admire your persistence on this issue.. thanks for continuing to shine a light on this..


  8. Karl says:

    I think Cuba is one of the issues where we can make some real progress during the first year of Obama’s Administration should that come to pass.
    I’ve got a question though. Mas talks about Bush’s 2004 rule change. That sounds like a executive order, right? I’m not fully familiar with how the embargo was put into law but it seems to me as if it could be altered by executive order.
    Or am I wrong?
    Another interesting thing I’m interested in is the possibility of Afghanistan/US talks and maybe a deal with the Taliban.
    I have to say when I first heard it it didn’t seem like a very good idea, but the idea is growing on me, I’d love to hear your take Steve.


  9. WigWag says:

    One thing that may help move us in a smarter and more humane direction vis a vis Cuba is the fact that both Diaz Balart brothers are in big trouble in Florida. The DCCC is running non stop ads attacking both of them. On CNN alone I counted 5 ads last night advocating their defeat. Unfortunately Illeana Ros-Lehtinen seems like she is safe and will be reelected.
    Of course, South Florida Democrats are almost as bad on Cuba as the Republicans are. For example Alcee Hastings, Kendrick Meek and Debbie Wasserman Schutlz all oppose an opening to Cuba. Don’t get too mad at them. If they want to get reelected, they have little choice.
    My guess is that a President Obama will place the issue of Cuba near the bottom of his agenda. If he doesn’t water down the embargo in his first two years in office, you can count on the fact that it won’t happen in the last two years of his first term. By then he will already be thinking about reelection and South Florida (and its Cuban community) will be just as important as ever.
    While the Cuban community in South Florida is changing, they still hate Castro (Fidel and Raul)and they still hate Cuban communism.
    My bet is that the Obama policy towards Cuba may differ in tone from the Bush Cuba policy but it won’t differ in substance.


  10. Spunkmeyer says:

    If Obama is elected, one can only hope he does a better job than
    Bill Clinton did of what issues to tackle first. Attempting to tackle
    the issue of gays in the military managed to stir up his own lack
    of military service, what I would characterize as a more
    widespread culture of homophobia, and give the right-wingers
    their first opportunity to “rally the base” right after the election.
    If Obama manages to do this, I think the whole normalization of
    relations with Cuba will occur pretty smoothly. It may even be
    able to be synchronized with our health care issues, given their
    abundance of doctors (if not supplies)!


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