By Christopher Romero
In the wake of the Cuban Revolution, the United States was prepared to acknowledge the new regime in Cuba. This quickly changed as it came to fear the spread of communism across Latin America as it did in Southeast Asia. This gave rise to debatably the longest-standing piece of foreign policy in the history of the U.S.—the economic embargo on Cuba. This embargo, supplemented by six ancillary pieces of legislation, created sanctions that would clearly stand the test of time. After its 52nd anniversary on February 7th of this year, Americans are divided as to where they stand. In South Florida, where the Cuban diaspora have migrated and reproduced, it seems to be that the issue is one of identity and ironically, defeatamong the Cuban-American population.
Among the heated arguments around political round-tables and living rooms, the general sentiment of the discussion seems to descend to complete apathy for an apparently dated policy, reminiscent of Cold War tactics and isolationism. But in a regime founded on exclusivity, where its people are silenced, and political rebels are jailed or exiled—is it any wonder that the Cuban collective has lost its patriotism, subsequently losing interest in the ever-present feud between the United States and their mother country? It appears more and more Cubans themselves are admitting to a loss of identity. According to a study published by Pew Research Center, Cubans are far more likely than other Hispanics to identify as white—the others, claiming they are “some other race.” Research suggests that there is a positive correlation between Cubans that identify as white and sharing vastly different political attitudes, moral values, higher levels of education, and higher incomes than those who do not. The study implies that Hispanics use race as a measure of inclusion, and Cubans in particular, buy into this perceived inclusion.
One can deduce this much—the embargo on Cuba is universally more than a simple bar on economic and commercial activity between the United States, its subsidiaries, and Cuba. The embargo is a socioeconomic and inherently psychological scar in the hearts of Cubans everywhere. The embittered dwindling exiled population in the U.S. believes that the embargo should remain, but for the wrong reasons. To them, the embargo is personal retribution for the injustices imposed upon them. To the vocal minority in my generation, the embargo is useless, serving no purpose other than to effectively keep Cuban citizens from ever attaining any measure of subsistence. Unfortunately, both perspectives are logically baseless and rooted on a warped perspective of reality.
Historically, we have given Cuba endless opportunities to democratize—to liberate its citizens of their inhibitions and allow Cubans to taste freedom as they’ve imagined it. Every time, Cuba has vehemently refused such negotiations, sometimes even acting aggressively. Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist and ex-pat, writes: “Why alleviate the Cuban government’s economic situation when history has shown that every time Castro strengthens his power, he invests those resources to retract the few morsels of economic freedom granted to the people during the periods of deep crisis?” in his 2003 editorial to The Miami Herald.
He’s right, but the political situation has come to an even greater stalemate in recent history. Cuba has found other trade partners around the world and remains relatively successful given the circumstances. And yet—the common folk remain in poverty. The Cuban government has placed blame on the embargo for citizen unrest, poverty, and meek quality of life. This agenda is pushed so fervently, that the citizens themselves are beginning to demonize the United States for their embargo on the island. This scapegoat serves one purpose—to detract the United States and Cuba alike from holding the Cuban government accountable for their actions. We are blind to the more obvious repercussions of lifting the embargo, and they hide in plain sight. The poor in Cuba will not directly benefit from lifting the embargo, despite popular belief. We cannot and will not find substantial evidence of beneficial outcomes that would justify lifting the embargo. In fact, lifting the embargo may be counterproductive—by opening the Cuban market, we are more likely to polarize the economy upward even higher, making the rich, richer, and the poor, even poorer. Communism, by definition, implies no private sector—all business is nationalized. Therefore, any economic stimulation would only bring wealth to the government. It seems as though that might be a more likely objective view on lifting the embargo, using a holistic measure of probability—taking history, foresight, and tangible evidence into account.
Remaining tied to the embargo is the most viable and only available course of action on the behalf of the United States with respect to the political situation in Cuba, save causing an international incident by plotting a manual overthrow of government by staging a coup d’etat through the consolidation of available and cooperating revolutionaries and army assistance. The idea behind the embargo has become one of moral intolerance: the embargo is a political statement that solidifies our disapproval of the Cuban government. Breaking our resolve after 52 years of resilience would not only show Cuba, and the world, that we can be coerced into retracting our own punishments, but also simultaneously show our support for the Communist regime by associating and doing business with Cuba. Furthermore, radically changing our policies before we learn whom will succeed the Castro bloodline, would be a serious mistake, strategically speaking. We could very easily use the embargo as a sort of bargaining chip in deliberation.
We offered Cuba an ultimatum. We have set rules and boundaries for them—rules and boundaries that can be reversed given they cooperate. The lack of basic human rights, democracy, and above all, deplorable living conditions of Cuban citizens give us absolutely zero indication that Cuba has any accountability in their negotiations with the U.S., even if we were contemplating such actions. All things considered, the speculative ends do not justify the means. We cannot guarantee that lifting the embargo will have any substantial effect on the Cuban economy, or our relationship with the island. We can, however, guarantee that international sentiment on U.S. foreign policy will likely decline as a result of lapse in judgment. As a union, as a country, as a people—we can only continue to speculate. But we must tread carefully. We must not let our overstimulated imaginations get the better of our logic, and allow our ideas to stand to reason. Introspection is key.