We Should Do A Lot More Than A Handshake

I am not sure the exact date it started, but our embargo on Cuba is over fifty years old.  At what point do we declare failure?

Sure, the communists and Castro and Che Guevara all suck.  But how much longer are we going to punish Cuba's leaders by making their citizens miserable?  History has shown that communist countries become less communist by interacting with the (quasi) capitalist democracies.  The most stable dictatorships (think North Korea) are those who are the most obsessive in masking alternatives from their citizens.  How much longer are we going to continue doing the Castros' work for them?

Open up our relations with Cuba, not because they have somehow gotten better or deserve our respect but because this is the only way they are going to get better.


  1. Matthew Slyfield:

    I agree with you, but as a practical matter, it isn't going to happen unless you can convince the leaders of the old guard Cuban community in Florida to support it.

  2. skhpcola:

    During the "embargo," Cooba got over half of all of its food from the US. They had to pay cash, up front, but we sold it to them. Still do, as far as I know.

  3. David Neylon:

    This is something I've been saying for many years. 20-30 maybe? We should open up full trade with Cuba. Withing 5 years they'd be completely dependent on us. But Matthew is right. The old guard in South Florida will fight this tooth and nail.

  4. Eric Wilner:

    But... but... if we didn't provide a convenient scapegoat, how would the Castro regime stay in power?
    Given how long, and through how many administrations, the embargo has remained in effect, I came up with a tinfoil-hat theory a few years ago: that the U.S. has a secret agreement with Castro to keep up the embargo (and, perhaps, the bizarrely ineffectual assassination plots) in exchange for Cuba continuing to honor the lease on Guantanamo.

  5. MingoV:

    Eisenhower and JFK screwed up in regards to Cuba. They were so worried about Castro's communistic viewpoint that they didn't realize how easily money would have swayed him. Cuba is 90 miles away. If we had established open trade and provided some financial support, Cuba would have been "neutral" in our favor by 1965.

    (The same two presidents screwed up in regards to North Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh was more nationalist than communist. South Vietnam had been ruled by crude dictators who were worse than Ho Chi Minh. If we had supported unification under Ho Chi Minh, we would have neutralized the influences of China and the USSR.)

  6. Craig Howard:

    We cannot trade with individual Cubans. All trade with Cuba is through the government. Until we can make a business deal with an individual in Cuba, the embargo should remain in effect. I'm surprised you missed this tiny detail.

  7. Fred_Z:

    We Canadians trade with Cubans at all levels. Too much of it is crony capitalism but plenty of smaller time stuff goes on.

    You Americans made a great mistake with your embargo. Things 'leak' - traders talk, share insights, computers, copiers, secrets etc. Of all people on earth, Americans should know that.

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  9. John O.:

    I've always considered the policy to be a major mistake. Its so much easier to destroy socialism by "killing them with kindness". Socialism cannot stand supported when we kindly trade with them and flood the country with business people looking to spend money doing business. Nixon's trip to China paved the way for us to do business there to the point that it completely changed the government from an openly communist one to more of a state capitalist one. Everything suddenly changes when trade happens and even better is that we don't send our military to do most of the "changing" either.

  10. John O.:

    We give so much food exports in the form of grain that the largest country we exported grain to during the Cold War was the Soviet Union. We still do export grain to the former Soviet block, but not as much. And we still do give large sums of grain to Latin America including Cuba, we particularly supply most of Venezuela's grain imports despite all of their posturing. I really do believe the greatest policy victory of the Bush administration was to completely ignore Chavez and his theatrics. Paying them attention would have only made them even more grandiose and play into Chavez's hands.

  11. norse:

    US politics suffers from a sad reluctance to rethink positions. "Flip-flopping", otherwise known as intelligent beings rationally assessing a situation and implementing alternatives to a failed approach is seen as a negative.

    We see this in the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, the embargo on cuba, health care: failed policies by any practical measure, yet we double down and proclaim that they will be working just fine once we shovel more money into the bottomless pits.

    My best guess is that at the root of this behaviour is the desire not to appear weak - and not backing the team on a policy that someone once decided on might be seen as such or have negative status effects. Very highschool, and very much something that costs us trillions every year, yet not easy to avoid.

  12. CapitalistRoader:

    The old guard in Florida are still hurting from Castro's theft of their land and property. $1.8B in 1960, about $14B in today's dollars. Castro vowed to issue government bonds for reparation but of course that never happened, probably because their suck ass socialist economy couldn't produce enough cash. Slapping a 10% duty on everything going into and out of Cuba from/to the US and giving the proceeds to the old guard until they're paid off might be a solution.

  13. John Moore:

    Cuba already has free trade with many nations, and it still a dismal socialist hell-hole. Opening up US trade is not likely to make it any better, but the dictators will live more comfortably and the people will still suffer under one of the worst remaining communist regimes.

  14. Curtis:

    If we open relations with Cuba the idiots in Congress will promptly start sending the government of Cuba roughly $4 billion/year in aid. I can do very well without opening up relations with Cuba.

  15. Che is dead:

    What embargo?

    "The U.S. has transacted almost $4 BILLION in trade with Cuba over the past decade. Up until two years ago, the U.S. served as Stalinist Cuba’s biggest food supplier and fifth biggest import partner. We’ve fallen a few notches recently, but we’re still in the top half. Nowadays the so-called U.S. embargo mostly stipulates that the Castro regime pay cash up front through a third–party bank for all U.S. medical and agricultural products; no Ex-Im (U.S. taxpayer) financing of such sales. Enacted by the Bush team in 2001 this cash-up-front policy has kept the U.S. taxpayer among the few spared fleecing by Castro."


    So, I guess what you're really arguing is that the U.S. taxpayer should shoulder the risk of extending credit to the Castro regime. That's an interesting position for a "libertarian". And even more interesting position given Cuba's record of defaulting on it's international obligations.

  16. Curtis:

    But that begs the question, if there is no real embargo of Cuba, how will the US joining the rest of the world in not embargoing Cuba help in any way? They don't have anything to trade but tourism and that is available throughout the region. They cannot afford to buy the essential staples of an industrial society now never mind buy luxury consumer goods.

  17. Curtis:

    Right now at this second Cuba is holding an American USAID contractor in jail for attempting to do the job he was hired to do in Cuba. Cuba says he is a spy and can rot in jail for as long as the political prisoners Cuba and Guevera took did (those they didn't execute outright).
    You think it would have gone differently if USAID got an earlier start?

  18. fotini901:

    I'd imagine trade would help Cuba the same way it has helped China. A lot.