Thursday, February 21, 2008

End to the Cuban Embargo?

There are many policies in the US that defy logic: subsidies for huge agribusiness to supply substances that contribute to obesity, the electoral college (try explaining the utility of that wonderful institution to a foreigner sometime), superdelegates, tax breaks for pharmaceuticals to dump expired medicines on African communities and write-offs for people who purchase oversize SUVs. The list goes on. But one of the most visible stupid policies is our embargo on Cuba, which as I understand only benefits US sugar producers. Life in Cuba isn't like life in America - but I can think of a few hundred other places that are worse: Cabrini Green in the early 90s, for example, Chile under Pinochet, Vietnam during the US invasion, the list goes on. Our 45+ year embargo on Cuba is a humanitarian disaster, and hasn't changed despite major advancements in economic reform by the Cuban regime - Libya got far more just for declining to nuke us. If foreign policy is a system of carrots and sticks then in order to be effective it needs to be applied consistently. The embargo on Cuba is no longer a symbol of the victory of capitalism over socialism - it is a symbol of special interests in the US forcing the government to maintain a disastrous policy. Fidel Castro's announcement that he is stepping down is the perfect opportunity to revisit the embargo issue. It brings to mind other opportunities this Administration has squandered - the Iranian offer to negotiate that was sent via the Swiss Ambassador that received no reply at all from the State Department, and most tragically, the goodwill we enjoyed after 9-11 and before we invaded Iraq.

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