On Thursday, Jaime Daremblum, who is a former Costa Rican ambassador to the US and now a fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote a piece called The Cuba Fallacy. In it he tries to argue against lifting the nearly 50 year old US embargo against Cuba.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “The U.S. embargo against Cuba is the single biggest reason that Washington and Havana do not enjoy better relations. If we want the island nation to become a democracy, we should drop sanctions and pursue a policy of aggressive engagement.”
It is a simple and seductive argument, which explains why so many people have embraced it. Unfortunately, it is based on a fallacious reading of history and a naïve understanding of the Cuban dictatorship.
Over the past four decades, every American president who has pursued a serious rapprochement with Havana — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — has been left shaking his head in frustration. Whenever the United States has extended an olive branch, the Castro regime has responded with an act of foreign aggression (such as lending military support to Communist forces in Africa or killing four Cuban-American pilots) or domestic repression (such as jailing a U.S. citizen on bogus espionage charges) so provocative that it effectively ruined any chance of détente.
Daremblum also goes on to detail some of the human rights abuses committed by the Castro regime.
I don’t believe dropping the Cuban embargo will necessarily lead to the democratization of Cuba. Indeed, we have had economic and normalized relations with China since the 1970s and China is no closer to being a liberal democracy today than it was under Chairman Mao. We have had nearly 20 years of normalized and economic relations with Vietnam and again Vietnam is no closer to becoming a liberal, multi-party democracy. Greater economic freedom does not always necessarily translate to greater political freedom.
I also agree the Castro brothers are anti-American to their core. Part of the way they stay in power is that they portray themselves as the Latin Davids going up against the Gringo Goliath. The embargo plays to the Castro brothers strategy of staying in power. If the embargo was lifted, the Cuban people would no longer have a reason to blame the United States for their economic difficulties, they would have to look internally. This would weaken the Castro brothers’ hold on power.
The Cuban embargo should end because American businesses, not just select agricultural and medical businesses should be allowed to find new markets in Cuba. This would be good for American businesses and entrepreneurs and good for the Cuban people. This would also place more domestic pressure on the Cuban government to improve living standards for the Cuban people.
Finally, the embargo should be lifted because after nearly 50 years, Cuba is no closer to becoming a liberal democracy than it was in 1959. By any objective analysis, the embargo has failed and for that reason alone, the embargo should end.