Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Cuba embargo debate

A view of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana

I just caught the last half of PBS WIDE ANGLE correspondent Aaron Brown's program on whether the U.S. should lift its ban on trade with Cuba.
Brown moderated a debate between Phil Peters, creator of the Cuban Triangle blog, and Mauricio Claver-Carone, author of the blog Capitol Hill Cubans.
Peters opposes the embargo, Claver-Carone does not. I thought both did an excellent job arguing their positions.
I agree with Claver-Carone that human rights activists and journalists now held in Cuban prisons are heroes for trying to boost freedom in Cuba. Their sacrifices can't be ignored.
Claver-Carone argued that lifting the embargo would prolong the life of the socialist government, allowing it to continue to violate basic human rights. I understand and appreciate that point of view. But I don't understand why the U.S. government can't accomplish its goals using less aggressive tactics.
Over the years, our Cuba policies have:
* Pushed the socialist government into adopting increasingly extreme positions.
* Given the Cuban government a convenient scapegoat.
* Hurt U.S. efforts to engage other Latin American and Caribbean nations.
I don't think the trade ban hurts Communist Party leaders all that much. But ordinary people are suffering extreme economic hardship - low wages, high prices, shortages of all kinds. Lifting the embargo - flooding Cuba with people, money and ideas - would help ordinary people. And, as Phil Peters pointed out, it would give the U.S. government greater leverage with the Cuban government and the Cuban people in the post-Castro era.

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