- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Oh yeah, the embargo. Read and weep....

Posted by: Frenchy on February 02, 19100 at 11:48:38:



Adolfo Leyva De Varona, Ph.D.
Executive Coordinator
Endowment for Cuban-American Studies

Contributing Editors:
Ren‚ J. Silva
Geoffrey P. Nyhart
Roberto M. Lozano

A publication of:

The Cuban American National Foundation

Original Version, July, 1994
Updated Version, September 1996


This is an updated version of the paper originally published in July, 1994.
A few changes have been introduced to the original version to take
into account recent economic changes inside Cuba and modifications
to U.S. policy towards Cuba since the signing of the Helms-Burton
legislation by U. S. President Bill Clinton. The recent stream of reports
from Cuba witnessing a bankrupt economy, a disintegrating infrastructure,
and profound material deprivation among the populace has generated an
increase in the attention given to the U.S. economic embargo against the Castro
regime. Although the Cuban economy has been deteriorating for many
years, its current free-fall began with the collapse of Soviet
hegemony in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the subsequent dissolution
of the USSR itself two years later _ events which effectively ended
Cuba's subsidized trade with those countries and left the Castro
regime "adrift in a post-communist world."1 This deepening of
Cuba's international economic and political isolation, coupled with
the hurried withdrawal of Cuban overseas military involvement
inspired by the Soviet Union's own global retreat of the late 1980s
(if not otherwise necessitated by Castro's homegrown economic
failures), have led a number of U.S. scholars and opinion makers to
question the purpose, advantage, or virtue of maintaining the U.S.
embargo on trade with the Castro regime.

This paper, after delivering a brief history of the U.S. led economic
embargo against Cuba, will proceed to consider the merits of the various
arguments put forth by those who have called for its lifting.


The United States first imposed a full trade embargo on Cuba on
February 3, 1962, after the Kennedy Administration became convinced
that Castro was moving rapidly toward the establishment of a
totalitarian regime in alliance with the Soviet Union.2 Castro had
not only confiscated U.S. and other Cuban and foreign-owned
properties on the island, but had been providing indiscriminate
support for violent revolution throughout the Americas as part of
his efforts to carry on the "continental struggle against the
Yankees," which he considers to be his "true destiny."3

The legal foundations of the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba are the
Cuban Assets Control Regulations promulgated in 1963 pursuant to
the Trading With The Enemy Act of 1917. The U.S. measures later
became part of a continent-wide embargo imposed against Cuba by the
Organization of American States (OAS) at its 9th Meeting of
Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held in July, 1964.4
The OAS meeting, convened by Venezuela, was the culmination of a
series of indictments brought against the Castro regime for its
repeated involvement in subversive acts of aggression against OAS
member states. With the exception of Mexico, which argued that the
type of hostility suffered by Venezuela was not consistent with the
definition of aggression as stipulated in the Inter-American Treaty
of Reciprocal Assistance, known as the Rˇo Treaty, the OAS
countries agreed to suspend all forms of trade, whether directly or
indirectly, with Cuba.5

Both the U.S. embargo and the OAS sanctions against Cuba remained
in force through the early 1970s. By 1971, Castro's domestic
economic policy failures and growing dependence on subsidies forced
him to toe the Soviet line in foreign policy for several years.6 He
was obliged to become more selective in his support for revolution
in the region and began to seek conventional diplomatic relations
with those governments he considered to be "progressive." Over the
next few years, the governments of Salvador Allende in Chile
(1971), General Velasco Alvarado in Peru (1972), and H‚ctor C mpora
in Argentina (1973) would establish relations with Cuba in
contravention of the OAS sanctions after failing to convince the
OAS to formally end its embargo on the island.(Ibid.)

As these countries began pressuring local subsidiaries of U.S.
companies to do business with Cuba, the United States, fearing an
open split in the ranks of the Inter-American System, made
allowances for some U.S. subsidiaries in Latin America to export to
Cuba (products with 20% or less of U.S.-made content), and later
agreed to an OAS compromise on the Cuba issue. This compromise was
reached in July 1975, during the 16th OAS Meeting of Consultation,
where a resolution was approved which "set free the member states
to follow their own policy and national interest and to normalize
or conduct their relations with the Republic of Cuba at the level
and in the form that each state deems convenient."7

In 1974, pressured by congressional and academic groups sympathetic
to the Castro regime, President Gerald Ford began exploring
improved relations with what many were proclaiming to be a reformed
Cuba. The process was quickly derailed in late 1975, however, by
Cuba's massive military involvement in Angola, where, with the
logistical support of the Soviet military, Castro eventually placed
over 40,000 Cuban troops. This and other Cuban government military
adventures elsewhere in the Third World would lead President Ford
to brand Castro's actions as those of an "international outlaw."8

In 1976, newly inaugurated President Jimmy Carter sought to
moderate Castro's foreign policy and to improve Cuba's human rights
record by initiating a process of rapprochement which led to the
establishment, in 1977, of a United States "Interests Section" in
the Swiss Embassy in Havana and a corresponding Cuban "Interests
Section" in the Czech Embassy in Washington.9 President Carter also
relaxed the restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens to the island.
Despite Carter's good intentions, the process of rapprochement was
halted once more when in 1978 Castro sent approximately 15,000
troops to Ethiopia,10 increased Cuba's military involvement
elsewhere in Africa, and again supported revolution in Central
America (first in Nicaragua, where Castro personally brought
together the various guerrilla factions with the offer of military
assistance, and later, in El Salvador and Guatemala).11 Bilateral
tensions were exacerbated in 1980, when Castro released economic
and political pressures at home by allowing 125,000 Cubans to flee
to the U.S. through the Port of Mariel, sending among them several
thousand criminals and hundreds of the country's mentally ill.12

These events would become a prelude to the re-strengthening of the
U.S. embargo during the administration of President Ronald Reagan,
who entered office intent on reversing the tide of Soviet-Cuban
advancements throughout the Third World. In 1982, the U.S.
Government began vigorously enforcing the existing embargo
legislation: U.S. subsidiaries in third countries were strongly
warned not to exceed the limits allowed by U.S. law, while U.S.
businesses were prohibited from dealing with a list of foreign
firms operating in the U.S., Panama, and Jamaica which were
designated as "Cuban fronts intended to break the U.S. embargo."
That same year, the U.S. Government reimposed the partial ban on
travel by its citizens to Cuba.13

Finally, in 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the bipartisan Cuban
Democracy Act (CDA), citing Castro's refusal to introduce
democratic reforms and the increasing incidence of human rights
violations on the island, which were being condemned repeatedly in
the U.N. Human Rights Commission even by those nations _ now
democratic _ who were Castro's former allies in the Soviet bloc.14
The CDA, often called the Torricelli Bill after its sponsor in the
House of Representatives, Congressman Robert Torricelli of New
Jersey, was signed into law by President Bush in October of 1992.

The Torricelli Bill, which received the strong backing of then
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton, strengthened the
U.S. embargo against Cuba by closing the loophole which allowed
foreign subsidiaries of U.S. businesses to conduct, as recently as
1991, upwards of $700 million a year in trade with Cuba. The new
law not only brought foreign subsidiary trade with Cuba in line
with the existing U.S. embargoes against pariah nations such as
North Korea, Iraq and Libya, but also strongly encouraged U.S.
foreign aid recipient nations to avoid providing assistance to the
Cuban regime.

The expressed objective of the CDA is to further isolate the Castro
regime in order to weaken its repressive apparatus and to increase
pressure for democratic change on the island. At the same time, it
seeks to decrease the isolation of the Cuban people by opening up
telephone, mail and other means of communication with the island
and by allowing the regulated shipment of medication and other
humanitarian aid to the Cuban people from the United States.15

The CDA has been recently complemented by the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD) which was sponsored by US
senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Dan Burton (R-IN). LIBERTAD is part
of a series of punitive measures directed at the regime of Fidel Castro for
its shutdown of two U.S. civilian aircraft in international airspace. The act,
also known as "Helms-Burton"for its primary sponsors passed the U.S.
Senate and House by overwhelming bipartisan margins of 74-22 and
336-86, respectively.

LIBERTAD is a comprehensive law combining sanctions against
the Castro regime with offers of specific U.S. support measures
for Cuba should a new leadership pursue a path towards
democratization. Two provisions in the law that have generated the
most attention here and abroad are Titles II and IV, which are designed
to discourage foreign investment in Cuba by protecting the property rights
of American citizens whose former properties were expropriated without
compensation by Castro and are now on the international selling block.

At the present time, and taking as examples the cases of South
Africa, Haiti and Iraq, a number of U.S. Congressmen are seeking
support for the internationalization of U.S political and economic pressure
on Cuba while the Clinton administration is utilizing diplomatic channels
to ease opposition to Helms-Burton in Europe, Latin America,
and Canada.

There is also at the present time, however, an ongoing effort by
others to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba entirely. Let us now
carefully consider the assertions and arguments they most often put
forth in attempting to persuade the U.S. Government to lift its
embargo on trade with the Castro regime.



This argument confuses the cure with the curse. Castro's
stubborn refusal to acknowledge the failure of his totalitarian regime
and to relinquish his absolute control by allowing the introduction
of basic political and economic freedoms which remains the root
cause of the Cuban people's suffering. As self-installed Chief of
State, President of the Republic, First Secretary of the Cuban
Communist Party, Commander in Chief of the Cuban Armed Forces, and
Maximum Leader of the Cuban Revolution for the last 30-odd years,
Castro _ who has never allowed himself to be legitimized by a free
election _ has managed to turn a country whose people once enjoyed
one of the highest standards of living in the hemisphere (see
Appendix) into a nation with a subsistence-level economy, a
collapsed infrastructure, and a population whose impoverished
existence is in marked contrast to the wealth and luxury enjoyed by
its Communist elite.16

And if your really interested go to www.canfnet.org.

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