Let’s finish with Cold War Policies: Why the United States should end its Trade Embargo on Cuba

$116.8 billion dollars over fifty five years – an eye opening figure estimated by the Cuban government as damages to their economy at the hands of the American trading embargo.

The hundred billion dollar figure comes from a yearly report sent to the United Nations by Cuba, arguing for the economic trading embargo to be lifted. The UN has continued to pass the resolution for the last twenty two years. In 2012 only three countries out of one hundred and ninety opposed lifting the embargo, America, Israel and the Republic of Palau. Last year those three became two, with Palau switching sides and voting to end the embargo.

So with the international community almost entirely in agreement, is it not time for America to put one of its final Cold War Era policies to bed and give the Cuban people an opportunity to live better, more complete lives?

What began in October of 1960 as a ban on exporting everything except food and medicine soon became a ban on all exports as of February 1962. The change was ignited by the Cuban Missile Crisis and that is how it has stayed ever since, which is where the problem really arises. The embargo was arguably a reasonable response by President Kennedy in 1960, as the world had almost witnessed a complete nuclear Armageddon. However that is simply no longer the case. Cuba has not been a threat for some time now, demonstrating how outdated the embargo truly is.

One of the more worrying conditions of how the embargo works is the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. It stands as one of the main statutes that help enforce the embargo, along with five others. The Trading with the Enemy Act requires the President to sign off on the embargo every year, meaning that since 1960 the acting American President of the time has continued to sign off on the embargo. Just recently President Obama has signed off for another year. What makes it even worse is that since 2008, Cuba is the only country on the list that comes under this act. North Korea was on the list up till 2008 when President Bush removed them from it.

This is not to say that the communist regime that took power two years prior to the embargo is in any way an innocent party. In their latest report, Freedom House, an independent watchdog for freedom scored Cuba’s government 6.5 out of 7 for repression. That is a seriously high score and an issue that should be looked at. However if you compare it to other countries that America have large trade agreements with, then the argument to uphold the embargo has little to no leg to stand upon. China scored the exact same repression score of 6.5 out of 7, while Saudi Arabia scored a hundred percent with 7 out of 7, yet America seems perfectly happy to overlook these scores in order to trade with these much larger nations.

Further questions arise when you look back into previous arguments as to why the embargo should end. In 2004 at Southern Illinois University, then-state senator Barack Obama voiced his support for ending the US embargo against Cuba. He stated that the embargo had ‘completely failed’ and ‘squeezed the innocents in Cuba’. So the question is, if President Obama believed that the embargo was a failure, then why has he signed off on continuing it for all these years?

In a political context Cuba, brings up a lot of past emotions and heartache for America during the Cold War. It involves a major victory, the sight of President Kennedy standing firm against Khrushchev while the whole world watched the Cuban Missile Crisis unfold. It helped JFK achieve a near legendary status on the world stage. However, Cuba also holds a deep emotional scaring for America; the Bay of Pigs disaster is a wound that has never truly closed. The botched attempt at overthrowing the Cuban government has always stained American politics and embarrassed the CIA.

Quite simply, America has to get over itself and look to move forward not backwards. In Cuba, simple everyday items like concrete to build houses and food to eat are in short supply. The embargo is talked about daily on the streets of Havana while the standard of living continues to decrease. It is time for America to finish playing Cold War games with Cuba and let them join the modern world. The UN and the rest of the world have been saying it for long enough now; it’s time for America to listen.