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    Keep the embargo until Castro relents

    Posted on Tuesday, 02.18.14

    Keep the embargo until Castro relents

    The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba is a fiction, a fraud, a failure and
    has been for a long time. It’s a Potemkin Village embargo. But it has
    served the purposes of both Washington and Havana.

    When it was imposed more than half a century ago, there were legitimate
    reasons: the seizure of numerous U.S.-owned properties by the regime and
    the realization that Fidel Castro was a Caribbean-style Communist who
    had cozied up to the Soviet Union.

    The embargo’s goal was to bring down Fidel or force him to the political
    middle by denying Cuba U.S. dollars, trade, investment and products. But
    more than half a century later, the Castro brothers remain in power and
    have shrewdly used the embargo — el bloqueo — as an excuse for their
    legion of economic and social failures.

    The old oligarchs who fled Cuba — like sugar baron Alfy Fanjul, and more
    about him later — were replaced by new ones, members of the Communist
    Party and Cuba’s military. Then as now, they live fairly well. The New
    York Times ran a front-page story the other day about a new gated
    community in Havana that houses the new oligarchs and favored others.

    The egalitarian “New Man” Fidel promised to create apparently deserves a
    nice place to live, apart from the riff-raff. The walled-off compound
    includes a movie theater, restaurants and retail shops where I bet
    residents can buy U.S.-made products.

    For regular Cubans with family in the United States who send or bring
    them money, some U.S.-made products are available at premium prices in
    state-run dollar stores. How curious, Cuba disdains capitalism except
    when it’s the capitalist. Fledgling Cuban capitalists get their
    inventory from American cousins who tote the goods to Cuba on chartered
    flights or send it by freighter. Some embargo!

    Web sites in Canada and elsewhere outside the United States will, for a
    hefty fee, deliver food, refrigerators or a flat-screen TV to any
    address on the island. For Cubans without such recourse to dollars,
    however, life is a daily struggle for adequate housing, food and
    transportation, not to mention the right to freely speak one’s mind or
    take part in organized dissent.

    When South American leaders held a summit in Havana recently, more than
    1,000 Cuban human-rights activists and dissidents were rounded up,
    hounded, harrassed or held by police in detention. Cuba’s most visible
    and vocal dissidents, like Jose Luis García (”Atunez”) and Dr. Oscar
    Elias Biscet, were subjected to especially harsh treatment. Is there
    anywhere else in the hemisphere where a citizen can be arrested for the
    crime of “dangerousness”? He or she can in Cuba.

    Yet, this is the country in which a majority of Americans — and even
    more Floridians — now say they want to normalize relations and “engage
    directly.” I understand the sentiment and to some degree share it.
    President Obama knows policy this country has pursued for half a century
    hasn’t produced the desired result — a free and democratic Cuba.

    So inventive Americans have found ways around the stated policy. Last
    year, about 100,000 Americans traveled to Cuba legally on
    “people-to-people” trips that are little more than thinly disguised
    tourism. And who knows how many more U.S. citizens who sipped mojitos on
    the terrace of the Hotel Nacional got there illegally through Cancun or
    other gateway cities where U.S. passports are conveniently not stamped
    by Cuban authorities?

    The survey published last week by the Atlantic Council, which will be
    discussed Wednesday morning at the Biltmore Hotel, is proof that a
    majority of Americans are ready to see more U.S. interaction with Cuba.

    Alfy Fanjul of Palm Beach admits that he’s been to Cuba twice in the
    last year and says he’d like to “plant the family flag” there again, if
    he can work it out with the Castro government. You wonder if that means
    planting the flag on the thousands of acres of sugar land his family
    once owned.

    I suspect part of Fanjul’s and other business interests’ desire to
    engage with Cuba is spurred by news that the European Union is about to
    negotiate improved relations with Havana. Which will lead to new
    business deals.

    But I don’t expect Raúl Castro and his minions to make any significant
    concessions to the E.U. on free elections, free speech, political
    prisoners or human rights. Spain, France, Italy, Canada and other
    democratic countries have been doing business in Cuba for years, and it
    hasn’t changed Cuba’s repressive policies. If anything, the noose seems
    to have tightened as the Castros age.

    That’s why the U.S. embargo should stay in place. Fiction or not, it
    should be lifted only in return for something major from Cuba — the
    democratic reforms codified in the Helms-Burton law.

    If that means no “direct engagement” until the Castros are dead, so be it.

    Source: Keep the embargo until Castro relents – Michael Putney –
    MiamiHerald.com –

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