Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easing Travel Restrictions To Cuba

President Obama is starting down one road I can support:
President Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.

I have long said that the Cuban embargo is silly. I can understand that, in the context of the times, it made sense when it was implemented. It made sense all the way up to the moment the Iron Curtain collapsed. With external communism no longer a threat, though, the embargo has lost all logical purpose.

Every country on the planet trades with Cuba except us; the Castros are still in power, almost 50 years after implementing that embargo. The embargo has clearly failed in having its intended effect--nay, it may have had the reverse effect of that which was intended--and it makes the US look ridiculous. In the immortal paraphrase of Al Gore, "It's time (pause) for it (pause) to go." My own government should not forbid me to travel to any country on the planet. Free men should not wear such shackles. Maybe eventually I, and not just Cuban immigrants, will be able to go to Cuba, free from the threat of imprisonment by my own government.

Having said all that, though, I have to ask--why do we refer to "remittances" instead of to "sending money"? Why the need for the euphemism?

I'm not really sure how to categorize this post. Let's see if any of these come close....


Jenna said...

I agree with you Darren. I've thought it to be silly as well. I have no problem with the President making changes to that policy; I just wish I could trust his motives.

Loni said...

One of my professors has told me that lifting the embargo is unlikely given the growing influence of Hugo Chavez in Latin America...something to think about.

Also, much of Castro's regime has been helped by the embargo. It's been the official excuse for any government screw-ups since it's implementation not to mention helped make the U.S. a symbolic enemy and hence justification for the current system.

The embargo has, however, developed a fascinating self-sustaining economy within Cuba. Being cut off from all American products means a thriving biotech industry as well as significantly more environmentally-sustaining farming and production methods. Watch the Greening of Cuba...it's pretty sweet.

Lastly, perhaps allowing people into Cuba will help Americans draw a better conclusion about how wonderful/awful life is there.

Dogmatic, adolescent 'Marxists' will see the intense poverty in some regions and lack of civil liberties and hang up their Che Guevara shirts...realizing that the revolution has not produced a wonderland of equality and justice.

Similarly conservatives who insist that Cuban's suffer extreme hardship and oppression (while having no problem of course that their own country dictates whom they can marry, what they can put into/take out of their bodies, and where they can travel in the world) will see that there aren't people dying of hunger in the streets. People don't disappear in the middle of the night. The children are decently educated and (not that I'm advocating socialized medicine) no one dies of an easily curable decease.

All things to consider..good post.

allen (in Michigan) said...

I've always been of two minds about the embargo.

On the one hand there's really no doubt that Castro has and would do anything he could to damage the United States. Authoritarians hate the U.S. instinctively as well as rationally because our mere existance is a repudiation of what they stand for and a beacon of hope to the people they opress.

Freer access wouldn't make it less likely that he'd engage in mischief and couple of decades to come up with tactics and strategies would ensure that there'd be all the time necessary to implement anything the imagination could encompass.

So it's not unreasonable to view Cuba under Castro as, if not an overt and immediate threat and aggressor, a threat nonetheless. The embargo both makes any hostile plans more difficult to implement and more difficult to conceal as anything other then hostile actions of a foreign government.

On the other hand, socialism doesn't just result in general poverty and a wealthy elite, I think it doesn't do well in any other economic circumstances. Once you've got a rising middle class as in, say, China you've got gradually escalating pressure for more governmental accountability, responsiveness and a more representative government. If you've got wealth rolling in and the power of government being used to abscond with most of that wealth, you get a rising level of discontent which is exploitable.

All things considered I don't believe dropping the embargo is in our national self-interest.

Cuba would certainly gain more economically from that action then the U.S. and Castro is still intent on damaging the U.S. any way he can. More money, which he would have access to with the expansion of the Cuban economy due to trade with the U.S. would certainly be used to that end.