The US trade embargo on Cuba is unlikely to feature as an issue in November’s Presidential election, however should Obama win an end to the blockade is due.
For the last fifty years, the US has restricted trade to the Caribbean island, in the process playing a large part in stunting the economy and lives of ordinary Cubans. What is more surprising is that for most of the last three decades the blockade has only continued due to yearly presidential decrees. While this has included the signatures of Ronald Reagan (not one of Latin America’s best friends) and both Bush’s (not really any countries friends), it has also included those of Carter, Clinton and Obama, two Nobel Peace Prize winners and another nominee. Yet none of these three supposed ‘men of peace’ could find it in their hearts to end the world’s longest running trade embargo on one of the world’s poorest islands.
John Kavulich, of the US-Cuba Economic and Trade Council believes the continuation is ‘inertia’ – there is simply no political need to end it, there is no groundswell, no movement, no lobby – it is not ‘occupying’ the thoughts of everyday Americans. Quite simply, each year, President [insert name here] simply signs off on it as part of his function – long after the end of the Cold War.
While there may be no mass movement to overturn the embargo, there is enough of a voice, in Miami at least, home to 1.5 millions Cuban Americans, to scare any would be President into maintaining it. Florida is a key swing state and the anti Castro vote can easily be courted. Any President instituting a change would be risking winning office, gaining a second term or ensuring a continuation of his party’s rule. Furthermore, while the embargo continues at the stroke of a pen, its complete unravelling can only be accomplished by congress. Without the numbers, it could be a waste of political breath.
When Obama came to office in 2008 it was with an ocean of goodwill and hope. He has repaid some of this faith in regards to Cuba, with an easing of restrictions on remittances and travel however they are baby steps and not enough. Over time it has become clear Obama is simply a US President and not the messiah many built him up to be. The continued operation of Guantanamo Bay prison and the incarceration of Bradley Manning are two of the stand out failures of the Obama regime. Health care, marriage equality, unemployment, climate change and the continued invasion of Afghanistan, while attracting criticism, have less of a direct Presidential influence. Ending the Cuban embargo would need support from congress, however Obama should stamp his authority and lead the way in 2013.
Like the restrictions on same sex marriage, there is simply no justifiable reason for it to remain in place. First of all, the US has won the war – and long ago. The Cold War finished over two decades ago, the Cuban economy has had the guts ripped out of it and the Castro brothers are on their last legs. Ending the embargo will have no ill effect on the US economy, if anything it could improve it and let’s face it, they need all the help they can get. Furthermore, President Raul Castro has made many reforms in the past few years and has even offered talks with the US without preconditions.
Finally, Obama came to office with the promise to restore America’s reputation in the world. His speeches can only carry him so far. Cuba is a part of that world America needs to restore its reputation with. Ending the embargo would be one small step for a President and one giant leap for Americankind.