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Tighten the Screws

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Says Now is Not the Time to Ease Up on Cuba
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 99

President John F. Kennedy is said to have instructed his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, to go out and buy as many Cuban cigars as he could get his hands on. Salinger returned to the Oval Office the next day with more than a thousand Cuban cigars. President Kennedy, the story goes, inspected the loot, then took out his pen and signed the Executive Order imposing the Cuban embargo.

Kennedy may have been the last American to legally stock his humidor with Cuban tobacco, but in signing the Cuban embargo he did the right thing. And bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress have supported the U.S. policy of isolating Castro's brutal dictatorship ever since.

In my career in the Senate, I've dedicated a great deal of my time and effort to defending smokers rights. But when it comes to Cuba, I put the human rights of the Cuban people far ahead of any smoker's right. We become a part of what we condone. And we Americans must never condone Castro's ruthless oppression of the Cuban people.

Castro is desperate for the United States to lift the embargo, because he is desperate for hard currency to keep his faltering Marxist-Leninist economy afloat. For many years he was able to withstand the pressure of the U.S. embargo, because the effects of the embargo were almost entirely offset by massive subsidies from the Soviet Union -- upwards of $5 billion to $7 billion a year.

Only with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s has the embargo begun to have an effect, not only in Cuba but across the region. The moment the embargo started having an impact, Castro's efforts to finance Marxist insurgencies across Latin America stopped, allowing the nearly complete democratic transformation of the hemisphere.

Flooding Cuba now with new U.S. investment and American tourists will do nothing to bring democracy to Cuba. To the contrary, it will give new life to Castro's crumbling regime. Here's why:

As almost any Cuban will confirm, the real cause of the misery of the Cuban people is not the U.S. embargo--it is Castro's Marxist Leninist economic system. Castro's Cuba is a brutal police state; Castro maintains power by fear, intimidation and deprivation.

His regime controls every aspect of Cuban life--access to food, access to education, access to health care, and access to work. And if you say the wrong thing in Castro's tropical gulag, you lose your job. If you refuse to spy on your neighbor for the government, you don't get to go to college. If you dare to organize an opposition group, you go to jail.

U.S. investment won't change this. It won't empower individual Cubans nor will it give them independence from the regime. Why? Because foreign investors cannot do business with private Cuban citizens--they can go into business only with Castro. Consider: it is illegal in Cuba for anyone except the regime to employ a Cuban citizen. Everyone works for Castro.

Foreign investors cannot hire nor pay Cuban workers directly. They must pay Castro in hard currency for the workers. Castro then pays the workers in worthless Cuban pesos, while keeping the rest. Under these circumstances, U.S. investment cannot help average Cubans--it would only help the Castro regime.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

jose acosta — galena pk , texas, usa,  —  March 6, 2012 3:05pm ET

We need as a nation to understand life is short the sooner we forget about all these political moves embargos politics and start enjoying life and it's pleasures the sooner we will become more civilized.Each country has something to offer let's enjoy their riches and natural resources and forget the politics.

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