What others say: U.S. should lift trade embargo with Cuba

  • Wednesday, April 6, 2016 8:34pm
  • Opinion

Now that President Obama has re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, it’s time for Congress to repeal the U.S. trade embargo.

The well-intentioned policy has hurt the U.S. and provided a catchall excuse for the Castro regime to explain its failures.

That’s the view of Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, who in a welcome display of bipartisanship are leading efforts to convince their congressional colleagues that lifting the embargo is in America’s best geopolitical and economic interests, and in the best interest of advancing human rights in Cuba.

Speaking at a Monday event in Minneapolis organized by Global Minnesota and the Engage Cuba Coalition, Emmer took the long view on policy that’s passed its usefulness.

“We created an economic embargo for the express purpose of undermining a communist regime that (former lawmakers) believed was unfriendly so that we could once again empower the Cuban people, the individual citizens, to self-determine, self-govern,” Emmer said. “And in fact what our policy has done is just the opposite.” As a result, the regime turned toward the Soviet Union, whose collapse should have spurred change. “Instead what it did was allow a charismatic leader to blame everything that was wrong in his country on the United States of America.”

Klobuchar, who joined Emmer as part of a congressional delegation that accompanied Obama on his historic trip to Cuba last week, observed that the American people “are ahead of their government as they are in Cuba.”

That fact is apparent in the contrast between the enthused Cuban response to Obama’s visit and 89-year-old Fidel Castro’s bitter 1,500-word screed issued Monday. And in the U.S., it’s backed up by several polls, including one from the Pew Research Center last year that found 72 percent of Americans favored ending the trade embargo. So while Castro continues his Cold War rhetoric in Cuba, in the U.S. the politics that have paralyzed the debate may be changing.

If so, U.S. businesses — including many Minnesota multinationals — stand to gain. But they must move soon, said Mike Fernandez, a Cargill corporate vice president who also spoke at Monday’s event. Cuba has normalized relations with other countries, and “they’re not just waiting on America,” Fernandez said. “If we don’t get in the game and laws don’t change, other countries are going to beat us there.”

Many U.S. firms believe that dropping the embargo “will not only help with Cuba but with South America,” Klobuchar said.

And beyond the economic benefits, there likely would be diplomatic dividends. Pew’s 2015 Global Attitudes survey found that 76 percent of those polled in Latin American nations supported the U.S. ending the embargo.

Beyond the economic benefits, the most important outcome could be improving human rights conditions for Cubans. Engagement, not isolation, is the best method to accomplish that goal.

“If you are interested in human rights, think about this: We had thousands of human rights observers walking the streets of Havana last week,” Emmer said of the visit. Continuing the embargo and allowing the Castro regime to keep control of the population would continue the human rights abuses, he said. Instead, Emmer added, “allow Americans to travel, to be there, to create transparency. Sunlight has a funny way of bringing things out and curing things.”

It’s time for more sunlight. It’s time to end the embargo.

— The Minneapolis Star-Tribune,

March 29

More in Opinion

This screenshot of an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation map of PFAS sites in Alaska shows that contamination from so-called “forever chemicals” is observable throughout the state. (Screenshot | Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)
Opinion: More action must be taken on PFAS

Toxic forever chemicals present in high concentrations in Nikishka Bay Utility Water Supply

Logo courtesy of League of Women Voters.
League of Women Voters of Alaska: Join us in calling for campaign finance limits

The involvement of money in our elections is a huge barrier for everyday Alaskans who run for public office

Promise garden flowers are assembled for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Let’s keep momentum in the fight against Alzheimer’s

It’s time to reauthorize these bills to keep up our momentum in the fight to end Alzheimer’s and all other types of Dementia.

Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., questions Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 14 on Capitol Hill.
Opinion: Music to the ears of America’s adversaries

Russia and China have interest in seeing America’s democracy and standing in the world weakened

Dr. Sarah Spencer. (Photo by Maureen Todd and courtesy of Dr. Sarah Spencer)
Opinion: Alaskans needs better access to addiction treatment. Telehealth can help.

I have witnessed firsthand the struggles patients face in accessing addiction care

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski speaks on a range of subjects during an interview with the Juneau Empire in May 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Need for accounting and legislative oversight of the permanent fund

There is a growing threat to the permanent fund, and it is coming from the trustees themselves

(Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Imagine the cost of health and happiness if set by prescription drug companies

If you didn’t have heartburn before seeing the price, you will soon — and that requires another prescription

Mike Arnold testifies in opposition to the use of calcium chloride by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities on Kenai Peninsula roads during a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Votes: Civic actions that carried weight

Watching an impressive display of testimony, going to an event, or one post, can help so many people learn about something they were not even aware of

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Helicopter fishing a detriment to fish and fishers

Proposal would prohibit helicopter transport for anglers on southern peninsula

The cover of the October 2023 edition of Alaska Economic Trends magazine, a product of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. (Image via department website)
Dunleavy administration’s muzzling of teacher pay report is troubling

Alaska Economic Trends is recognized both in Alaska and nationally as an essential tool for understanding Alaska’s unique economy

Image via weseeyou.community
5 tips for creating a culture of caring in our high schools

Our message: No matter what challenges you’re facing, we see you. We support you. And we’re here for you.

The Alaska State Capitol is photographed in Juneau, Alaska. (Clarise Larson/Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Vance’s bill misguided approach to Middle East crisis

In arguing for her legislation, Vance offers a simplistic, one-dimensional understanding of the conflict