Cuban sanctions passe

Alongside U.S. relations with North Korea, the U.S. policy toward Cuba is one of only a few remaining reminders of the Cold War and communism. The federal government has designed U.S. foreign policy to prevent nations like Cuba from entering onto the world stage. Under the assumption that the tiny island 90 miles south of Florida is a threat as long as Fidel Castro is in charge, the United States implemented economic sanctions with the supposed intention of weakening Castro and his grip on power, while empowering the citizens of Cuba.
Following a similar bill’s passage in the House on Oct. 11, the Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Oct. 18 to allow the sale of food to Cuba. Although the most recent alteration of Cuban policy has been touted as a step toward an easing of sanctions, in reality this change continues to overly restrict relations with our neighboring island.
Passed as part of a $78 billion agricultural appropriations package, the bill specifically allows food sales to Cuba — a slight improvement from what has been the status quo, and will make medicine easier to sell to the island nation. Unfortunately, these two positive aspects are negated by elements of the bill that will bar banks and other U.S. financial institutions from financing the food and medicine sales. While leading a march in Havana, Castro correctly called the lessening of restrictions illusionary and said that, in reality, nothing has changed.
Besides dealing with the sale of food and medicine, the bill reinforces restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens by making current policies law. Currently, Cuban-American’s with relatives in Cuba, American officials, journalists or citizens traveling to the island for humanitarian, religious or academic reasons are allowed to visit Cuba. The proposed bill, however, will deny future presidents the authority to open up travel to Cuba to more categories if relations between the two nations change. This will give presidents hoping to make friendly overtures to Cuba less discretion and flexibility in dealing with the island.
The negative elements of the proposed legislation — which will not create positive change in our relations with Cuba — are due to anti-Castro elements in Congress, which are being spurred by a small yet vocal minority of anti-Castro Cuban-Americans living in Florida. As Florida is a swing state, this minority consists of enough voters to make a difference in both local and national elections. These Cuban-Americans who are unable to critically examine Cuban policy, and who let their preference for false rhetoric and emotions guide them when determining a stance, have disproportionate clout during an election year. Although their stance is not representative of the rest of the nation, unfortunately many politicians prefer to pander to them instead of actually working to create change that benefits the peoples of both nations.
U.S. sanctions against Cuba are outdated to say the least. In light of the United States granting permanent Most Favored Nation trading status to China, our foreign policy also becomes confused. The argument was made that to make communist China more democratic, we must increase trade with this large Asian nation, bringing Chinese citizens a step closer to the fruits of democracy. Yet, with Cuba, we continue the embargo.
This lack of uniformity within U.S. foreign policy will someday have to be addressed. We hope appropriate change will not come too late, as this new piece of legislation — which the president is expected to sign, albeit begrudgingly, is more a step back than a move forward in our relationship with Castro’s Cuba.