Cuban sanctions unwarranted and outdated

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (U-WIRE) — Recently at the 2000 United Nations Summit, where leaders of nearly every state gathered (except of course for the ruthlessly violent and hopelessly backward one known as Texas), Cuban President Fidel Castro seized a rare opportunity to speak to a wide audience of his peers.
As he approached the podium, the notoriously long-winded dictator pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to cover the lights that signal the end of a speaker’s floor time. After a light-hearted moment in which Castro made reference to a four-hour, record-setting U.N. speech, he began an emotionally charged speech criticizing the United States and other world powers that marginalize developing countries. In traditional Marxist fashion, he accused the “capitalist class” countries of excluding poorer ones from the benefits of global wealth. Castro finished his speech in the allotted time and, coincidentally, escaped a CIA plot to poison his coffee and make his “masculine” beard fall out.
More important than the harrowing escape of his facial hair follicles was the presence of a political leader, traditionally demonized by the West, at the U.N. Summit. This marks only the fourth time Castro has appeared in the United States since the communist revolution in Cuba. The recognition of Castro at the summit is indicative of a slow yet positive trend of opening communications between Cuba and the United States.
A U.S. embargo aimed at overthrowing Castro has been a dismal failure. It is outdated and nonsensical, to say the least. In addition to its ineffectiveness, the logic of this foreign policy seems especially irrational when we look at U.S. trade policies with other countries that have less-than-sterling human-rights records, namely China.
Besides, we all know the danger Cuban technology poses to Microsoft’s plan to dominate the world economy, and we can’t let Cuban auto imports disturb our careful trade balance with the rest of the world! Do you want to tell your neighbor he lost his job to some Cuban cigar-smoking factory worker?
Although obviously ridiculous, these are the types of sensationalized arguments that have been exploited and exaggerated in order to keep this archaic policy in place. For all practical purposes, the threat Cuba poses to the United States and the rest of the West is equivalent to the threat of our country electing for president a murderous, cocaine-snorting, all-around playboy who cannot refrain from using expletives within a five foot radius of a microphone! Oh wait, we really are afraid of that! Better example: Castro and Cuba pose as big a threat to the United States as Bob Knight now does to beating Dean Smith’s all-time collegiate win record.
Not only is this policy outdated, it is also harmful to the citizens of Cuba. The country has been reduced to a ghetto, complete with broken-down cars lining the very streets children walk while begging for food.
This is often a major concern when sanctioning is used as a foreign-policy tool. Many times the elite in a nation continue to live in the lap of luxury while the general populace we are supposedly trying to liberate from dictatorial clutches becomes mired in wretched poverty. Such is the case on this nearby island.
Unfortunately, a small yet vocal group of former Cuban nightclub owners, exiled during the revolution and now concentrated in southern Florida, have been boisterous leaders of the charge to maintain a trade embargo with this poor nation. Granted, we would also be upset if we lost our big money-earning casinos to a bunch of revolutionaries who only cared about equalizing the standard of living — but enough is enough.
We all know that Castro has committed human-rights violations during his tenure as leader of Cuba, but is a stubborn grudge against one ruler worth forcing poverty upon an entire nation? It is obvious that this tool has been ineffective in changing the political climate of our neighbor in the Gulf. It is high time we consider the alternatives.
Fidel Castro’s speech at the U.N. might have been the same fiery Marxist rhetoric that was largely debunked by the collapse of the communist bloc, but his appearance signifies an important trend in U.S.-Cuban relations. Foreign policy makers would do well to continue this trend and bring back some semblance of dignity to a new generation of Cubans.

Matt Glavin & Terry Chapman’s column originally appeared in Illinois Wesleyan University’s The Argus on Sept 15. Send comments to [email protected]