Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U.S. embargo is necessary

Posted on Tuesday, 04.23.13
The readers' forum

U.S. embargo is necessary

At this time, when the democratic opposition within Cuba is acquiring
greater strength and showing extraordinary political maturity, I believe
it is important to remember the reasons for the existence of the U.S.
embargo and the three conditions for its lifting.

When I arrived in the U.S. Congress in January 1993, I was able to
confirm that U.S. law did not prohibit trade and financing with the
Cuban regime by the great majority of U.S. corporations. I was truly
impacted by the fact that U.S. law only prohibited trade and financing
with the Cuban regime by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies, but not
by U.S. companies inside the United States (in other words, the
overwhelming majority of U.S. firms).

Mass U.S. tourism to Cuba was also not barred by law. All existing
sanctions at that time were contained in executive orders that, of
course, could be lifted by other executive orders, at any time, by any

Since I was convinced that no dictatorship in history has ever given
anything to the democratic opposition in exchange for nothing, and since
I did not have confidence that the president of the United States would
insist that a genuine democratic transition for the Cuban people be
underway before lifting the embargo on the regime, I decided to codify —
to enact into law — those executive orders: the prohibitions on
commerce, on financing, and on mass U.S. tourism to Cuba. And to
condition the lifting of those sanctions (commonly known as the embargo)
on three conditions within Cuba: 1) the liberation of all political
prisoners, without exceptions; 2) the legalization of all political
parties, without exceptions, of the independent press and free labor
unions; and 3) the scheduling of free elections with international
supervision for the Cuban people.

In March 1996, with the decisive help of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and
Sen. Bob Menéndez, I achieved codification passed by Congress. All the
executive orders that constituted the embargo were made part of U.S.
law, as well as the three conditions for their lifting. I believe it was
the most important achievement of my 18 years in the U.S. Congress.

I was convinced then, and I continue to believe, that the U.S. embargo
and the conditioning of its lifting — upon the requirement that a
genuine democratic transition based on the three conditions be underway
in Cuba — constitute instruments of great importance in the hands of the
Cuban opposition.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart,

former congressman, Miami

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