Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cuba hasn’t earned embargo’s end

Cuba hasn't earned embargo's end
10/25/2014 10:32 PM 10/25/2014 10:32 PM

In October of 1960, the United States imposed an embargo on exports to
Cuba covering all commodities except medical supplies and certain food
products. That was the beginning of a trade embargo that still endures
and still inspires heated debate.

The anniversary of the embargo, plus this week's upcoming vote in the
United Nations condemning it — which the United States will lose, as
usual — have prompted calls for a reassessment. Dropping the embargo
altogether would require action by Congress. Meanwhile, anti-embargo
advocates say, there's a lot the president can do to soften or minimize
its effects and open the door to restoring full ties with Cuba.

We disagree. Such a move would be premature and utterly lacking in
justification at this time.

Granted, Raúl Castro has loosened the reins on the tightly controlled
economy to permit more individual businesses. Some citizens can own
property, and new rules are designed to encourage foreign investment.
But it's only because Cuba has been frozen in time for so long that such
minimal change seems so dramatic. The Cuban nomenklatura still runs the
Soviet-style planned economy that largely remains in place, and its
members remain its major beneficiaries.

Some see vague government statements from Havana welcoming renewed
diplomatic ties with the United States as a sign that it's willing to
negotiate longstanding differences. We would attribute that not to any
goodwill but rather to Cuba hedging its bets as it nervously watches the
slide in oil prices and the rise of political instability in Venezuela.

The Andean country has been the Castro brothers' main benefactor in the
last few years, helping prop up Cuba's chronically weak economy with
cheap oil. But if oil prices continue to drop, Venezuela's Nicolás
Maduro will need every penny he can get selling oil on the international
market. He won't hesitate to throw Cuba under the bus if it means
survival for the Chávez movement in Caracas.

That makes the timing of any move by Washington toward Havana
particularly inappropriate. Why throw it a lifeline now?

Yet even if these objections could be met, the greater issue remains
unresolved: Cuba is still an unforgiving, authoritarian police state
that will stop at nothing to stifle those it deems enemies of the state.

Here's what Human Rights Watch says: "The Cuban government continues to
repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for
basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish
dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts
of shaming, termination of employment and threats of long-term

Arrests of dissidents are going up, not down. Press freedom? Forget
about it.

Nor has the Cuban government bothered to investigate the death of
Oswaldo Payá, perhaps Cuba's most prominent advocate of democracy, nor
to allow an independent investigation of his supposed "accident" by
anyone else.

Then there's the case of American Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in
prison for "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity
of the state." Translation from the Kafkaesque: He was caught bringing a
satellite phone to Cuba's small and beleaguered Jewish community.

Is there any doubt that the Castro brothers remain committed to
maintaining their dictatorship over Cuba? Of course not. As long as that
remains the case, the United States has no incentive to extend a
welcoming hand.

Source: Cuba hasn't earned embargo's end | The Miami Herald -

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