BY ABRAHAM RUBERT-SCHEWEL–The American embargo against Cuba began on October 19, 1960. It was initiated in response to the rebellion and eventual takeover led by Fidel Castro against the U.S. backed government of Fulgenico Batista. The conflict peaked during the Cuban Missile crises of 1962, and resulted in President John F. Kennedy ordering a naval blockade of the island. Although the blockade was soon lifted, the indelible strain placed on both countries resulted in increased American animosity towards Cuba and long-term popular support of the embargo. The purported purpose of the embargo—still maintained by many today—was to force Cuba into adopting a representative Democracy.
However, even inside the U.S. we have heard a growing chorus of voices calling for an end to the embargo. Former Florida governor, and 2014 nominee, Charlie Crist, recently went as far to state that the embargo has failed to topple the Castro regime and should be “taken away.” This attitude coincides with the one long taken by the international community, including the U.N., which has voted to condemn the Cuban embargo for 22 years in a row. Apart from the arguable lack of effect on the Castro regime, many blame the embargo for Cuba’s bare economic infrastructure. According to a report created by a Cuban state agency, the embargo has cost Cuba over $1.1 trillion in revenue since its implementation in 1960. Furthermore, Crist argues that lifting the embargo would also create a boon to the Florida economy as construction and other industries would explode on the nearby island.
While this may be true, in many ways the embargo has already fallen. Last year alone, U.S. companies exported over $350 million of goods to Cuba, including food, medical supplies, and agricultural products. This trade is largely a result of a 2000 authorization by Bill Clinton to allow the export of humanitarian products to the island.
Among Cuban-Americans as well as the general public, popular support for the embargo has slowly begun to wane. A recent poll from the Atlantic Council showed that 56% of Americans, 63% of Floridians, and 62% of Latinos favored normalizing relations with Cuba.
Still, such a decision may not be politically feasible. Many, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, believe the embargo remains a necessity in the effort to end Cuban oppression. Speaking recently on the Senate floor, Rubio argued for continuing the sanctions against Cuba, “[l]et me tell you what the Cubans are really good at… What they are really good at is repression… They have exported repression in real time, in our hemisphere, right now.”
While the Cuban people are undeniably subject to a repressive government on a daily basis, it is clear that the embargo is not a remedy to this problem, and in fact is excacerbating the economic situation of many on the island. It is time the U.S. lifted the embargo for the betterment of all Cubans as well as for its own international image.