Isolation Will Not Free Cuba
by Christopher Caldwell
17 Apr 09 | FT
A message of reconciliation has gone out from Washington, albeit a confusing one. On the eve of this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, the White House announced that it will no longer be a crime for Americans to make gifts of fishing tackle, dog medicine or soap-making equipment to a citizen of Cuba, provided he is not a member of the Communist party. Visits to Cuba are unlimited and so are remittances – provided you have a relative there who is a second cousin or closer, or live with a person who has such a relative. You are free to lay fibre-optic cable in Cuba, and engage in most kinds of telecommunications work, but other forms of business contact remain off-limits.
President Barack Obama claims the new regulations do not mean a revocation of the US trade-and-travel embargo against Cuba, which has been in place since John F. Kennedy imposed it in 1962. But in fact, the new policy is forcing Americans to confront the possibility that they have been going about the liberation of Cuba in the wrong way.
The case for the embargo remains what it always was – making communist Cuba pay a price for the autocratic rule of Fidel (and now his brother Raúl) Castro. The case against it is that it is a relic of the cold war that hurts Cuba’s citizens more than its government. The embargo remains because most Florida Cubans want it to remain. Most Americans are indifferent. Republicans have tended to tighten the embargo, Democrats to loosen it. Bill Clinton permitted Cubans to visit the island once a year. George W. Bush cut it to once every three.
Mr Obama’s plan has some bizarre elements, such as the granting of travel rights on ethnic grounds. We know why Americans of Cuban ethnicity would want to go to Cuba more than other Americans. That they should be allowed to go to Cuba more than other Americans is an outrage against republican principles. >>>