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Cuba Sanctions Hinder U.S. Opportunity

November 09, 2016
For the majority of my nineteen years of life, Cuba has been covered behind a veil of sanctions. Due to various restrictions, such as those on travel and trade, the Latin America country has remained isolated from the general Unites States populace both economically and culturally. Aside from its world renowned cigars and coterie of talented baseball stars, Cuba has existed outside the realm of relevance.

By Robert Goheen

Yet in recent years, the long tenuous relationship has started rekindling. In 2014, President Obama announced that the US would work to reestablish diplomatic relations for the first time in over fifty years. Since then, the leader of our democratic superpower continues to make efforts to strengthen the relationship between the two nations. Earlier this year, Obama traveled to Cuba for a brief period of time, in which he attended a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team, marking it the first time the President of the United States traveled to the country since Calvin Coolidge did so in 1928.

President Obama and his family in Cuba.

These recent developments mark a revamped push for progress, and serve to remind Americans of the potential benefits of warmer Cuban relations. Generally, American citizens are excited about the possibility of a better relationship with Cuba. According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of Americans approved of the President’s decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with the Latin American country, while only 28% disapproved [1]. Yet a closer look at the survey data reveals several trends that are consistent with the recent advancement in diplomatic relations. For one, it shows that the younger generation of Americans are more prepared to move forward. This makes sense, as most young people like myself have been almost entirely separated from any Cuban developments. Further, it shows that citizens with higher education levels are more inclined to support improved relations. This evidence suggests that the newer generation as a whole believes that there are benefits to interacting with Cuba.

Percentage of US Citizens that approve of restoring ties with Cuba.

One of the largest perceived benefits is a bolstered U.S. economy. The United States Chamber of Commerce estimates that “the cost of the Cuban embargo to the US economy [is] between $1.2 and $4.84 billion annually” [2]. Opening Cuba would allow Americans to export goods such as grain and other various manufactured products. As Senator Moran of Kansas notes, “Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. By lifting the embargo and opening up the market for U.S. agricultural commodities, we will not only boost the U.S. economy but also help bring about reforms in the repressive Cuban government”[3]. Further, it would open certain industries, such as tourism, which is currently dominated by “American allies, such as Canada, Britain, Italy, Mexico, and France” [2]. Further, “a 2010 study by Texas A&M University calculated that 6,000 American jobs could be created by lifting the embargo” [2]. This influx of jobs would be welcomed domestically where the labor market has recently been unstable and lacking.

Not only would lifting the embargo come with economic rewards for both countries, but it would serve as a sign to the rest of the world that the U.S. is ready to be reasonable. The United Nations has formally denounced the U.S. embargo each year since 1992 with completely polarized votes (in 2013 and 2014, 188 voted against the embargo while 2, the U.S. and Israel, voted for it) [2]. This stubborn stance surely appears immature to the rest of the world.

With so many anticipated benefits associated with improved relations, it is dumbfounding that the United States government is still stalling. The major setback to the achievement of stronger Cuban-American relations appears to be the political dispute of method. That is, should the United States use its strength and resources to force Cuba into an agreement of some sort which includes beneficial terms for U.S. interests both in terms of commerce and human rights? Or should the United States concede that this strategy has been exhausted with poor results, and instead relax various restrictions with the belief that our both Cuban and American agendas will be easier to address and negotiate after relations have improved?

Even as politicians remain split over the issue of method, the time has come for each party to meet in the middle and prepare for a future that includes Cuba. As Senator Angus King of Maine proclaims, “For far too long, the Cuban people and American businesses have suffered at the hands of an antiquated trade embargo. Like the Cold War that created it, the embargo should be put in the history books” [3].

Like most people in my generation, I know that the easing of Cuban Sanctions is inevitable. Why wait any longer?

References 

  [1] http://www.people-press.org/2015/01/16/most-support-stronger-u-s-ties-with-cuba/

  [2] http://cuba-embargo.procon.org/#background

  [3] http://www.moran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2015/6/sens-moran-and-king-introduce-bill-to-restore-trade-with-cuba

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