home Cuba, Current Events, Western Hemisphere For a Freer Cuba Tomorrow, U.S. Needs to Robustly Enforce Economic Sanctions Today

For a Freer Cuba Tomorrow, U.S. Needs to Robustly Enforce Economic Sanctions Today

Raul Castro is just as bad, or worse, than his brother Fidel. These folks have no interest in free markets or reforms. It is all about self preservation.
Raul Castro is just as bad, or worse, than his brother Fidel. These folks have no interest in free markets or reforms. It is all about self preservation.

At least once a week I receive a phone call about the future of Cuba. Usually prompted by a news story, most callers are folks interested in visiting or investing in Cuba someday. When will it open up? Can we invest there today? Does it matter if Fidel or Raul are out of the picture? It goes on and on. Most of these inquiries can be answered with a simple, who knows. I do not think that the Cuban government has any idea either.

Cuba has been a communist country for fifty four years and it has been under the control of the same two people. Fidel and Raul, as well as those who support them, are focused on political survival as well as preservation of socialist system. Why? Because to these people there is no turning back. Read your Karl Marx, Lenin, or Mao. Socialism is an evolution away from capitalism. After socialism, well, comes communism.

The regime and its supporters are in it for the long haul. They have no interest in free markets because it would be viewed as a failure, several steps backwards. I’m going to say something here that may upset fellow Cuban-Americans, however, Cuba has been struggling with this issue of the role of the state in society since at least before the start of World War II.

The 1940 Cuban Constitution, much touted by certain sectors of the diaspora, may have served its purpose then, but it laid the seeds for people like the Castro brothers by introducing the principle of “collective rights” in Cuban society. This document contained many left of center ideas such as the creation of a national health care system. One of the reasons Castro literally walked into Havana in 1959 was because he promised to reinstate the 1940 constitution. Collectivism has been part of the Cuban mindset for some time and it is not going to be easy to break, at least not in my lifetime.

So what does this all mean for the U.S. and future investors?

CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera was in Cuba earlier this month and filed a series of interesting stories that are well worth a look. Caruso-Cabrera has been in Cuba numerous times during the past few years and has filed some fascinating stories most, in a way only she knows how to do, critical of the regime.  And she was invited back recently to focus on the so called economic reforms that Raul Castro has been implementing.  Here is one of the reports:

There is no way the Cuba will emerge from their self-imposed economic crisis without foreign investment. Yet this is not Vietnam or China. Cuba does not have, and will not have in the future, enough of a manufacturing base that will allow the regime to exploit its people the type of foreign investment the national needs to get out of this economic morass. Cuba will have no choice to someday liberalize economically and politically than a lot more than its current leaders are willing to go. They have no idea what they are doing and the U.S. has no business teaching them. Let them trip over themselves. It will help rank and file Cubans over the long term.

Ordinary Cubans want U.S. investment and commerce because they think it will help alleviate the tough times; however, this will never happen so long as central planning and socialism remain the aims of the government. And this can never be Vietnam or China — ordinary Cubans are too smart for that. They are tired of being treated like chattel by the state. Moreover, pro-freedom, wealthy, and entrepreneur-minded exile community will see to it that Cuba’s “collectivist” past is slowly replaced by free market ideas.

An island just 90 miles from U.S. shores, I’ve been saying for years that the regime will lose control of this piecemeal reform process. And while this may sounds somewhat illogical, now more than ever, the U.S. should clamp down and enforce economic sanctions. The pro-regime supporters are dwindling. They are stealing money and treasures from Cuba. They are the past and must be held to account, no matter where they may be, for the crimes on the Cuban people. Send a message to the new generation of leaders, whoever they may be, and empower folks who want to break with Cuba’s collectivist past

  • “the U.S. should clamp down and enforce economic sanctions.”

    I don’t agree but Embargo supporters should advocate to stop ALL Cuban American travel AND payments to Cuba.

    Embargo is a joke because Cuban Americans send BILLIONS of dollars in money and goods to Cuba every year.

    • Just as the US government has not enforced sanctions as Congress intended, I agree with your observation that all travel and remittances should be stopped. However, the political will to do that is lacking. If they were to do such a thing, the regime would crumble within six months to a year.

  • So why do the likes of Ros-Lehtinen complain so much about Cuba when their own constituents are supporting the regime?

    Because their constituents get MILLIONS of dollars a year from the US government in grants.

    The Embargo is anti-American and not because I support Castro but because it infringes on all Americans’ rights.

    • I can’t speak for the South Florida Congressional delegation; however, supporters of tough sanctions on Cuba keep getting re-elected. That tells us that a majority of Cuban-Americans, and folks who support them, also support sanctions on the regime.

      While on the question of sanctions though, you do realize that they were never intended to force a change in the government in Cuba? Economic sanctions were initially put in place to punish the regime for stealing billions of dollars worth in property and commercial paper that it never repaid.

      I hear a lot these days about “reforms” in Cuba, however, I never hear about what the government of Cuba plans to do to settle these old debts and obligations. Interestingly, the Cuban government, to this day, has never said it will never repay them. And what about Cuba’s foreign debt obligations?

      We can argue forever about sanctions, whether they work or not, etc. I’m in the camp that think that they do work and, as the US Supreme Court has said in the past, they can include constitutionally valid restrictions on Americans, where they go and spend money.

      Rather than talk about sanctions, it would be useful to see a more fulsome discussion that includes property rights, rule of law, and related matters, such as claims by American citizens that need to be addressed.

  • As posted previously, U.S. economic sanctions are not a policy response but a tool. The regime confiscated a lot of U.S. property and business interests and never paid compensation for it. The government reneged on paying its foreign debt to the U.S. and many other countries. Then came the Cuban Missile Crisis. I could keep listing the parade of policy horribles but you understand where this leads. No where good really. If the current leaders of Cuba were truly seriously about having the U.S. ease economic sanctions, it knows what it needs to do. As for remittances and travel, there are many people who wish the U.S. government would close that loophole and not allow it. But we know that will not happen, in large part because there are many people living in South Florida that have left in recent years who now vote. It would also make a dent in Castro Incorporated – a large part of the South Florida economy these days. And why would American Airlines forgo the routes to Cuba? Or Miami International Airport, a Miami-Dade County business, forgo the fees and other business that Cuba travel generates? Let that go. Focus your rhetorical firepower on the Cuban regime. It knows what it needs to do.

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