In 1962, the United States unilaterally placed an embargo (economic sanctions) on Cuba after Castro seemed to be embracing communism. The goal of the sanctions was to encourage democracy and respect for human rights within Cuba. The U.S. would have liked regime change and to have the Cuban population rise up and overthrow the communist system. However, nearly 60 years later, no changes have been made and the embargo is still in place. The issues that led to the sanctions have not been considered or moderated on either side. Since Cuba has not complied to the requirements of the embargo, many argue that backing down could make the U.S. look weak and only the Cuban government would benefit from open trade. Others argue that such sanctions are a relic from the Cold War and have not achieved their goals, but continue to harm both ‘regular’ Cuban and American citizens. In this article, Sofia and Zoraiz detail the pros and cons of the Cuban embargo. Interestingly, some information came from interviews with a representative from the Cuban Embassy in Bern, a Cuban national living in Basel, and a Swiss tourist who travelled around Cuba in a rented car (i.e., she did not spend time in one of those all-inclusive resorts where you never actually leave the grounds).
|Pros (‘Yes’) (by Zoraiz)|
I’m right because…
|Cons (‘No’) (by Sofia)|
I’m right because…
|Cuba lacks a private sector, so removing the U.S. economic embargo would enable the Cuban government to thrive and not the public- there will be no respect for civil liberties. This will result in authoritarianism vigorously suffocating the Cuban’s autonomy- the bolstering of autocracy will inevitably result in the government to spontaneously enhance its control regarding trade and distribution of goods. The removal of the sanctions will dissipate the ongoing attempt of the ‘liberalisation of Cuba’: my interview with a Swiss tourist who visited Cuba, had served to emphasise how the sanctions have given the citizens the ‘luxury’ to keep and “make a little bit more money.” This embargo has acted as a vehicle in ultimately removing the U.S. from the perpetual national-based trauma, mitigating the need for capitalist ‘assistance’: the U.S. is the substantially largest supplier to Cuba when it comes to agricultural products, food and nutrition ($220.5 million in 2018). Furthermore, the U.S is a significant source of humanitarian goods ($275.9 million in 2018). Moreover, the Trump Administration’s efforts to juxtapose Obama’s initiative to improve bilateralism with Cuba has helped to amplify the fact that the Cuban Government’s respect and perspective of human rights is relatively miniscule- not seen as fundamental or universal. Removing sanctions will indirectly imply that Cuba’s behaviour regarding human rights and civil liberties is not a concerning matter. Not holding them accountable through international bodies or the U.S. due to its sphere of influence and geopolitics will potentially encourage other states too. The sanction makes an example of the state to keep nations such as Venezuela in line too.||The embargo prevents medicine from being sent to Cuba and drives up the prices of any available medicines due to increased shipping costs. This puts the people’s right to health in danger as many cannot access the medicines they need. For example, there is a lack of access to antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDs because these drugs were commercialized under US patents and therefore can’t be exported to Cuba.|
|Liberalists would argue how the sanction is the ideal policy tool in exerting Capitalist values to oppress Marxist traits in the targeted state so Capitalist creep can occur. This is necessary for equality to occur- in fact, Marxism is so flawed that there is no equality in any form- the poor struggle to get rich and the rich continue to thrive: ex. The Oligarchs of Russia. At least with Capitalism, there is equity to an extent as the poor can get rich through a spectrum of means and the taxation system favours the less advantaged hypothetically.||The embargo has failed to achieve its goals in almost 60 years and there is no indication that the Cuban government intends on backing down on their policy decisions. The embargo does not harm the government or Cuban elites, but instead only harms the people who have influence on politics.|
|We must consider that the U.S. will not give up on their ambition of capitalism and democracy in the Northern Hemisphere so easily and accept Socialist standards. It would mock the U.S.’s external sovereignty and their perception of their ‘unipolar’ status. Ergo, the plausible nature is that the sanctions will continue until the end of the Trump administration. Additionally, it will not be lifted after the Trump regime as it comes down to Congress to dissipate such an embargo.||Cuba does not pose a threat to the USA and therefore the embargo cannot be justified as a way of preventing ‘communism from spreading’ in neighbouring countries. The initial concerns of Cuba’s relationship with the USSR dissolved in 1991, along with the Soviet Union. The USAs policy changed to reflect this in all ways except the embargo.|
|Operation Desert Storm: this operation was used to prompt Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical stratum and to evoke a withdrawal from Kuwait. The operation was initiated after the sanction imposed for 6 months prior had reduced his autonomy and the ability to exert external sovereignty like before. The operation was introduced (military intervention) to disrupt the Iraqi operation. It was successful.||The embargo harms the U.S. economy, particularly farmers. There is an estimated 4.84 billion dollar loss for agricultural exports annually due to the embargo.|
|Sanctions have worked before. In the ‘aftermath of the Gulf war increased Iraqi compliance with resolutions calling for the complete elimination of its weapons of mass destruction and diminished Iraq’s ability to import weapons’ (Haass).||The United States should have consistent responses to governments they don’t agree with. They trade with China and Venezuela despite their human rights violations and ties to communism, therefore it is hypocritical to treat Cuba differently.|
|Sanctions are and have been used to replace governments before, therefore they are a reasonable method for the US to encourage democracy in Cuba.||Majority of the international community opposed the embargo. The UN has formally denounced the embargo every year since 1991. 188 countries voted to condemn the policy in 2013, with only Israel taking the USAs side.|
|In the end, the embargo mainly affects the ‘regular’ Cuban citizens and has proven to be ineffective at persuading the Cuban government to change their policies. A new approach should be implemented in order to minimise damage to the people while still maintaining the conditions on the Cuban government.|
What do YOU think?
Which side is more persuasive?