Friday, November 23, 2012

Lifting the Cuban embargo

By Ramesh Sujanani, Jamaica Gleaner Contributor
Sometime ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly shared the view that the United States' embargo against Cuba helps the Castros, noting, "It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo, and do not want to see normalisation with the United States."

Clinton said in the same interview that "we're open to changing with them," though the US government maintains its strong position against lifting the embargo.

The fact is that Cuban-Americans, most of whom reside in Miami, had their property and other assets confiscated by Fidel Castro, worth almost US$6 billion. Should the embargo be lifted, these persons will require compensation for personal assets seized. Who will make good that claim by the Cuban migrants? Many are protesting Castro's reasons for becoming the dictator, and are not satisfied Castro will honour his obligations. These Cuban-Americans have supported Obama's Florida campaign, and it seems that as long as it takes to recover their assets, they will continue to support him.

There are no other considerations, as the effect of battle (Bay of Pigs), and the Cuban Missile Crisis, seemed to have been relinquished. The Cato Institute in the USA remarked: "The embargo has been a failure by every measure. It has not changed the course or nature of the Cuban government. It has not liberated a single Cuban citizen. In fact, the embargo has made the Cuban people a bit more impoverished, without making them one bit more liberated. At the same time, it has deprived Americans of their freedom to travel and has cost US farmers and other producers billions of dollars of potential exports."

I might add that it has also affected Jamaica's, and CARICOM's, trade possibilities with Cuba which may have been fruitful. As it is at this time, we employ Cuban doctors and other medical assistants to improve our skills in medicine, and we have sent patients into Cuba who require ophthalmic operations; it seems their availability of this discipline is greater than ours.

The embargo does place the people in poverty, but as Mrs Clinton said, it indicates that the State prefers to have a docile and ignorant population.

I have heard from various Jamaicans who seem to feel various past governments in Jamaica seem to have a similar intent, though I cannot understand why this would occur in this country. It seems a well-respected member of the Church, Pope John Paul II, had that on his mind about Cuba.

Some religious leaders oppose the embargo for a variety of reasons, including the humanitarian and economic hardships the embargo imposes on Cubans. Pope John Paul II called for an end to the embargo during his 1979 pastoral visit to Mexico. However, during his January 1998 visit to Cuba, Pope John Paul II delivered his most powerful attack against President Fidel Castro's government, urging the Roman Catholic Church to take "courageous and prophetic stands in the face of the corruption of political or economic power" and to promote human rights within Cuba.

While also opposing the embargo, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches stated, "We did not understand the depth of the suffering of Christians under communism, and we failed to really cry out under the communist oppression." The US bishops called for an end to the embargo after Pope Benedict's visit this year. Cuba has also dubbed as 'theft' the use of frozen Cuban assets to pay for lawsuits filed in the US against the Republic of Cuba.

On Thursday, June 10, 2010, seventy-four of Cuba's dissidents signed a letter to the US Congress in support of a bill that would lift the travel ban for Americans wishing to visit Cuba. The letter supports a bill introduced on February 23 by Representative Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, that would bar the president from prohibiting travel to Cuba or blocking transactions required to make such trips. It also would bar the White House from stopping direct transfers between US and Cuban banks.

The signers stated: "We share the opinion that the isolation of the people of Cuba benefits the most inflexible interests of its government, while any opening serves to inform and empower the Cuban people and helps to further strengthen civil society."

At this time, Americans with family in Cuba are allowed to travel and visit them; they are also allowed to bring in foodstuffs and other necessities.

Ramesh Sujanani is a businessman. Email feedback to and

Jamaica Gleaner

November 24, 2012