May 3, 2012
Hamilton College students may not feel as if they are directly affected by Cuba and the presence of the American embargo on this nation, but they are. Before explicating this connection, I feel that I must provide a quick historical background on American-Cuban relations.
The United States has maintained a near-total economic and diplomatic embargo on the nation of Cuba since the early 1960s. Originally, this embargo was a political measure meant to signify the West’s adversarial relationship with leftist regimes such as the socialist government in Cuba. However, since the application of the Cuban embargo, significant geopolitical changes have taken place.
The Cold War has ended and the Soviet Union has collapsed. Raúl Castro has loosened political restrictions, increased the number of venues available for political dissidents and increased the degree to which the Cuban economy is open to the free market. These liberal reforms and the collapse of the Soviet Union thus destroy the validity of the traditional justification that the American government has used to justify the maintenance of the Cuban embargo. This ideological revolution has led many contemporary political analysts to argue for the, in my opinion long overdue, removal of American sanctions on Cuba.
In addition to this delegitimization, the international community is overwhelmingly in favor of the removal of the embargo. Moreover, recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans now believe that the embargo should be lifted and Cuban-U.S. relations should be renormalized.
However, the widespread international opposition to the embargo as well as the changing geopolitical circumstances surrounding its existence have seemingly not yet constituted a valid enough reason for the American government to remove the embargo. This official stance, however, must be changed, as to remove the Cuban embargo is to benefit both Cubans and Americans.
Since its application, an estimated $86.1 billion worth of costs have been incurred in Cuba as a direct result of the embargo. These costs represent a significant loss of commerce for Cuba but also demonstrate the rough level of economic losses the U.S. has incurred over the past 50 years as well. Cuba’s potential primary exports to the U.S. include Cuban cigars, Cuban rum, agriculture, sugar, oil and groundbreaking pharmaceutical products. These in-demand products would have wide-reaching benefits in American markets if the U.S. were to lift the embargo.
For example, Cuban researchers in Cuba’s advanced pharmaceutical industry have recently discovered a medication named TheraCIM, which has been shown to reliably treat brain tumors in the necks and heads of children. Thus, removing the Cuban embargo would directly lead to lower child mortality indicators in America, increasing both the international prestige of the U.S. and American health care standards.
This embargo also bans all American tourists from visiting Cuba. This ban is not only un-diplomatic, it also unnecessarily restricts the average Americans’ freedom of travel. These effect of the removal of this embargo will also resonate at a local level, as Hamilton College students would then be able to study abroad in Cuba, increase their overall level of health and enjoy Cuban commodities such as coffee, rum, cigars, sugar and citrus fruits.
This list of potential benefits is substantial, but the most important argument for the removal of the Cuban embargo is that, throughout the 50 years that it has existed, it has not been successful at all. It has not been able to destabilize the socialist government in Cuba nor has it convinced Cuba to become a democratic-capitalist nation. Not only has it failed, but there are also no tangible benefits for keeping the embargo in place anymore. Thus, the failure of this embargo to achieve its chief goals, the economic potential of its removal, the widespread popular support for its removal and the removal of the ideological justification for its original application indicate that the Cuban embargo should be promptly removed.
To support this cause, Hamilton College students can spread the word by signing some of the numerous online petitions against the embargo, contacting their local representatives and pressure them to remove the embargo or, at least, to put the issue higher on the political agenda, and organizing rallies for popular support.