It's past time for the U.S. to begin easing restrictions on trade with Cuba and to lift the travel ban entirely.
The embargo should not be lifted all at once, but there are good reasons to start making some basic changes. U.S. businesses stand to gain financially from expanded trade with Cuba. But more importantly, stronger American connections with Cuba will give us the chance to encourage democracy and improve human rights there.
From an economic point of view, trade with Cuba would make Americans hundreds of millions of dollarsand create U.S. jobs.
While America sits on the sidelines, countries like Canada, Spain, China, and Venezuela are trading with Cuba, so they are more likely to influence economic decisions and even social policy as Fidel Castro's regime fades away. The U.S. needs to ensure its role by discarding outdated ideas that don't work and engaging in trade.
Direct contact between Americans and Cubans may make the biggest difference. Cuba is currently the only country to which U.S. citizens cannot legally travel. The more Cubans know about America and our freedoms, the more they will want freedom for themselves. And Cuban-Americans should have the right to visit their families as they please. That's why the travel ban needs to go.
The U.S. wants Cuba to leave its Communist past behind. Showing Cubans that we will welcome them into the community of free nations is the best way to encourage our island neighbor to move in that direction.
U.S. Senator Max Baucus
Democrat of Montana
The Cuban government came to powerand has held power for half a centurythrough force and violence, not democratic elections.
After Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in 1959, he confiscated the assets of many American companies operating in Cubanone of which have been compensated for their losses. In response, the U.S. imposed an economic embargo against Cuba in 1962, in hopes of pressuring Castro's Communist regime.
The embargo's purpose has also been to cut the Cuban government off from resources that it can use to repress its own citizens and maintain power.
The embargo does not cut off assistance to the Cuban people; to the contrary, it seeks to help them by allowing humanitarian aid to be sent directly to them. The Cuban government, on the other hand, forces Cubans to live on food rations while it exports most of its agricultural production overseas.
Today, the Cuban people continue to be denied the right to freedom of expression, to a free press, and to elect their country's leaders. The U.S. embargo continues to be a powerful weapon that could be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate with a post-Castro government. For example, in exchange for resuming trade or allowing tourist travel, the United States could require Cuba to release the hundreds of political prisoners currently in its jails or to hold free and fair elections.
Lifting the embargo now would only help to legitimize Raúl Castro and his regime and extend the Castro brothers' half-century hold on power.
Jorge Más Santos
Chairman, Cuban American National Foundation