Opinion

The Great Debate

Obama and flawed logic on Cuba

By Bernd Debusmann
April 14, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate

– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

The U.S. case for isolating Cuba and keeping it out of international meetings such as this week’s Summit of the Americas sounds simple: the country doesn’t have democratically elected leaders, it holds political prisoners, it violates human rights and its citizens can’t travel freely. All perfectly true.

But if the logic used for isolating Cuba were applied consistently, neither China nor Saudi Arabia, for example, should have taken part in the London G20 summit. The U.S. State Department estimates China has “tens of thousands” of political prisoners and describes it as “an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party … is the paramount source of power.”

That has made little difference to the close relationship of mutual dependence between the U.S. and China, the largest creditor of the United States. During U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s February visit to China, pragmatism triumphed over human rights concerns as she urged the Chinese to keep buying U.S. treasury bonds.

In comparison to China’s “tens of thousands,” the State Department’s latest human rights report quotes a Cuban human rights group as saying the government there held at least 205 political prisoners at the end of 2008, down from 240 at the end of 2007.

The Saudi monarchy, according to the State Department report, denies its citizens the right to change the government peacefully, holds political prisoners, curbs free speech, restricts religious freedom, tolerates violence against women, and sanctions corporal punishment. The list goes on and includes lack of due process in the judicial system.

If the logic applied to Cuba were consistent, U.S. citizens should be banned from traveling to North Korea, an “absolute dictatorship” where the State Department noted extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and political prisoners. Instead, the only country to which the U.S. government restricts travel by its citizens is Cuba.

In advance of making his first appearance at a Hemispheric summit this week, U.S. President Barack Obama eased restrictions his predecessor, George W. Bush, had imposed to make it more difficult for Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island to travel and send money there. Obama also allowed U.S. telecommunications companies to bid for Cuban licenses.

These are small steps that fall far short of lifting the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, a Cold War measure that demonstrably failed in its aim to bring down the communist government of Fidel Castro, who defied 10 successive U.S. presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, before he formally handed power to his brother Raul last February due to a long illness.

HAVANA-WASHINGTON THAW?

Raul Castro, who is 77 and was Cuba’s defense minister for almost five decades, has since made several key changes in the leadership. They included firing foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque, one of a group of young officials whose dedication to Fidel Castro was so fierce they earned the nickname “tropical Taliban.” He was replaced by Bruno Rodriguez, a less doctrinaire foreign service veteran.

Some Cuba watchers saw this change as a move to facilitate efforts to thaw relations between Havana and Washington. How far and how fast Obama will go is certain to be a topic at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago where Cuba is the only country in all the Americas not invited.

Advocates of lifting the embargo, a policy change that would finally bring the United States in line with the rest of the world, see light at the end of the long tunnel. “This is the beginning of the end of the worst, least successful foreign policy experiment in the history of the United States,” in the words of David Rothkopf, head of a consultancy who blogs at Foreign Policy magazine.

Wishful thinking? Lifting the embargo would require repealing legislation — including the controversial 1996 Helms-Burton law – that penalizes companies doing business with Cuba. In one of its more bizarre interpretations, U.S. pressure resulted in Mexico City’s Sheraton hotel expelling a 16-strong Cuban delegation attending an energy conference there a few years ago.

The beginning-of-the-end school of thought points to legislation now pending – The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act – which would allow all Americans, not only Cuban-Americans with family on the island, to visit. If that act were passed, a study for the International Monetary Fund estimates that up to 3.5 million Americans could visit annually.

Cuba is not on the official agenda of the Trinidad summit (the fifth in a series that began in Miami in 1994) but Venezuela’s left-wing, anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, is certain to bring it up, along with a demand that the 34-member Organization of American States readmit Cuba. Its membership was suspended in 1962.

The guideline that only democratically-elected leaders can take part in summit meetings dates from the 1994 gathering – and even then, the logic was flawed. The Miami meeting’s participants included then Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, a leader of dubious democratic credentials whose acts in office included dissolving Congress and closing the country’s courts.

He then won elections boycotted by the opposition. This month, a Peruvian court sentenced Fujimori to 25 years in jail for human rights abuses and involvement in two military massacres during a campaign against left-wing guerrillas.

Obama campaigned for president on a platform of “change we can believe in.” His moves on Cuba will provide a good indicator of how much of a change agent he really is.

Comments
43 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Why do people care so much about Cuba? It is filthy little country with very little to offer except sugar and cigar tobacco. The only reason to make such a fuss over Cuba is because it provides an opportunity to criticize the US. Countries do not use or need logic to determine their relationships with other countries. Since 1962 it has been very simple. Castro chose to ally Cuba with enemies of the U.S. His choice has made Cuba an economic basketcase. It is not the fault of the U.S.

Posted by George Abruzzese | Report as abusive
 

Ending the embargo is inevitable. It’s possible that it could happen during an Obama administration. It would probably require some horse trading with the political prisoners. Maybe something like, asylum in the US for some, convert some to house arrest in Cuba, and shortened sentences for the remainder. Probably doable. But then again, I’m speaking from outside the beltway…

 

Only the the thickest offspring of the village idiot and the guy singing on the off-ramp wouldn’t say that the embargo has failed. We screwed up on the Bay of Pigs, and can’t bring ourselves to admit it. This is the equivalent of a 3 year old’s tantrum lasting for half a century. Come on America, let’s grow up now.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive
 

Let’s see,. Fidel over threw corrupted government that was TOTALLY supported by USA fruit-gambling (Mafia?) interests as the expense of the Cuban people. Castro at first asked USA for assistance, but USA special interests ($’s) told their Congress to not go along, wanted to go back to previous ways. We then tried to sponsor “return of patriots” invasion which was disaster, since then we, pretty much ONLY USA, has catered to the special interests of a very few in Miami to keep some sort of harassment going.
Article night better reflect truths had “logic” replaced with “decades of hypocrisy” to actually present real issues, but then almost any story or history of USA last 30 years or so would require same “edit”, so to speak.
Yep ole Cuba is just one of nearly daily truths on the “logic” of how our more then corrupted government has responded to special interests and money, Cuba, bail outs, WMD’s, ABU, taxes,health care, educations, fair trade etc. You name it, USA has what is best called “hypocriticalized” it, so to speak. How kind to refer to “logic”, kind of like calling all of those in Congress “the Honorable etc, etc etc”.
Summation might be that the “The man condemned (it would seem) to strolling about with the fabled lantern to find a honest man”, if stranded in DC or any USA political or related gathering place “logically” might ask? “how come in a free nation, i find there seems no honest representatives of the people?” He would fully understand the “Logic” of the USA, be it for Cuba or whatever.. and he might note,.. seems to be oil drilling off Cuba by China.. hmmmm he would say.. “oil”… again?

Posted by Charles | Report as abusive
 

Everything is a matter of perspective. The U.S. theoretically does not have political prisoners. Instead, the U.S. labels some prisoners as terrorists and tortures them in facilities without legal representation. The U.S. has outspent any other nation on the planet to spy on its own citizens. However, it is true that we can freely enter the U.S. – with proper identification – and leave – unless you happen to be on a black list of names.

At least we don’t have a history of supporting dictators like Marcos, Saddam or the Shah of Iran. The corporate structure and capitalism have done us well. That is why we are in such strong economic shape. How dare a Cuban leader want to bring universal health care to his people. What a ridiculous concept.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive
 

Consistency has never been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy, but for the past 35 years pathologically anti-Castro Cuban-American irredentists have succeeded in distorting what policy we have. They have also significantly distorted U.S. regional and national politics to our detriment.

We should have lifted the embargo years ago, and smothered Cuba with trade goods, foreign aid and affection. Castro would have withered away long ago.

Posted by Richard Wasteneys | Report as abusive
 

It seems to me. If Americans are discouraged to go to Cuba, Why wouldn’t the same emphasis be put on Saudi Aradia and Northern Korea? It should be the same. Countries that are dictaorships don’t hold the same values that free countries do. (like the United States) The American people deserve to be protected from countries and people who wish to destory their freedom. It is not OK that those dictatorships are welcomed in America. If their people want to come to America they can wait in line and do it HONESTLY.

Posted by Gwendolyn | Report as abusive
 

Some of your comments are inappropiate and extremely ignorant. Many of the people that do care about Cuba do it because they were either born there and/or they have family residing there. By the way Mr. George Abruzzese,Cuba is a poor island, yet it still has much to offer. We aren’t only known for sugar and tabacco. Educate yourself before criticizing.

Countries like North Korea are a lot worth than Cuba, yet U.S. citizens are NOT banned from traveling over there. China is run by Communist Party, but the US is still making business with them.

Posted by anet | Report as abusive
 

The name of the game is called business, big, big business. China is a huge market for U.S amd also its biggest creditor. Cuba is a tiny island that no lomger poses any threat to the U.S. The trade embargo will eventually be lifted but it will only benefit Florida or better still Miami.

Posted by Ricardo | Report as abusive
 

to Gwendolyn: Believe me, few Cubans want to come to America to live. And they do not want your particular system of government & openly say so. However, they do want more economic freedom & the ability to travel to visit other countries – the U.S. included. But they passionately love their own country and want to continue to live there. The ideas that most Americans have about Cuba have been corrupted by 50 years of propaganda coming out of the “old guard” Cubans who fled Cuba after the U.S.-sponsored exploitation of Cuban resources & people. As has been pointed out in other comments, they don’t want to destroy your freedom. They just don’t want to be punished by your government any longer. You are the ones that also lose by not having access to this beautiful country & it’s amazing people.

Posted by Shell | Report as abusive
 

China and Saudi Arabia are not located 50 miles off the coast of Florida. You are so logical. Look at a map.

Posted by USA | Report as abusive
 

If Cuba had either a huge economy or lots of oil, it would be in the G3 – - let alone G20. Money talks in the G20 world……..

Posted by Bala | Report as abusive
 

The Saudis have oil. The Chinese have a crapload of Treasury bills. A few miles of beaches? The vacationers can go elsewhere in the Caribbean. Cigars? Smoking kills; besides smokers can buy PR/Dominican/whatever cigars instead. In other words, Cuba has nothing that can make it an entity to reckon with.
Batista was Son Of a Bitch, but he was our SOB, as some other Banana republic heads of state were or still are. Castro dared to overthrow our SOB; worse yet – he decided to be Khrushchev’s SOB, didn’t he deserve to be punished for it, with all other Cubans? Now that USSR is gone, the young (if this term is applicable to a septuagenarian) Castro looks like SOB of his own (how dares he? Cuba doesn’t have the heft for him to assume that!). But seems like Washington still keeps the grudge. Isn’t it time to face the reality? JFK the darling of the liberals screwed it up very badly, and now is the time to admit it.
As for letting the Cuban-Americans to visit, this is plain wrong because it is discriminatory. Open it for everyone – or no one. I for one would be glad to spend my next vacation there, but I have no Cuban roots so I can’t. Mr. Obama, please get at least this one thing right and open travel for everyone. It will only prop up our travel industry when it suffers because of the recession. It will not cost the tax payers a dime, will not threaten homeland security. Oh, it will dash the hopes of some Cuban exiles in Miami to get back their farms, hotels, and other properties expropriated by Castro, but America should not be held hostage of their ambitions, all while letting them to travel freely.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

The author distorts the reason for the embargo: the Castro Cuba confiscated American property without compensation to the owners.

Posted by ab | Report as abusive
 

(moan) I like vacationing in Cuba. Cheap, good food, pretty ladies, no crime, drugs or Americans. Obama, please keep the embargo!

Posted by hmmm | Report as abusive
 

“We should have lifted the embargo years ago, and smothered Cuba with trade goods, foreign aid and affection. Castro would have withered away long ago.”
________________________________________
“(moan) I like vacationing in Cuba. Cheap, good food, pretty ladies, no crime, drugs or Americans. Obama, please keep the embargo!”

I agree with the second comment.
if i leave this country for a vacation, it’s not to go to mcdonalds, starbucks or shop at a “mall”, all VERY american concepts. some friends of mine were just there and said it was amazing. just the way it was.

Posted by fran | Report as abusive
 

I wonder how much Hugo Chavez has to do with this? Or Canada? Well, not Canada.

Posted by Matt T | Report as abusive
 

Come to Caracas, Venezuela and see how the close union with Cuba and their politics can turn to shambles a democratic country and make a communist dictatorship, out of a poor population, turning to worst from best, in economy, freedom, human rights, etc….Best thing USA could do was to isolate them and they should keep it up, opening is a simbol of weakness for cuban Commmunist Party leaders, and God help USA if their oppening starts the silent invasion we have here.

 

it is interesting to see views of some readers and there comments. you can almost feel the hatered that some have for the cubans. this is similar to the same type of hatred comments seen in articles about the arab/muslim countries, chinese countries, other latin american countries and anyone else who chooses not to become a “yes man” for the U.S. my fellow americans and the american media like to talk about how people in these countries hate america and how they support bringing down america. yet, looking at the actions of our country over the last several decades: dropping the atomic bombs, supporting ruthless dictators and terroris nations like sadaam,pinochet,marco,saudia arabia, pakistan, israel, etc. it makes me one wonder what the real problem has been all the time.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive
 

It appears that Obama may be about tearing down walls; sort of “Reaganish”. If national security is maintained, this certainly will be compassionate and humane. If walls also come down for illegal immigrants and amnesty allowed, millions who have jobs already could soon become taxpayers. You already know the strong reasons for a path to citizenship. However, most importantly, the fear, inhumane treatment and hiding would end and millions of tax dollars would be generated. This is something all Americans should be demanding from this Presidency.

 

Does the USA have completely free education right through to university level for all it people? Cuba does.

Does the USA have completely free health care for all its people? Cuba does.

Does the USA have its doctors and other health staff, its teachers and engineers working in the poorest countries of the world in anything like the numbers of that Cubans are?

Does the USA train doctors from such countries at a whole dedicated School of Medicene?

Did the USA reject the offer of help from Cuba at the time of the manmade Katrina disaster?

Does the USA hold hostages in its prisons and not allow visits by their wives? Yes it does – FREE the Miami FIVE!

Posted by Compagnero | Report as abusive
 

The bottom line is whats better for business , stability and long term prosperity in the Americas, the US continuing to trade insults with Cuba or trading goods and services with the island?

 

For the same reasons we allegedly invaded Iraq (after you get past the first four or five excuses W and his cronies came up with), we should be occupying China and Saudi Arabia and others.

Inconsistent barely begins to describe our foreign policy.

What is consistent is that countries that suck up our manufacturing jobs and supply us with cheap plastic lead-tainted goods, as well as countries that sell fossil fuels, are exempt from being held accountable for human rights’ abuses and other atrocities.

It’s all about what makes money for Wall Street and our major investors — middle class and working class be damned.

Posted by Mike H. | Report as abusive
 

This essay was utter nonsense. The goal was to prevent Cuba from becoming the staging ground for communist expansion in our hemisphere. The policy succeeded.

Posted by Max Bucks | Report as abusive
 

Flawed logic indeed but from Debusmann.
Only Cuba allowed the paranoid Soviets to bring missiles into their country with the specific aim of targeting the USA.
Apart from the geography there were other good reasons as well which should be applied equally to all the dictatorships mentioned above.
Of course, your new weak-kneed prez, should rather target these pariah states instead of getting buddy-buddy with Cuba.
But he’s more comfortable making empty “gospel style” speeches than confronting dictatorships.

Posted by Dennis | Report as abusive
 

Let’s not be facetious here. The case for or against lifting sanctions is only about interests, not consistency or principles. Cuba is far too insignificant on its own to threaten the US, but far too close to the mainland for the US to allow any outside power to dominate it (think missile crisis). So long as the Cuban regime is not allied with America, the US will have issues with whoever runs Cuba. It’s what comes from being the small and fiesty neighbour of a Great Power, and it would’ve been true with any Great Power and any small depenency just outside its borders.

Posted by Firas | Report as abusive
 

@ Max, Dennis and Co

The US is hardly confronting and punishing dictatorships, its working in close partnership with China a regime that rolled tanks over schoolkid protestors not so long ago and its quite happy to do business with a whole range of other pretty despicable tinpot regimes without losing much sleep at night and part of the reason for this is that trade tends to help build bridges and trust between nations whereas beyond pleasing hardass constituencies punitive economic sanctions rarely achieve their intended goals and usually make matters worse.

If you guys genuinely think the events of the past must dictate what current US policy on Cuba should be then I suggest you take a long hard look at your President to see just how far US policies and attitudes have changed in the last half a century.

Its high time the US normalised relations with Cuba and stopped pandering to rednecks and groups with a vested interest in selectively using the past as the way forward.

 

Great post Desik, I dunno why we hold these idiot old grudges. Is this like our version of disciplining our little Western Hemisphere children?

To Dennis, our US gov’t spreads missiles all over the place. Remember when we were giving them to Sadam and Osama? Your hero Reagan was responsible for most of that, but hey as long as we’re “fighting communist russians” it doesn’t matter how many monsters hellbent on genocide we supply with killing machines.

You neocons should love Obama, at least those of you who still blindly think Bush was a good president. We already had pullout plans from Iraq when Bush was prez, so if you’re against that you should’ve said it months ago before Obama was inaugurated. Plus Obama just sent 17,000 more troops to kill Afghani’s when Taliban is taking over sections of Pakistan. So he’s sending over even more troops than Bush, you should love that, tons more US soldiers in the line of fire.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

I visited Cuba last month. The price of the U.S. embargo is still being paid by the people of Cuba. Visiting the country is like a trip back to 1955. Sadly, in parts because of U.S. policies, generations of people don’t stand much of a chance to achieve their dreams. They live in poor conditions. But of course, american people don’t care about that. U.S. seems only interested by it’s own security. There is nothing left to fear from Cuba. The deeper the ties with your neighboors, the harder you make it for them to wish you harm. It’s time to move on!

Posted by Canberge | Report as abusive
 

if Washington was to embrace Havana and engage the people, the message of harmony would sweep through all of her relationships. a fresh global perspective would be perceived with positive regard by many nations; nations who would wish to reach deeper levels of understanding and relation with her.

‘if Cuba and the US can nurture and respect their political and cultural sensitivities, maybe our nation can move forward in our differences and gain from our divergent perspectives.’

the beauty and mystery of the world is captured in her cultural diversity and is difficult at times to comprehend unless one perceives the mystery with appreciation and the innocence of a child.

Posted by sweeny'60s | Report as abusive
 

Oh well, now instead of being unilateral cowboys the new policy is to be unilateral doormats. Lets just talk to everyone, give in to their demands and ask nothing in return, that surely will make us respected. Oh I forgot to get respect apparently we have to just forgive and forget and everything will be fine. I love the attitude that since our policy is inconsistent then let’s just go whole hog and deal with any government no matter how they treat their people. I guess if we deal with any bad regimes we have to deal with all of them.
Also if things are so great in Cuba why do they need the embargo dropped, they seem to have everything we don’t have, well minus freedom or accountability in government.
Dropping the embargo will surely show that the US really has no spine to stick to principles. Lets legitimize a brutal dictatorship and give them more money, because I’m sure the Cuban government would allow the people to enjoy all the benefits of the embargo dropping.
It’s great that now we have Democrats in power we go back to being doormats and more European like (i.e. stick head in ground pretend everything will be great if we talk to people, even people who view this as weakness). I mean talking has solved all the troubles in history. I mean Chamberlin and Hitler talked and worked everything out right?

Posted by frank castle | Report as abusive
 

frank castle,
I mostly agree with you about the unilateral doormat the Dem Administration more and more looks like. But I beg to see the difference.
Castro is no Ahmadinejad or al-Qaeda. Not even Kim. No nuke and rocketry ambitions, at least since the missile crisis of 1962. And since the USSR is gone there’s no threat of Communism spreading from Cuba to the rest of the Hemisphere. If anything, allowing the travel will only undermine the Communist grip on the economy and population.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

Why would allowing more money into a country run by a cadre of brutal thugs would undermine it. you realize that a generous estimate is that the government would get around 20% of the remittances sent to relatives? You realize that any money made from growth of tourism will go to finance the government and not to the people?
The people suffer from the embargo, but they won’t benefit much from it’s demise, the thugs will however. I doubt the top tiers of the Cuban government want for anything despite the embargo, they would simply get richer and the common people would simply work harder to serve new tourists and still be poor and oppressed.
I know the popular fantasy is that trade will make the lives of the people better in such regimes, but the reality is far sadder. The thugs get richer and look stronger for “standing up” to the Americans.
It’s just part of the cycle, Dems make us look weak, our enemies act on it, the GOP gets back in power again, acts like a cowboy…rinse repeat. The sad part is the Dems never see themselves as complicit in this cycle. Oh well as a wise man once said blame is better to give than receive.

Posted by frank castle | Report as abusive
 

It’s clear to anyone with any knowledge of Cuba and with any common sense that the only reason Fidel and now his brother stayed in power is that they could blame economic mismanagement and misery on the gringos and their embargo. Had it been lifted, the whole house of cards would have collapsed decades ago. It’s a pity that Obama does not push for the boycott to be lifted. Rolling back Bush’s idiotic family travel restrictions doesn’t require a lot of guts.

Posted by Alma G. | Report as abusive
 

I just wanna make sure I’m hearing Frank Castle correctly, cuz I know he doesn’t wanna be hypocritical. We should cut off all economic relations with China/India/Saudi Arabia/Egypt, why not Mexico they have a ton of murderers who side with the drug cartels in their government, far worse than Cuba.

With the way your republicans spent from 2000-2006 would you have preferred that Bush and his cronies had up’d your income taxes 10,20,30% or were you happy with him sending Hank Paulsen over to get on his knees and beg the Chinese for money?

Ron Paul baby, no one who can look themselves in the mirror and says they’re a fiscal conservative would ever vote Republican (I know Paul ran as one, but we all know he isn’t one).

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

China and Saudi Arabia are not 90 miles from the United States, have not sought to point nuclear weapons at us with a flight time of less than 5 minutes with a regime that is STILL in power. Easing the economic morass of Cuba will do little to change the power. Whatever the US can do to foment a revolution (and let’s do something a bit better than Kennedy a la Bay of Pigs) is the best kind of policy we can have.

Change our policy? Absolutely — crank it up and make it more difficult on Castro.

Posted by ER Johnson | Report as abusive
 

There you go ER Johnson, that tough approach has worked for us perfectly in the middle east. In 2001 we had a few dozen people willing to fly planes into our buildings now we have millions in the middle east.

Wouldn’t a government be more willing to want to side with us if we’re nice to them and be less likely to allow our enemies to have missiles on their land if we’re in good relations? Is that asking for too much common sense out of this government? Probably so

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

why not put an embargo on the USA.. bunch of bullies who think that everyone in the world should be their slaves. Their capitalist structure is crumbling, yet they still want everyone else to do the same as they do. They elect some thieves and thugs who can steal all they want to and make war on some strange reasons but everything is fine.. 10% of the US population is in jail, heath care is for the rich unless you want to be robbed by some insurance companies. Kids at school are more preoccupied by the spring break than learning something meaningful. A LOT of Americans don’t know anything outside of their state. Yet those same people are judging Cuba as being a menace and old a grudge against it for having seized the properties of some of the worst mafia gang in the world. Mr Dupont never shed a tear for loosing his ranch in Cuba, he has plenty of others. And the story goes on, General Food still pay the least possible for his coffee and fruits, keeping the people in poverty all over Latin America. So, who is the bad guy ?

Posted by Rej | Report as abusive
 

I you want to know why the US is now seriously talking to Cuba the answer is very simple:

20bn barrel oil discovery puts Cuba in the big league
The Guardian, Saturday 18 October 2008

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct  /18/cuban-oil

Go read for yourself.

This would put Cuba in the top 20. It would make Cuba independent. They US now is looking at getting a piece if the Cuban pie. Or, should I say the international oil companies that own the US government are looking at getting a piece of the Cuban pie.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

I hope the US eventually gets its head out of the Cold-War hole it’s stuck in with regards to relations with Cuba. This isolation, trade embargo policy has not worked for 50 years! No reason to continue something that DOES NOT WORK. The only reason seems to have been, and continue to be POLITICAL. Let’s look at China before Nixon started the process of opening it up. Yes, it’s still communist now, but it’s slowly changing. It will never be a western-style democracy, but I believe China will eventually find its own balance between people’s rights and a strong central government. And there is no question the China of today is much more improved than the China of 30 or 40 years ago. Why not try same approach to Cuba? Open things up, start some trade. They will not become a democracy overnight, but things will slowly improve. For crying out loud the Cold-War is OVER. So time for the US to end a Cold-War era embargo. It won’t just help Cuba…it’ll give US businesses a whole new bunch of customers right in their backyard!

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive
 

Thank you ER Johnson & Frank Castle for being somewhat the voice of reason here.

To Michael Ham I would like to say that in the Middle East there have always been millions of people who wanted to fly their planes into our buildings, you obviously just didn’t know it. Some of us are better informed about world affairs BEFORE the catastrophe hits. You obviously only started paying attention recently. I think your mistakes on Cuba are the same…Look back at why we are at this point today. We are not just over paranoid about a long past cold war. And the reason Cuba is not aiming missiles at us today is because of the policies set in place 50 years ago.

As someone who does not support the ideals of our current president I am anxious to see how the country will respond to the results from his plans after they realize that he will take much the same stance on these issues (Cuba, Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran) as the previous 8 – 10 presidencies. I think Obama’s and your naivety will be obvious.

Posted by Zondo | Report as abusive
 

Zondo,
Maybe I made the mistake of exaggerating but to think there’s the same number of people who want to suicide bomb the united states in 2001 as there is now would be silly and ignorant. This past regime has set us back decades in foreign affairs. This current regime won’t do anything to fix it either, it’s just as awful. There’s no difference in Republican or Democrat, they all do the same thing they just spit different lies during their campaigns. I agree he’ll take the same stance on everything and every country except Cuba, since as the other poster pointed out they found a big supply of oil.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

The reason is simple. Die-hard anti-Castro exiles have driven U.S. policy towards Cuba for the last five decades. The Cuban community in Miami is crucial now in electing U.S. presidents, who bow to their whims. Also there is a hypocricy argument behind U.S. policy towards China and Saudi Arabia. China is the world’s biggest market for U.S. products and holds billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds. The Saudis are major oil exporters. So, human rights are just shift under the rug.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive
 

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