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El País, Spain

The Last Days
of the Cuban Embargo



By Antonio Caño

Translated By Camden Luxford

26 November 2012

Edited by Jonathan Douglas


Spain - El País - Original Article (Spanish)

Among the historic changes seen in the U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 6, one of the most notable was the victory, for the first time, of a Democratic candidate among the Cuban community in Florida. This, together with the timid steps toward opening that have been begun by the Cuban regime in recent months and the greater space for maneuvering enjoyed in Washington by a president that cannot be re-elected, creates the best scenario ever seen for the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba — a relic of North American foreign policy that has survived until now despite its inefficiency and lack of international support.

Last week, in the traditional annual vote of the General Assembly of the United Nations, all countries condemned this embargo, with the exception of only the United States, Israel and Palau. The unpopularity of this measure has long been evident. It is also obvious that, after 50 years of operation, it has not only failed to oblige the Cuban government to adopt democratizing measures, but rather has served as an excuse not to do so.

If the embargo has survived until now, it has simply been because it had the support of the Cuban exile community, which is very influential in the south of Florida — an important state in the country’s electoral struggle. But this has now changed. New generations of Cubans born or raised in the United States do not feel obligated to be loyal to the Republican Party as the only guarantee against communism, nor do they believe that the battle against Fidel Castro ought to be the driving force of their lives. For the first time, a Cuban-American from the Democratic Party, Joe García, has been elected to occupy a seat for Florida in the House of Representatives. Brought up more disposed to solidarity with their families and compatriots in the island than to hatred toward those who obliged their predecessors into exile, this generation sympathizes with the measures to ease exchange taken by Barack Obama and would like to increase this exchange as much as possible.

This trend is just as favored by those, particularly in Florida, who see economic opportunity in Cuba and do not want their business possibilities to be limited by political decisions that, on top of this, are anachronistic. The United States encourages economic relations with another communist country, China, and until recently has allowed certain commercial exchange with rival nations like Iran and continues to do so with others, such as Venezuela. Business people have long been among the groups that support the lifting of the embargo.

There still exist those who resist this step. The Republican representatives of the Cuban community in Congress still judge that the lifting of the embargo would give oxygen to the Castro brothers’ regime, just at the moment in which both approach the end of their lives.

Nevertheless, this argument is weak in the face of the potential that a greater exchange would have to speed up the democratic transition and stimulate the reformists. The lifting of the embargo would, effectively, improve the economic conditions of the Cuban people, but it would also facilitate the presence in Cuba of those opposition groups that act from Florida. Above all, it would place in the hands of the internal opposition those instruments of mobilization they currently lack. With more money, more computers, more mobile phones and access to Google and Twitter, the possibilities to communicate the reality of the Cuban political system would be considerably widened. On the other hand, it is doubtful that a population less distressed by the economy would not also be more interested in democracy.

Barack Obama, who began his presidency with gestures of good will toward the government of Havana, seemed to share this point of view. But, frustrated by the regime’s lack of receptivity and plagued, like his predecessors, by the electoral calendar, he quickly abandoned this path. Now, more worried by his historic legacy, he has a great opportunity to do something that will likely be remembered as the beginning of the end of communism in Cuba. The lifting of the embargo would have, together with its predictable repercussions, a political and psychological effect that would serve to mark a before and after in the relations of the U.S. with Cuba and all of Latin America. At the moment, it is possible without leaving the next Democratic presidential candidate the heavy burden of a sure defeat in Florida. Rather, completely the opposite.



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