The Obama administration is easing travel and some economic restrictions against Cuba after coming out in support of normalizing relations with the Communist regime, raising fears among many of a total lifting of the trade embargo against the island nation.
But an examination of experts' views reveals at least 10 compelling reasons why the United States should not lift the longstanding economic sanctions.
1. Lifting the embargo would benefit the Cuban people far less than the Castro regime. Most of the Cuban economy is owned by the government and all foreign trade is channeled through its agencies. Companies pay wages in hard currency, including dollars and euros, but the government pays workers in Cuban pesos — 500 pesos is worth around $21 USD — and then pockets about 90 percent of the wages.
2. Decades of trade between Cuba and market economies in Europe, Canada, and Latin America have not produced the political and economic benefits to the people that embargo opponents say a lifting of the sanctions would produce. What they have done is line the pockets of the Castro government. Corruption, not the embargo, denies people the benefits of trade.
3. Opening up trade with Cuba would lead the United States into dealings with a "deadbeat" nation that refuses to honor its commitments. Cuba has defaulted on its estimated $37 billion debt to the Paris Club of nations. Russia has been forced to write off Cuba's $32 billion debt, and Mexico wrote off $340 million of Cuba's debt.
4. Cuba has not released all the political prisoners Obama said the regime had promised to free during recent Cuban-American discussions. Estimates are that there are more than 6,000 political detainees in Cuba, among the world's highest per capital, and some 65,000 prison inmates altogether.
5. Ending the embargo would be a blow to American values. Americans want free trade with free people and not relations that strengthen an authoritarian regime's oppression of its people.
6. Lifting the embargo without getting concessions from Cuba would make the United States appear weak. According to U.S. law, Cuba must legalize all political activity, release political prisoners, commit to free and fair elections, grant freedom of the press, and allow labor unions. Cuba has not met these conditions. Lifting the sanctions unilaterally would send the message that America is willing to appease an oppressive regime. Moreover, the embargo enables the United States to continue to pressure the Cuban government to improve human rights.
7. The embargo does not prevent Americans from providing assistance to the Cuban people. American policy allows people to visit family members and send money to relatives in Cuba. Over $3.5 billion in remittances are sent to Cuban families each year.
8. Cuba remains on the U.S. "State Sponsors of Terrorism" list. Cuba has provided sanctuary for terrorists from other nations and harbored American fugitives. Black Panther activist and convicted murderer JoAnne Chesimard is among the 90 or more criminals who fled America and received political asylum in Cuba.
9. The United States should not lift the embargo until a new leader is in place in Cuba. Fidel Castro turned over control to his brother Raul, but Raul is over 80 years old and it is unclear who would succeed him. The embargo could be used as a bargaining chip when a new leader takes power.
10. The American people oppose lifting the embargo. A poll last year found that a slight majority still want the sanctions to remain in place. More importantly, an even larger majority of Cuban-Americans, those who understand the situation best, favor keeping the embargo in place.
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