The 50th anniversary of the start of the economic boycott on Cuba took place on Tuesday. Since February 7th, 1962 there has been a nearly hermetic seal on trade with communist-led Cuba.
Yes or No to Embargo
Supporters of the embargo say it is an appropriate response to a repressive government that has been a relentless “thorn in the side” of the Unites States for all these years. Opponents of the embargo say the policy is a failed one, which has hurt ordinary Cuban citizens, and not the government against which the embargo is directed.
Failed its Main Goal
Both sides agree, however, that the embargo failed in its most central goal, to oust Cuba’s leaders, Fidel and Raul Castro.
Wayne Smith, who was a young US diplomat in Havana, Cuba in 1961 when relations between the US and Cuba were cut. Smith returned to Cuba as the head American diplomat when relations were partially re-established under the administration of President Jimmy Carter.
“All this time has gone by, and yet we keep it (the embargo) in place,” Smith said.
“We talk to the Russians, we talk to the Chinese, we have normal relations even with Vietnam. We trade with all of them,” Smith added. “So why not with Cuba?”
President Kennedy announced the embargo on February 3rd, 1962, saying that “the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet communism with which the government of Cuba is publicly aligned,” and it went into effect four days later.
Those were the days when the cold war was at its height, but critics of the embargo say that many of the reasons the embargo was begun no longer exist, such as the struggle to halt the spread of Soviet influence and the exportation of communism by Fidel Castro to the rest of Latin America.
But supporters cite other justifications, such as the need to pressure Cuba to give more personal and political freedom to its citizens, and the confiscation of US property in Cuba.
“We have a hemispheric commitment to freedom and democracy and respect for human rights,” said Jose Cardenas, a former National Security Council staffer on Cuba under President George W. Bush. “I still think that those are worthy aspirations.”