Thursday, April 27, 2006

Embargo and Dictatorship

Cuba: Embargo and Dictatorship

The United States has kept an economic and financial embargo against the
Fidel Castro regime for over four decades. Enemies of the embargo say
this is an obsolete policy, that has had no results in achieving the
democratization of Cuba.

After 47 years in power, Castro is giving no sign of political will for
the democratization of the small island of 12 million souls. Since the
1959 revolution that made him Cuba's new "strong man," the Communist
leader restricted all fundamental freedoms and confiscated private
properties, both national and foreign. The Cuban government became the
Caribbean nation's only owner of all factories, hospitals, schools,
theaters, news media, publishing companies, banks and lands, and also
became the only provider of all other services, including those offered
by small coffee shops and restaurants, grocery stores and meat markets.

By July of 1960, Castro had expropiated all U.S. companies valued at
$1.6 billion, and Cuba's largest companies valued at $25 billion. A huge
exodus of Cubans, mostly business people and professionals, began. The
U.S. embargo as we know it today, was established by President John F.
Kennedy in 1963, shortly after the dangerous crisis of October, 1962
when the Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuban soil aiming at
the United States.

Many experts believe that Castro's radical measures of 1959 and 1960
were intended to developing a confrontation with the United States, to
have an excuse for implementing his Communist ideas with the support of
the Soviet Union, a key player of the Cold War with whom Castro had
signed a cooperation treaty in February 1960. Few things have changed in
Cuba since then.

Certainly, the U.S. embargo has not changed the dictatorial nature of
the Cuban regime in the last 43 years as an international embargo did
change the South Africa's apartheid policy.

South Africa's foreign trade and investment were affected by sanctions
and boycotts, especially during the 1980s and early 1990s. These
measures included a voluntary arms embargo instituted by the United
Nations (UN) in 1963, which was declared mandatory in 1977; the 1978
prohibition of loans from the United States Export-Import Bank; an oil
embargo first instituted by OPEC in 1973 and strengthened in a similar
move by Iran in 1979; a 1983 prohibition on IMF loans; a 1985 cutoff of
most foreign loans by private banks; the United States 1986
Comprehensive Antiapartheid Act, which limited trade and discouraged
United States investors; and the 1986 European Economic Community (EEC)
ban on trade and investment.

The most effective sanctions measure against South Africa was the
withdrawal of short-term credits in 1985 by a group of international
banks. Immediate loan repayments took a heavy toll on the economy. Of
approximately 350 US companies operating in South Africa, 119 agree "to
press for broad changes in South African society, including the repeal
of all apartheid laws and policies," according to a New York Times'
article published on December 13, 1984.

Most liberal and progressive leaders supported the international embargo
against South Africa. But they have never supported the U.S. embargo
against Castro. Instead, they have been sharp critics of it and many of
them keep good ties with the Cuban dictatorship even today.

Obviously, there is no difference between the South Africa's former
policy of racial discrimination and the Cuba's currently policy of
political discrimination. That is why, for many of us who supported the
international sanctions against South Africa in the 80s, there is no
reason to withdraw our support to the U.S. economic sanctions against
the Cuban totalitarian regime, even less a few hours after a significant
number of news media outlets reported the brutal beating in Havana of
Cuban opposition leader Marta Beatriz Roque, an old woman who was
sentenced to jail in 2003 and had to be released "on probation" because
of her poor health conditions, after strong pressures from the United
States, the European Union and human rights organizations. On April 25,
2006 a furious civil mob organized by the Cuban Communist Party and
security forces, broke in her house and kicked her body.

A well coordinated international embargo against Castro is the only hope
for Cubans like Roque..., and for the rest of Cubans.

(Hernandez Cuellar is Publisher and Editor of Contacto Magazine. He has
been writing on Cuban issues since 1981).

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