By Mauricio Claver-Carone - 08/27/10 10:05 AM ET
Throughout the 111th Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been
obsessed with U.S. policy towards Cuba. Unfortunately, their obsession
is not with the freedom of the Cuban people nor the heroic struggle and
sacrifice of Cuba's pro-democracy movement. Instead, it's focused on
conducting business with that island's totalitarian, repressive regime.
Such a policy amounts to nothing more than 21st century mercantilism.
Modern capitalism is based on the notion of the free market: a free
trade and flow in goods, services and ideas. In contrast, mercantilism
was the economic system that dominated Western European economic thought
and policies from the 16th to the late 18th centuries. It amounted to a
state policy of mutual benefit between a merchant class and a government
seeking to strengthen itself.
This is exactly what the Chamber is proposing for Cuba.
The Cuban regime explicitly prohibits the Cuban people from engaging in
trade or other private commercial activity. This is exclusively reserved
- under Article 10 of the Cuban regime's 1976 Constitution - for its
rulers. The fact remains that every dollar that has been transacted by
over 157 U.S.-based companies since 2001 with Cuba, have only had one
Cuban counterpart, Alimport, which is owned and operated by the Castro
Based on this approach, the Chamber has also become a leading advocate
of "The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act" (H.R.
4645), which looks to double the Castro regime's income through tourism
transactions. The Chamber's calculation is that if the Castro regime has
more income, it can purchase more goods. Maybe, but it would surely
provide more resources to repress.
The Chamber points to the Castro regime's announced "release" of 52
political prisoners -- of which 26 have been forced into exile in Spain
and the other 26 still remain in prison -- as evidence of that regime's
"goodwill." Yet the Chamber conveniently fails to mention the five
students arrested this month for protesting outside University of Havana
and the five leaders of Cuba's Youth for Democracy Movement imprisoned
in the easternmost province of Oriente (the pregnant wife of one of
these activists, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, has been sexually assaulted
twice by the Cuban authorities in order to further torment him). So much
These Cuban pro-democracy activists don't need American fanny-packers
and spring breakers to teach them democratic ideals. As a matter of
fact, they can probably teach the Chamber, and most of us, a thing or
two about the importance of freedom and democracy -- not to mention the
high cost it entails.
Current U.S. law conditions commercial engagement with the Castro regime
to the fundamental recognition and respect for the human, political and
economic rights of the Cuban people, including the release of all Cuban
political prisoners. Only at such time can trade with Cuba be free and
truly benefit the Cuban people.
Mauricio Claver-Carone is a Director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and
Editor of CapitolHillCubans.com