Cuba Embargo
Pros and Cons
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Last updated on: 4/29/2013 10:55:00 AM PST

Should the United States Maintain Its Embargo against Cuba?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The US Government Accountability Office stated the following in a Nov. 30, 2007 report titled "Agencies Face Competing Priorities in Enforcing the U.S. Embargo on Cuba," available at gao.gov:

"For nearly five decades, the United States has maintained a comprehensive embargo on Cuba through various laws, regulations, and presidential proclamations regarding trade, travel, and financial transactions. The stated purpose of this embargo—the most comprehensive set of U.S. economic sanctions on any country—is to weaken the Castro regime by denying it hard currency. To achieve this goal, the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR)... generally prohibit all trade, travel, and financial transactions with Cuba or Cuban nationals by U.S. citizens, residents, foreign visitors, or foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms. Trade with Cuba also is subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations..."


Nov. 30, 2007 - US Government Accountability Office (GAO) 

Should the United States Maintain Its Embargo against Cuba?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ed.D, US Representative (R-FL), stated the following in a Feb. 7, 2012 statement titled "Fifty Years Later, Cuban Embargo Demonstrates U.S. Solidarity with Cuban People," available on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs website:
"In addition to imposing economic pressure on the Castro regime and holding it accountable for actions against U.S. interests, the embargo is a moral stance against the brutal dictatorship. Over the last 50 years, the embargo has served as a constant form of solidarity with the Cuban people. I am ever hopeful that a Cuban Spring will arrive as long as we maintain and enforce policies which support the freedom-loving will of the Cuban people. The embargo will remain in place until free, fair and transparent elections are scheduled, political prisoners are released, and freedom of expression and the press are established."

Feb. 7, 2012 - Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ed.D 

Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States, stated the following in a Sep. 28, 2011 roundtable titled "Open for Questions with President Obama," available at whitehouse.gov:
"...[W]e're prepared to show flexibility and not be stuck in a Cold War mentality dating back to when I was born. On the other hand, we have to see a signal back from the Cuban government that it is following through on releasing political prisoners, on providing people their basic human rights, in order for us to be fully engaged with them. And so far, at least, what we haven't seen is the kind of genuine spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the embargo...

And as long as I'm President I will always be prepared to change our Cuba policy if and when we start seeing a serious intention on the part of the Cuban government to provide liberty for its people. But that's always my watchword, is are we seeing freedom for the Cuban people to live lives of opportunity and prosperity. If we are, then we'll be supportive of them."

[Editor's Note: Prior to Mr. Obama's Sep. 28, 2011 Pro position above, his position was Con as indicated by his Jan. 20, 2004 statement in the opposite column.]

Sep. 28, 2011 - Barack Obama, JD 

Carlos Alberto Montaner, MA, author and journalist exiled from Cuba, stated the following in his Oct. 2, 2003 article titled "Keep U.S. Embargo on Cuba," published in the Miami Herald:

"The arguments in favor of lifting the embargo are not as weighty as those that counsel retaining it.

Why alleviate the Cuban government's economic situation when history has shown that every time Castro strengthens his power, he invests those resources to retract the few morsels of economic freedom granted to the people during the periods of deep crisis?...

Once Castro is dead, the Cuban ruling class is overwhelmed by the huge power vacuum and all economic activity suddenly stops as everyone waits to see what will happen, only then will the offer be made to lift the embargo and grant generous aid in exchange for democracy and freedoms for the Cuban people...

The key is to induce the establishment of democracy in Cuba. For that it is necessary to keep intact the capacity to negotiate."


Oct. 2, 2003 - Carlos Alberto Montaner, MA 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, MA, US Representative (D-FL) and Chair of the Democratic National Committee, stated the following in a Nov. 26, 2010 opinion article titled "Opposing View on Cuba: Don't Reward Atrocities," published in USA Today:

"Declaring the embargo a failure and using it as justification to reopen trade and relations ignores the fact that the Cuban economy is on its knees. The paltry changes we've seen (allowing Cubans to buy and sell some goods) have been necessitated by their economic crisis. Ending the embargo now not only ignores the atrocities perpetrated by the Castro regime, it also hands the Cuban government a huge financial boost at the exact moment they need and want it most.

Friendship and an economic relationship with our nation must be earned, and Cubans deserve the freedom, democracy and human rights they lack. Until Cuba has demonstrated meaningful progress, unilateral changes in American policy would undeniably reward horrific behavior."


Nov. 26, 2010 - Debbie Wasserman Schultz, MA 

Alberto de la Cruz, Managing Editor of Babalú Blog, stated the following in a Feb. 29, 2012 interview with Janine Mendes-Franco titled "Cuba, USA: Blogger Perspectives on the Embargo's 50th Anniversary (Part 1)," available at globalvoicesonline.org:
"...[T]he US embargo is the only leverage the US has against the Castro dictatorship. As history indicates, the countries that have normalized relations and business dealings with the Castro government are severely limited in their ability to demand respect for human rights on the island. When these countries have attempted to pressure the Cuban dictatorship into stopping their repressive tactics, their economic interests on the island are immediately threatened. Therefore, their decision to promote respect for human rights in Cuba ceases to be a moral one and becomes an economic decision instead. Since, because of the embargo, the US has zero investments on the island that can be threatened, it can maintain its firm stance on human rights and democracy for the Cuban people."

Feb. 29, 2012 - Alberto de la Cruz 

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, former US Representative (R-FL), stated the following in a Sep. 29, 2008 editorial titled "Keep the Pressure on," published in USA Today:

"[Historical precedent] is precisely is why we maintain a trade and tourism embargo on the Cuban dictatorship. Because, first, it is in the national interest of the United States for there to be a democratic transition in Cuba, as it obviously is in the interest of the long-suffering people of Cuba.

Second... it is critical that external pressure be kept for a democratic transition to take place in Cuba once the dictator is no longer on the scene.

The gravely ill Fidel Castro might have given up some titles, but he remains the tyrant. At the time of his death, it will be critical for the U.S. embargo to be in place as it is today, with its lifting being conditioned on three fundamental developments: the liberation of all political prisoners; the legalization of all political parties, labor unions and the press; and the scheduling of free elections."


Sep. 29, 2008 - Lincoln Díaz-Balart, JD 

David Rivera, MPA, US Representative (R-FL), stated the following in a Feb. 7, 2012 statement titled "Fifty Years Later, Cuban Embargo Demonstrates U.S. Solidarity with Cuban People," available on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs website:
"In 1962, the United States enacted a trade embargo on Cuba due to the Castro regime's anti-American and anti-democratic actions. The Cuban dictatorship demonstrated overt hostile actions toward democracy and human rights. Fifty years later, while the world around them has changed, and their allies are now Chavista and Mullah instead of Soviet, we see a continuing need for full enforcement of the embargo and other sanctions until free elections, civil liberties and democracy are returned to the Cuban people."

Feb. 7, 2012 - David Rivera, MPA 

Jeff Jacoby, JD, Op-Ed columnist for the Boston Globe, stated the following in his Aug. 25, 2010 column titled "Lift Embargo on Cuba? Not So Fast," available at boston.com:
"Some 2.4 million tourists visited Cuba last year, more than 800,000 of them Canadians. For that matter, tens of thousands of Americans make it to Cuba each year, despite the restrictions. Yet for all that exposure to foreign citizens, money, and ideas, the power of the Castro brothers is undiminished.

By the same token, if international commerce had the power to undo the regime, wouldn't it have been undone by now? The US embargo, after all, doesn't stop Cuba from trading with any other country in the world. Indeed, even with the 'embargo,' the United States is one of Cuba's top five trading partners...

As long as the Castros maintain their stranglehold on the Cuban economy, enriching that economy enriches — and entrenches — them.

The travel ban and embargo have not ended Cuba's misery, but lifting them unilaterally will only make that misery worse. Rewarding the dictators who keep Cuba in chains is not the way to set Cubans free."


Aug. 25, 2010 - Jeff Jacoby, JD 

Marco Rubio, JD, US Senator (R-FL), stated the following in a May 7, 2010 interview with Human Events, in answer to the question "When would you approve of lifting the economic embargo against Cuba?," available at humanevents.com:
"When Cuba joins the rest of the civilized world in how it treats its people... That's the kind of country that I’m interested in us having a relationship with. And the embargo serves as leverage for us to be able to accomplish that...

Cuba trades with every other country in the world. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. embargo is not the reason their economy is failing. Their economy is failing because they've embraced a combination of socialism and incompetence, which may be an oxymoron because they're both the same thing...

What's happening now is that the Castro government is using travel and exile travel as a way to fund its repressive regime... And it also provides a source of hard currency for the Castro regime. They use the dollars from remittances and from travel to fund their repressive operation. I think it was wrong to lift those travel restrictions."

May 7, 2010 - Marco Rubio, JD 

Gordon G. Chang, JD, columnist for Forbes.com, stated the following in his Feb. 20, 2008 article titled "In Defense of the Cuban Embargo," published in Commentary Magazine:

"The [New York] Times cites our trade with China as a reason for ending the Cuban embargo, but this example merely illustrates that American policy has been inconsistent. Trade with China, if it shows anything, demonstrates that there is little correlation between commerce and political liberalization, at least over the short term...

Even if we lift the embargo, Castro's successors will not allow their economy to be overrun by American tourists, investors, and corporate executives...

An embargo helped kill communism in Europe, and it can also end it in the Caribbean. One day we will establish normal trading relations with Cuba, but that should not be before the people there govern themselves...

The embargo has been working all along, and it is up to the Cuban dictators to relax their grip, not us."


Feb. 20, 2008 - Gordon G. Chang, JD 

Peter Brookes, MA, Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, stated the following in an Apr. 16, 2009 article titled "Keep the Embargo, O," available at www.heritage.org:
"Lifting the embargo won't normalize relations, but instead legitimize -- and wave the white flag to -- Fidel's 50-year fight against the Yanquis, further lionizing the dictator and encouraging the Latin American Left.

The last thing we should do is to fill the pockets of a regime that'll use those profits to keep a jackboot on the neck of the Cuban people. The political and human-rights situation in Cuba is grim enough already...

The embargo has stifled Havana's ambitions ever since the Castros lost their Soviet sponsorship in the early 1990s. Anyone noticed the lack of trouble Cuba has caused internationally since then? Contrast that with the 1980s some time...

The US embargo remains a matter of principle -- and an appropriate response to Cuba's brutal repression of its people. Giving in to evil only begets more of it. Haven't we learned that yet?

Until we see progress in loosing the Cuban people from the yoke of the communist regime, we should hold firm onto the leverage the embargo provides."


Apr. 16, 2009 - Peter Brookes, MA 

Juan Carlos Hidalgo, MA, a Policy Analyst on Latin America at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute, stated the following in a Jan. 15, 2013 article titled "Hagel's Common Sense on Cuba," published on the Cato Institute website:
"You don't need to think hard to understand why the embargo and travel ban on Cuba have failed: the Castro brothers are still in power in Havana. Five decades of economic sanctions—the most stringent Washington has imposed on any country—have failed to bring about a democratic transformation of Cuba. Moreover, the embargo has served as a scapegoat to the regime.

Ironically, those who argue that national security concerns are reasons to oppose changing U.S. policy towards Cuba ignore that the embargo has also become somewhat of a U.S. security liability itself. A 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office points out that enforcing the embargo and travel ban diverts limited resources from homeland security that could be used to keep terrorists and criminals out of the United States."


Jan. 15, 2013 - Juan Carlos Hidalgo, MA 

Barack Obama, JD, then-state senator (D-IL), stated the following in a Jan. 20, 2004 speech at Southern Illinois University, posted on YouTube.com:
"I think it's time for us to end the embargo on Cuba... Our planet is shrinking. And our biggest foreign policy challenge… is how do we make sure that other countries, in developing nations, are providing sustenance for their people, human rights for their people, a basic structure of government for their people, that is stable and secure so they can be partners in a brighter future for the entire planet. And the Cuban embargo has failed to provide the sorts of rising standards of living, and has squeezed the innocents in Cuba and utterly failed to overthrow Castro, who has now been there since I was born. It is now time to acknowledge that that particular policy has failed."

[Editor's Note: Following Mr. Obama's Jan. 20, 2004 Con position above, his position changed to Pro as indicated by his Sep. 28, 2011 statement in the opposite column.]

Jan. 20, 2004 - Barack Obama, JD 

Richard Lugar, MA, former US Senator (R-IN), and Howard Berman, LLB, former US Representative (D-CA), stated the following in a Nov. 17, 2009 editorial published in the Miami Herald, available at uscubanormalization.blogspot.com:
"U.S. law lets American citizens travel to any country on earth, friend or foe -- with one exception: Cuba. It's time for us to scrap this anachronistic ban...

This ban has prevented contact between Cubans and ordinary Americans, who serve as ambassadors for the democratic values we hold dear. Such contact would help break Havana's chokehold on information about the outside world. And it would contribute to improving the image of the United States, particularly in Latin America, where the U.S. embargo on Cuba remains a centerpiece of anti-Washington grievances...

Finally, while travel restrictions are contrary to our foreign policy interests, they also impede the right of Americans to freedom of speech, association and to travel. Sometimes a travel ban may be necessary, but nothing about the Cuba situation today justifies such an infringement on our basic liberties."

[Editor's Note: The statement above refers only to the travel ban aspect of the Cuba embargo.]


Nov. 19, 2009 - Howard Berman, LLB 
Richard Lugar, MA 

Howard Berman, LLB, former US Representative (D-CA), stated the following in an Apr. 26, 2013 email to ProCon.org:
"I am passionately opposed to the travel restrictions because I feel they infringe on Americans' right to travel, and are foolish. I am mildly opposed to the embargo because I think it is foolish. We have utilized it for decades, and it hasn't achieve its goal of bringing down a despotic regime."

Apr. 26, 2013 - Howard Berman, LLB 

Fidel Castro, JD, former President and Prime Minister of Cuba, stated the following at a May 25, 2002 rally in Cuba, as reported in a CNN article titled "Castro Calls U.S. Terror Claim a 'Slanderous Lie,'" available at CNN.com:
"We are men of ideas, not fanatics. We have never sowed hatred against the people of the United States despite the aggressions of her government against us. Apart from the moral and political damage that this does, what hurts us the most is the idea that one single American citizen could think that from Cuban territory any harm would be waged against them. Not a single drop of blood has ever fallen anywhere in the world because of any terrorist act introduced from our country. If it weren't for that absurd and ridiculous embargo, the United States could receive vaccinations and other medical procedures from Cuba that could help save American lives."

May 25, 2002 - Fidel Castro, JD 

Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of Defense and former US Senator (R-NE), stated the following on Late Edition on CNN in Feb. 2008, transcript available at www.dailykos.com:
"On Cuba, I've said that we have an outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant policy... It's always been nonsensical to me about this argument, 'Well, it's a communist country, it's a communist regime.' What do people think Vietnam is? Or the People's Republic of China? Both those countries are WTO members. We trade with them. We have relations. Great powers engage... Great powers are not afraid. Great powers trade.'"

Feb. 2008 - Chuck Hagel 

Yoani Sanchez, a Cuban blogger, stated the following in an Oct. 23, 2011 article titled "End the Embargo, End Castro Regime's Excuse for All Its Failures," published on the Huffington Post website:
"The five decade prolongation of the 'blockade' has allowed every setback we've suffered to be explained as stemming from it, justified by its effects. But its existence has not prevented the luxurious mansions of the nomenklatura from swimming in whiskey, their freezers packed with food while modern cars sit in the garages. To make matters worse, the economic fence has helped to fuel the idea of a place besieged, where dissent comes to be equated with an act of treason. The exterior blockade has strengthened the interior blockade...

[W]e... consider the end of the embargo as a definitive blow to the authoritarianism under which we live."


Oct. 23, 2011 - Yoani Sánchez 

Jeff Bingaman, JD, former US Senator (D-NM), stated the following on the floor of the US Senate on Dec. 6, 2012, as reported in an article by Ramsey Cox titled "Bingaman Calls for End to 'Out-of-Date' Trade Embargo on Cuba," published on thehill.com:

"Another out-of-date policy from the Cold War is the trade embargo on Cuba. The world has changed, and it is long past time that we change our policies with Cuba... It does not make our country safer and it does no good to the people of Cuba...

That regime has survived 50 years of sanctions. Old age and ill health will end their rule rather than the embargo.

A better approach is building relationships between the people and businesses here and the people and businesses in Cuba.

This doesn't mean we stop advocating for human rights. We should be able to balance these goals as we did in our approach with China and based on vote today on Russia."


Dec. 6, 2012 - Jeff Bingaman, JD 

Irene Khan, LLM, former Secretary General of Amnesty International, stated the following in a Sep. 2, 2009 press release titled "USA: President Obama Should Take the Lead on Lifting Embargo Against Cuba," published on www.amnesty.org:
"This [annual deadline for the US to renew the embargo against Cuba under the Trading with the Enemy Act] is the perfect opportunity for President Obama to distance himself from the failed policies of the past and to send a strong message to the US Congress on the need to end the embargo. The US embargo against Cuba is immoral and should be lifted. It's preventing millions of Cubans from benefiting from vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health."

Sep. 2, 2009 - Irene Khan, LLM 

Doug Bandow, JD, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, stated the following in his Dec. 11, 2012 article titled "Time to End the Cuba Embargo," published in The National Interest:
"The U.S. government has waged economic war against the Castro regime for half a century. The policy may have been worth a try during the Cold War, but the embargo has failed to liberate the Cuban people. It is time to end sanctions against Havana...

The policy in Cuba obviously has failed. The regime remains in power. Indeed, it has consistently used the embargo to justify its own mismanagement, blaming poverty on America...

Ending the embargo would have obvious economic benefits for both Cubans and Americans. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates American losses alone from the embargo as much as $1.2 billion annually."

Dec. 11, 2012 - Doug Bandow, JD 

The United Nations General Assembly stated the following in resolution titled "Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States of America Against Cuba," adopted on Nov. 13, 2012 by a vote of 188-3 and available at UN.org:
"Concerned that, since the adoption of its [20 previous] resolutions... further measures of that nature aimed at strengthening and extending the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba continue to be promulgated and applied, and concerned also about the adverse effects of such measures on the Cuban people and on Cuban nationals living in other countries...

Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-eighth session the item entitled 'Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba'."


Nov. 13, 2012 - United Nations General Assembly 

Pope Benedict XVI, PhD, 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, stated the following on Mar. 28, 2012 at an airport in Havana as reported in an article titled "Pope Benedict Criticises US Trade Embargo on Cuba," available on the BBC website:
"No-one should feel excluded from taking up this exciting search by the limitations of their basic freedoms, or excused from this by indolence or a lack of material resources - a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people."

Mar. 28, 2012 - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, PhD 

Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, JD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, stated the following in an Oct. 1, 2012 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, available at UN.org:

"The US policy towards our region, whether under Democrat or Republican governments, is essentially the same...

On July 31 last, the US State Department included Cuba again in a unilateral and arbitrary list of States that sponsor international terrorism.

The true purpose pursues with the inclusion of Cuba in that spurious list is to fabricate pretexts to increase the persecution of Cuba's financial transactions and justify the blockade policy which has caused invaluable human and economic damages that are worth one trillion dollars, estimated according to the present value of gold.

The United States do not have the slightest moral or political authority to judge Cuba.

It is known that the US government has resorted to state terrorism as a weapon of its policy against Cuba, which has caused the death of 3,478 and maimed 2,099 of our compatriots...

We reiterate to the United States... our irrevocable vocation for peace and our interest to move on to the normalization of relations through dialogue, on an equal footing and with absolute respect for our independence."


Oct. 1, 2012 - Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, JD 

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