Top Pro & Con Arguments


The embargo harms everyday Cubans, not the Cuban government.

Cubans are denied access to technology, medicine, affordable food, and other goods that could be available to them if the United States lifted the embargo.

The embargo prevents the people of Cuba from joining the digital age by cutting them off from technology, and restricts the electronic flow of information to the island. Fewer than one in four Cubans accessed the internet in 2011. [15]

Though the Cuban government began permitting internet access in private homes in 2019, most access is too expensive for widespread use, costing residents about 26% of the average salary for what amounts to 7% of the average American’s internet data. And the government still controls legal access to the internet. [120]

A report by the American Association for World Health found that doctors in Cuba have access to less than 50% of the drugs on the world market, and that food shortages led to a 33% drop in caloric intake between 1989 and 1993. The report states, “it is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering-and even deaths-in Cuba.” [24]

Amnesty International reports that “treatments for children and young people with bone cancer… [and] antiretroviral drugs used to treat children with HIV/AIDS” were not readily available with the embargo in place because “they were commercialized under U.S. patents.” [79]

In Apr. 2020, Cuba reported that the U.S. embargo was preventing the import of important medical supplies and equipment, as well as other essentials. Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez tweeted that the embargo was “the main obstacle to purchase the medicines, equipment and material required to confront the [COVID 19] pandemic.” [118]

Cuban officials have not been forced to take responsibility for problems such as a failing health care system, lack of access to medicine, the decline of the sugar industry, decrepit plumbing systems, and water pollution because they use the embargo as a scapegoat. The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs reportedly blamed the embargo for a total of $1.66 billion in damage to the Cuban economy. [12]

President Bill Clinton said in a 2000 interview, “sometimes I think [Fidel Castro] doesn’t want the embargo lifted… because as long as he can blame the United States, then he doesn’t have to answer to his own people for the failures of his economic policy.” [77]

Free trade, not the isolation of an embargo, can promote democracy in Cuba. And, lifting the embargo would put pressure on Cuba to address problems that it had previously blamed on U.S. sanctions. Trading with China led to economic reforms that brought 100 million people above the poverty line and improved access to health care and education across the country. [76]

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