Last updated on: 10/16/2020 | Author:

Pro & Con Quotes: Should the United States Maintain Its Embargo against Cuba?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Council on Foreign Relations stated:

“The U.S.-Cuba relationship has been plagued by distrust and antagonism since 1959, the year Fidel Castro overthrew a U.S.-backed regime in Havana and established a socialist state allied with the Soviet Union. During the half century that followed, successive U.S. administrations pursued policies intended to isolate the island country economically and diplomatically. The United States has sanctioned Cuba longer than it has any other country.

President Barack Obama took some extraordinary steps to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, meeting with leader Raul Castro and restoring full diplomatic ties. However, President Donald J. Trump’s administration has largely reversed course, imposing a raft of new sanctions and labeling Cuba, along with Venezuela and Nicaragua, part of the ‘Troika of Tyranny.'”


The Council on Foreign Relations, “U.S.-Cuba Relations,”, Mar. 27, 2020

PRO (yes)

Pro 1

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) stated:

“Advocates of lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba have a serious misunderstanding of the Cuban economy and the brutal regime that controls the island. First, we must understand what U.S. law does: It bans American businesses from trading with companies or organizations linked to the Cuban regime. It’s nearly impossible to do business on the island without government connections. As a result, all economic activity in Cuba benefits a government with a long history of human rights abuses, including forced labor, torture, and executions….

Only political reform within Cuba would open the door to prosperity. If the regime were to release its political prisoners, allow freedom of the press, and establish free, fair, multi-party elections, real wealth building might occur. And if that happened, the U.S. embargo would end automatically, as intended by U.S. law. But we know Cuba’s dictatorship will never willingly relinquish control.

We saw that in July 2021, when thousands of people across the island took to the streets in protest against their government. Instead of listening to its citizens’ cries for freedom, the dictatorship cracked down on them, blocking internet access, abducting civil society leaders, and using state-sanctioned violence to intimidate protesters.

American companies should not be enriching a brutal, Communist dictatorship 90 miles from our shores. If we want what is best for the Cuban people and in the best interest of the United States, we should keep the embargo in place—until Cuba is finally free.”


Marco Rubio, “Should the U.S. Lift the Embargo on Cuba?,”, Dec. 12, 2022

Pro 2

Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, stated:

“Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes. This Administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”


Steven Mnuchin, “Treasury and Commerce Implement Changes to Cuba Sanctions Rules,”, June 4, 2019

Pro 3

Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, stated:

“[J]ust as we did in regard to moving our embassy to Jerusalem, the true capital of Israel, or designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for what it is, a terrorist organization, the Trump administration recognizes reality. We see clearly that the [Cuban] regime’s repression of its own people and its unrepentant exportation of tyranny in the region has only gotten worse because dictators perceive appeasement as weakness, not strength.

President Obama’s administration’s game of footsy with the Castros’ junta did not deter the regime from continuing to harass and oppress the heroic Ladies in White, a group of women dedicated to peacefully protesting the regime’s human rights abuses.

More broadly, the regime continues to deprive its own people of the fundamental freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. Indeed, according to NGO reports, Cuban thugs made more than 2,800 arbitrary arrests in 2018 alone. In the run-up to the country’s recent sham constitutional referendum, one that enshrined the Communist Party as the only legal political party in Cuba, the regime harassed, beat, and detained leaders and – opposition leaders and activists. Three hundred and ten people were arbitrarily detained according to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Cuba’s behavior in the Western Hemisphere undermines the security and stability of countries throughout the region, which directly threatens United States national security interests. The Cuban regime has for years exported its tactics of intimidation, repression, and violence. They’ve exported this to Venezuela in direct support of the former Maduro regime. Cuban military intelligence and state security services today keep Maduro in power.

Sadly, Cuba’s most prominent export these days is not cigars or rum; it’s oppression.”


Mike Pompeo, remarks to the press,, Apr. 17, 2019

Pro 4

John Bolton, Trump administration U.S. National Security Advisor, stated:

“In June of 2017, President Trump announced the cancellation of the horrible, misguided deal the Obama administration struck with the dictatorship in Havana.

Under our new policy, National Security Presidential Memorandum-5, we are enforcing all sanctions transparently, aggressively, and effectively. We are supporting the Cuban people by promoting freedom of assembly and expression, and we are steering American dollars away from Cuba’s military, security, or intelligence services—the main instruments of the Cuban regime’s repression.

As you know, the President’s 2017 policy announcement was only the beginning. Since then, we have imposed even further sanctions, tightened restrictions, and scaled back U.S. personnel at Embassy Havana in response to the vicious attacks on American diplomats.

From now on, no regime will target American citizens with impunity.

Under this administration, we don’t throw dictators lifelines. We take them away. “


John Bolton, speech to the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association Brigade 2506,, Apr. 2019

Pro 5

Michele J. Sison, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, stated:

“The United States believes the people of Cuba deserve a stable, prosperous, and democratic country. We strongly support their right to freely determine their own future. It is the Cuban government – and not the United States – that continues to deprive the Cuban people of this aspiration. Our sanctions against Cuba are just one part of our overall effort to help all in Cuba freely exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms and choose their own destiny. For that reason, we vote ‘No’ and strongly oppose this resolution [to end the US embargo on Cuba].

The Cuban government continues to isolate the Cuban people while disingenuously blaming the embargo. In fact, Cuba currently has one of the most restrictive economies in the world as a direct result of its government’s policies. Irrespective of U.S. policy, the Cuban economy will not thrive until the Cuban government allows a free labor market, fully empowers Cuban entrepreneurs, respects intellectual property rights, allows unfettered access to information via the Internet, opens its state monopolies to private competition, and adopts sound macro-economic policies.

The United States remains a deep and abiding friend of the Cuban people. Our policy emphasizes advancing human rights and democracy on the island, while ensuring that our engagement benefits the Cuban people – and not their dictatorial regime. Our policy focuses on engagement with the Cuban people to give them the support and tools they need to move forward, independent of the obstacles imposed by their own government.”


Michele J. Sison, “Explanation of Vote at a UN General Assembly Meeting on the Cuba Embargo,”, Nov. 1, 2017

Pro 6

Nikki Haley, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, stated:

“The Castro dictatorship denies the Cuban people the most basic human rights and freedoms. Uncooperative journalists and opponents of the regime are arrested and even killed. The Cuban economy is rigged in favor of the ruling elite. The Cuban government has the absolute authority to restrict travel inside Cuba and to determine who gets to leave…

The unfortunate thing is not that the United States was left, once again, standing virtually alone on behalf of human dignity at the United Nations [during the annual vote for the US to end the embargo]. To the contrary. We are proud to buck the mob when it comes to the principles we believe in.

The really unfortunate result of this UN charade is that the Cuban people were once again abandoned by an organization that is supposed to advocate for human rights.

Thankfully, the United Nations does not have the power to end the United States embargo. That power belongs exclusively to Congress and the American people…

In the absence of a world message of support, the United States reiterates its message to the people of Cuba: We will continue to stand with you until the day comes when we can stand together as free peoples in our shared neighborhood.”

Nov. 2, 2018 -

Nikki Haley, “Hayley: The UN General Assembly’s Shameful Support of Cuba,”, Nov. 2, 2018

Pro 7

Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, stated:

“Last year, I pledged to be a voice against oppression, and here I am like I promised. Now that I am your president … We will stand with the Cuban people in the struggle for freedom… Effective immediately, I am cancelling the last government’s one-sided deal with Cuba. We won’t lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners and freed … until free and internationally recognized elections are held.”


Donald Trump, June 16, 2017 Miami rally,, June 16, 2017

Pro 8

Mauricio Claver-Carone, Director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, stated:

“Just as the U.S. Congress focused sanctions on Iran’s petroleum-refining capability, which is that country’s foremost source of income, the United States has sanctions against tourism transactions in Cuba to prevent an exponential increase in funds directly to Castro regime’s repressive machinery…

Current U.S. policy toward Cuba has not failed. In order to label a policy as a failure, there needs to be evidence of the success, or likely success, of alternatives.

The fact is that decades of Canadian and European tourism to Cuba — with over three million visitors per year — has not eased the Castro regime’s repression, improved its respect for basic human rights or helped Cuba’s civil society gain any democratic space. To the contrary, it has increased repression and stabilized Castro’s regime…
For Cubans, the consequence of lifting restrictions on U.S. tourism is more repression; for the United States, it’s having financed that repression.”


Mauricio Claver-Carone, “Stick to the Facts on the Cuba Travel Ban,”, May 18, 2016

Pro 9

Daisy B. Peñaloza, a preschool teacher who left Cuba on a U.S.-sponsored Freedom Flight in 1967, stated:

“Clamors for the embargo’s lifting persist despite the fulfillment of dissident and exile warnings that diplomatic recognition of the Castro regime would strengthen the oppressors and crush popular dissent. The removal of what little trade sanctions remain is legally and morally unjustified…

The oft-repeated rhetoric that the embargo has ‘exacerbated the hardships’ of the Cuban people is untrue. The Castros’ totalitarian system of governance, which has created economic, sociopolitical and spiritual impoverishment, is the veritable culprit, not the embargo. Fifty-five years of global trade with Cuba refutes allegations of enforced isolation. Given Castro’s propensity to default on loans, the embargo has actually saved U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars by denying the corrupt regime easy credit.”


Daisy B. Peñaloza, “My View: The U.S. Should Keep the Cuba Embargo in Place,”, Jan. 29, 2016

CON (no)

Con 1

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) stated:

“The U.S. embargo against Cuba has failed. It has neither facilitated regime change, nor advanced any notable improvements in human rights, democracy or economic freedom in Cuba. Instead, the embargo has limited the U.S. government’s ability to advocate for U.S. interests in Cuba, stifled opportunities for American businesses, farmers and ranchers, and hurt both Americans and Cubans in Cuba….

To be clear, we continue to have serious concerns about the Cuban government’s repression of peaceful, pro-democracy advocacy. We strongly support your Administration’s efforts to hold the Cuban government accountable for violations of human rights, civil rights and worker rights, including forced labor. That said, unilateral sanctions have not brought about democratic change. In contrast, they have arguably strengthened the Cuban government’s hand by acting as a readily available scapegoat for the Cuban government’s own political and economic failures. We believe that the thoughtful, targeted lifting of restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba would facilitate
the development of a thriving private sector and increase the pressure on Cuba’s leaders to be more responsive to the Cuban people, while also increasing U.S. influence on the island.”


Ron Wyden, Cynthia M. Lummis, and Chris Van Hollen, Letter to President Biden,, Mar. 15, 2023

Con 2

Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, stated:

“The blockade causes incalculable humanitarian damages. It is a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of human rights and qualifies as an act of genocide under Articles 2 (b) and (c) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. There is not a single Cuban family that has not endured its consequences…

The US government does not have the least moral authority to criticize Cuba or any other country when it comes to human rights. We reject the reiterated manipulation of human rights with political purposes as well as the double standards that characterize it.

The United States is a country where human rights are violated in a systematic –and many a time flagrant- way… The US is a party to only 30 per cent of the human rights instruments and does not recognize the right to life, peace, development, security, food or the rights of boys and girls.”


Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, “Statement by H.E. Mr. Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, on Agenda Item 39, ‘Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade Imposed by the United States of America Against Cuba’. New York, November 7, 2019,”, Nov. 7, 2019

Con 3

Kevin J Fandl, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Strategic Global Management at Temple University, stated:

“U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba have been in place for nearly seven decades. The stated intent of those sanctions—to restore democracy and freedom to Cuba—is still used as a justification for maintaining harsh restrictions, despite the fact that the Castro regime remains in power with widespread Cuban public support. Starving the Cuban people of economic opportunities under the shadow of sanctions has significantly limited entrepreneurship and economic development on the island, despite a highly educated and motivated population. The would-be political reformers and leaders on the island emigrate, thanks to generous U.S. immigration policies toward Cubans, leaving behind the Castro regime and its ardent supporters. Real change on the island will come only if the United States allows Cuba to restart its economic engine and reengage with global markets. Though not a guarantee of political reform, economic development is correlated with demand for political change, giving the economic development approach more potential than failed economic sanctions… I argue that Cuba has survived in spite of the U.S. economic embargo and that dismantling the embargo in favor of open trade policies would improve the likelihood of Cuba becoming a market-friendly communist country like China. I present the avenues available today for trade with Cuba under the shadow of the economic embargo, and I argue that real political change will require a leap of faith by the United States through removal of the embargo and support for Cuba’s economic development.”


Kevin J Fandl, “Trading with the Enemy: Opening the Door to U.S. Investment in Cuba,” Georgetown Journal of International Law,, 2018

Con 4

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, stated:

“It has been 60 years since Fidel Castro marched into Havana, so it’s time for both Cuba and the United States to grow up. Let’s let Cuba be a normal country again.

Cuba is neither the demonic tyranny conjured by some conservatives nor the heroic worker paradise romanticized by some on the left. It’s simply a tired little country, no threat to anyone, with impressive health care and education but a repressive police state and a dysfunctional economy.

Driving in from the airport, I saw billboards denouncing the American economic embargo as the “longest genocide in history.” That’s ridiculous. But the embargo itself is also absurd and counterproductive, accomplishing nothing but hurting the Cuban people — whom we supposedly aim to help.

After six decades, can’t we move on? Let’s drop the embargo but continue to push Havana on improving human rights, and on dropping support for other oppressive regimes, like those in Venezuela and Nicaragua.”


Nicholas Kristof, “The Embargo on Cuba Failed. Let’s Move On.,”, Jan. 23, 2019

Con 5

Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator (D-VT), stated:

“Decades after the end of the Cold War we continue to impose punitive sanctions against Cuba, a tiny island neighbor that poses no threat to us. After more than half a century, the embargo has achieved none of its objectives. President Obama took a courageous and pragmatic step in opening diplomatic relations with Cuba, but President Trump has reinstated the failed isolationist policy of the past. It is up to Congress to end the embargo, which is used by the Cuban government to justify its repressive policies, and by foreign companies to avoid competing with U.S. businesses that are shut out of the Cuban market. Lifting the embargo will put more food on the plates of the Cuban people, allow them to access quality U.S. products, and encourage reforms in Cuba’s economy, all while benefiting American companies.”


Patrick Leahy, “Klobuchar, Enzi, Leahy Introduce Major Legislation to Lift Cuba Trade Embargo,”, Feb. 8, 2019

Con 6

Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator (D-MI), stated:

“Instead of looking to the future, U.S.-Cuba policy has been defined for far too long by conflicts of the past. Cuba is an island of 11 million people, just 90 miles from our border—lifting the trade embargo will open the door to a huge export market, create jobs here at home, and support both the American and Cuban economies. Our bipartisan legislation will finally turn the page on the failed policy of isolation and build on the progress we have made to open up engagement with Cuba by ending the embargo once and for all.”


Patrick Leahy, “Klobuchar, Enzi, Leahy Introduce Major Legislation to Lift Cuba Trade Embargo,”, Feb. 8, 2019

Con 7

Vicki Huddleston, retired Ambassador to Mali and Madagascar, stated:

“President Trump has reversed many of President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, citing the country’s poor human rights record and lack of democracy. A number of the business and travel restrictions that were loosened in 2014 and 2015 have been reinstated, the consular section has closed, and the new American Embassy in Havana has been reduced to 10 diplomats. Conservatives in the U.S. now seem intent on continuing, even strengthening, the trade embargo on Cuba and tightening American travel to the island even further.

This is wrongheaded. The 50-year trade embargo against Cuba has failed. It has not influenced the country’s leadership to change its communist government or to improve human rights on the island.

Quite the opposite is true: When the U.S. tightens its stranglehold on Cuba, the Cuban government slows reforms and restricts dissent. Ever since Trump announced his decision to reverse Obama’s U.S.-Cuba thaw, Castro has halted necessary economic changes…

The U.S. should also remove all sanctions that harm the Cuban people and opt instead for targeted sanctions, which can be levied against individuals for specific abuses, or particular policies. Under the embargo, all Cubans are punished. It’s a blunt weapon, not a precision instrument.

Nowhere else in the world does the U.S. maintain a unilateral embargo; not even against rogue nations like Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its own people, or North Korea, which threatens to make use of its nuclear program.”


Vicki Huddleston, “Op-Ed: As Castro Era Ends in Cuba, so Should the U.S. Embargo,”, Apr. 19, 2018

Con 8

Hanan Saab, Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations of the Association of American Universities, stated:

“While President Obama’s administrative measures and bold leadership have heralded a new era of U.S.-Cuba relations, long-term, meaningful ties will only be sustained by changing existing laws, which requires action from the U.S. Congress. Despite the progress of the past two years, the 50-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba remains law and makes facilitating meaningful educational exchanges unnecessarily difficult. Though the president has relaxed restrictions, he can only do so within the bounds of current law. Should the next president have differing views on U.S.-Cuba engagement, he or she can still undo all of the progress that’s been made to date.

If we are to fully and effectively engage with our neighbor a mere 90 miles from our shore, Congress must pass bills codifying the president’s efforts to permanently lift the remaining travel and trade restrictions with Cuba.”


Hanan Saab, “Why Ending the U.S. Embargo and Travel Ban on Cuba Matters,”, Jan. 25, 2017

Con 9

Joy Gordon, professor of Social Ethics at Loyola University Chicago, stated:

“In the American imagination, the embargo serves mostly to deny us access to Cohibas and Havana Club rum, but its damage to the Cuban people has been, and continues to be, pervasive and profound. It affects their access to everything from electricity to video games to shoes. It has prevented Cubans from buying medical supplies from American companies, from buying pesticides and fertilizer, from purchasing Microsoft Word or downloading Adobe Acrobat. It has restricted how much money Cuban Americans can send to their families on the island…

‘This is a new day — es un nuevo día — between our two countries,’ President Obama announced in March to journalists assembled at the Plaza de la Revolución. But for all the improvements in U.S.–Cuban relations over the past two years, that new day will not really come until the embargo is lifted in its entirety.

Certainly the embargo has left deep scars. It has continued for more than half a century, doing its worst damage at times when Cubans were at their most vulnerable, with aggressive enforcement that in critical ways continues to this day.”


Joy Gordon, “El Bloqueo,” The Atlantic, July 2016