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In 2013, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Cuba with my partner and two friends. The Obama administration had relaxed restrictions on travel, and we visited as part of a people-to-people program. Our group flew to Miami, then boarded an American Airlines charter jet that brought us in less than an hour to Jose Marti airport in Havana. Many of our fellow passengers were a Cubans carrying large packages of appliances and other hard-to-get goods to their relatives in Cuba.
We traveled with our travel agent, a native Cuban who had fled the island as a child in 1960 (part of the so-called ”Peter Pan” exodus of Cuban children) and was now an American citizen living in New York City. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the center of Havana, where there were few Americans but many European and South American tourists. We visited museums, the homes of artists, and wonderful small restaurants. The Cuban people we met were friendly, welcoming and looking forward to better times, when the decades-long embargo would finally end. My overall impression was that the embargo had impoverished Cuba and cemented the Castro regime, and that the end of the embargo would stimulate small businesses and breathe life into a stagnant economy. In other words, our policy goals for Cuba—to end the dictatorship and revive a market economy—had utterly failed, but would be advanced by ending the embargo.
Cuba is a beautiful and very poor nation. We were lucky to have gone when we did, because Trump has reversed the limited lifting of the embargo by the Obama administration and made the embargo as punitive as possible.
Commonweal published an article By a Cuban scholar describing the effects of the renewed sanctions. Its main effect seems to be further impoverishing the Cuban people. Trump was pandering to Republican Cuban voters in Florida.
After 60 years of embargo and sanctions, don’t you think that it would be clear by now that the punishment has failed to achieve its aim of regime change and serves only to hurt the Cuban people? If we really wanted to free Cuba, we would open relations and encourage commerce and tourism, as we did with Vietnam and Cambodia, which now have booming economies, or did have before the pandemic.