Unencumbered by any further elections, President Obama took a big step forward on Cuba policy today. This policy change may hurt Democrats in Florida but will help the nation economically.
Regardless of your views of the Castro regime and economic sanctions in general it takes either a brave person or someone blinded by ideology to actually claim the Cuban embargo enacted in 1961 unilaterally by the United States has been successful. All it has served to do is allow the Castro brothers to use the United States as the bogeyman in their country for all that goes wrong and all the inadequacies of the communist dictatorship.
Many Cuban-Americans in Miami love Ronald Reagan but his policies produced the same results as Democrats they disliked such as Jimmy Carter and John Kennedy. No change in Castro’s policies, though Castro himself helped Reagan get elected by releasing pressure on his economy in the form of the mariel boatlift.
It’s about time a prominent Florida politician spoke out so openly about the madness of the embargo. Economic sanctions in general do not work. History has shown that. They especially do not work when they are applied unilaterally as the vast majority of sanctions related to Cuba have been. While the rest of the west trades with Cuba and vacations on her beaches (providing competition for Florida) we shut ourselves out of this (denying Florida businesses a nearby captive market) until today.
The US sanctions against Cuba have been long viewed as a joke in western Europe, and arguably have done little over a half century to modify the behavior of the Cuban regime. Since President Clinton signed the embarrassingly onerous Helms-Burton law in 1996 which among other things aggressively sought an international embargo against Cuba, trade between Western Europe and the Communist regime in Havana has more than doubled according to the Financial Times.
The Helms-Burton bill was signed after Castro’s military shot down a “Hermanos al Rescate” plane that had wandered close or into Cuban airspace (depending on the account) in 1996. At the time Florida politicians rushed to make this into a national crisis. One ambitious Florida Republican, Joe Scarborough now of MSNBC led the charge on the House floor as did several Democrats from the state. Clinton looking to win Florida in his reelection bid signed the bill knowing it seems that it was dangerously bad policy and suspending Title III of the bill, which is one of the most impractical provisions to EVER make it into the law of the land.
Title III creates a private cause of action and authorizes U.S. nationals with claims to confiscated property in Cuba to file suit in U.S. courts against persons that may be “trafficking” in that property. The Act grants the President the authority to suspend the lawsuit provisions for periods of 6 months if it is necessary to the national interest of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba
Three examples I have listed below show how Helms-Burton alienated our allies, first the U.K. our most important ally on the planet second Mexico our neighbor to the south, and third Canada our neighbor to the north.
The United Kingdom had previous to Helms-Burton introduced provisions by statutory instrument extending its Protection of Trading Interests Act 1980 to United States rules on trade with Cuba. U.K. law was later extended to counter-act the Helms–Burton Act as well. This included criminal sanctions for complying with certain provisions of the Helms–Burton Act whilst in the UK.
Mexico passed a law in October 1996 aimed at neutralizing the Helms–Burton Act. The law provides for a fine of 2.2 million pesos, or $300,000, against anyone who while in Mexican territory obeys another country’s laws aimed at reducing Mexican trade or foreign investment in a third country.
Canada passed a law to counteract the effect of Helms-Burton. In addition, it was proposed to amend the Godfrey-Milliken Bill that satirized Burton-Helms in reaction to Title III. Should Title III ever be activated of the bill, this legislation could fly through Parliament.
Calling this long-standing policy insane is an understatement. It somehow prior to today survived more than a half century of failure. It’s long been a time for a change though Charlie Crist’s misstep on this earlier in the year potentially cost him votes in Miami-Dade county.
What ever the political cost for Democrats in Florida, today President Obama put the nation’s interest above that of political consideration and for that he should be applauded!