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Debunking the Myths of US-Cuba Policy

By: Jaime Suchlicki - Jun 17, 2014, 3:35 pm

Español Myth #1: Ending the US embargo of Cuba removes Castro’s excuses for his own failures.

1) The embargo is not the cause of Cuba’s problems. A failed economic system that does not encourage productivity and creativity is the source of the problem. Like Eastern European economies under communism, Cuba’s economic disaster has to do with the system, not US policy.

2) If the embargo is ended, the Castro brothers will continue to claim that the United States owes Cuba $US40-50 billion for the damages caused by the embargo. If the United States pays Cuba the $40-50 billion, Castro will claim damages for the US occupation of Cuba (1899-1902), and on and on.

3) Most Cubans do not believe that the embargo is the cause of their economic problems. Instead of repeating this falsehood, US policymakers should attempt to convince Cubans otherwise.

Myth #2: Ending the US embargo will improve relations between the United States and Latin America.

1) Cuba is not the main issue dividing Latin America and the United States. Drugs, migration, intellectual property, and ideological differences regarding Venezuela are higher up on the Latin-American agenda.

2) Ending the embargo unilaterally will do little to solve the problems mentioned above and will create new ones. A large influx of US tourists to Cuba will have a dislocating effect on the economies of smaller Caribbean islands; it will contradict US policy in Latin America, which has emphasized democracy and human rights for the past four decades; and it will accept a military dictatorship in Cuba and condemn Cubans to many more years of repression and misery.

3) Ending the embargo unilaterally will do little to change the Castro brothers’ anti-Americanism and their support for Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and terrorist groups throughout the world. General Raúl Castro is unwilling to renounce these ties in exchange for an uncertain relationship with the United States.

The periodic public statements that General Raúl Castro has made about wanting negotiations with the United States are politically motivated and directed at North American and European audiences. In particular, Castro believes that the “correlation of forces” in the United States are such that Congress may lift the travel ban and end the embargo unilaterally, without Cuba having to make any concessions.

Serious overtures for negotiations are usually not issued from the plaza; they are carried out through normal diplomatic avenues open to the Cubans. These avenues have never been closed, as evidenced by the migration accord and the anti-hijacking agreement between the United States and Cuba. In the past, both Democratic and Republican administrations have had conversations with Cuban officials and made serious overtures for normalization, only to be rebuffed.

The issue is not about negotiations or talks. There has to be a willingness on the part of the Cuban leadership to offer real concessions in the area of human rights, political and economic openings, as well as cooperation on anti-terrorism and drug interdiction for the United States to change its policies.

The United States, like many other countries, does not give away major policies without a substantial quid pro quo. Only when Castro is willing to offer meaningful concessions not only to the United States, but more importantly to the Cuban people, then and only then should the United States change its policies.