The end of a five-decades-long embargo against Cuba has people buzzing. some are excited to be able to visit finally, and maybe bring back a few cigars and a bottle of Cuban rum. Others, like Congressman Marco Rubio, are incensed, or are at least pretending to be as a matter of political expedience.
The biggest argument against lifting the embargo, spoken most often and loudest from aspiring Republican presidential candidates, is that we’re giving away the proverbial farm and getting nothing in return. In fact it’s been distilled down even further to a “win/lose” false dichotomy, in which we are the losers of the final Cold War conflict, and the Castro family prevails.
To begin with, we have to look beyond the dictatorship and consider that we are also talking about more than 11 million people when we talk about Cuba. And to focus solely on what is gained or lost in the most recent prisoner exchange, or what economic or other strategic benefits we can glean from the lifting of the embargo is more than myopic; it’s insensitive and it discounts the humanity of Cuba’s citizenry.
The Cuban people have paid for five decades for this embargo. They’ve experienced separation from loved ones, as well as economic hardship and political isolation from much of the larger world. They’ve become a proxy for the tensions between us and other communist nations with whom we seem to find a way to do business. To suggest we can transact billions of dollars in commerce with China, while strangling the Cuban economy for having similar policies, is and has been nothing less than hypocrisy.
My hop,e though founded on little more than hope itself, is that Cuba will not become yet another political pawn in the already-mounting presidential circus that will not culminate for another year. Much like in our relations with Mexico, we are too quick to conflate the will and actions of a few political despots or corrupt politicians with the cultural consciousness of its citizenry. And to try to simplify our relationship with one of our closest international neighbors to a win/lose binary is either patently ignorant or egregiously opportunistic.
It’s time to lift the embargo, and to treat our Cuban brothers and sisters like the human beings that they are.