The Modesto Bee
Posted on Fri, Aug. 17, 2007
Almost every year, the U.S. trade and travel embargo against Cuba comes before Congress. Every time it does, efforts to reverse the failed policy, now nearly a half-century old, are defeated.
Why? Because a small group of Cuban Americans in south Florida has inordinate sway over U.S. policy.
Still, there was hope the new majority in Congress would change the dynamic — especially since Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is aging and ill. By engaging in people-to-people exchanges and trade, the United States could have a positive impact on Cuba's transition to a new regime.
It's long past time to try something different. The U.S. embargo has done nothing to weaken the Castro regime or to improve conditions for the Cuban people. All it has done is harden the hearts of many Cubans — some of our closest neighbors — toward America.
It happened again this year. On July 27, 66 Democrats voted with179 Republicans to defeat an amendment that would have made it easier for U.S. farmers to sell agricultural goods to Cuba. Goods such as almonds, wine and cheese.
The vote was 182-245 against the amendment.
This small island poses no threat to the United States. The Cold War, in which Cuba was a battleground, has been over for about 20 years.
We allow Americans to travel to Iran, a member of the so-called Axis of Evil, but not to Cuba. We trade with China and countless other countries with terrible human rights records in the justified hope that this exchange will bring change. The embargo has only made Castro more popular and has given his repressive regime a convenient scapegoat to blame for all of Cuba's many problems.
We've all heard the tongue-in-cheek definition of psychosis: Doing the same repeatedly and expecting a different result. So why not try something new after 46 years? Embrace trade, don't embargo it.
A Florida International University poll found that 74 percent of Cuban Americans in Miami believe the U.S. embargo against Cuba has not worked. Yet the Democratic-controlled Congress, claiming a "New Direction," remains fixed on the old course. The wrong course.