Michael Edghill proposes a novel but convoluted and factually challenged argument to end the United States’ embargo on Cuba’s Castro regime. Edghill begins his argument by highlighting the oft-repeated advice that the Republican Party needs to do a better job of appealing to Hispanics. I agree completely with this and have written extensively that the natural home for Hispanics is the GOP because of their family values, social conservatism, and entrepreneurialism. But then Mr. Edghill goes off the rails to use this as a justification for changing U.S. policy toward Cuba.
First he attacks the effectiveness of the embargo by stating the obvious — that it has not caused political change in Cuba. But he does not offer any evidence that its absence would cause political change. In fact, Edghill admits that “tourists and business interests from Europe and the rest of the Americas have sustained the Cuban economy.”
It’s important to keep in mind the fact that the Cuban economy is completely dominated by the state; in particular, the tourist sector is controlled by the Cuban Armed Forces, of which Raul Castro has been the head since the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. So how, exactly, would getting rid of the embargo hurt the existing status quo? The obvious answer is that it wouldn’t. In fact, it would provide a financial boon to Cuba’s oppressors.
The embargo has been extremely effective at one thing — preventing the United States from being ripped off by the Castro crime family. It’s worth remembering that the embargo was imposed when the Castros expropriated (that is to say, stole) $1.8 billion in American business assets. The same crooks are still in power, and only their word would assure us that future expropriations wouldn’t occur. Those of us who follow Cuban affairs closely have seen countless announcements of joint ventures with business interests from foreign countries made with much fanfare, but far less publicized are the announcements when the same investors pull out or are pushed out by Castro, Inc.
Protecting Americans from making foolhardy investments in Cuba is one thing, but the people who are truly protected by the embargo are the U.S. taxpayers. The reason why the Castros have made removing the embargo such a priority is that it stands in the way of Cuba getting trade credit. As it stands, the U.S. is one of Cuba’s largest trading partners, selling the country food, agricultural products, and medicine on a cash up-front basis. But the regime desperately wants credit. History is clear that the Castros are a bad credit risk.
The following is from the mission statement of the Export-Import Bank of the United States:
Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders but provides export financing products that fill gaps in trade financing. We assume credit and country risks that the private sector is unable or unwilling to accept.
Castro’s Cuba represents exactly that kind of risk. In practice, removing the embargo would be a subsidy to American farmers and businessmen, and while I hate subsidies of any kind I especially abhor the idea of a subsidy that ultimately benefits a totalitarian regime that currently resides on the State Department’s short list of terrorist states.
As far as the political points to be scored by removing the embargo go, Edghill is wrong. As he states, Cuban-Americans have been among the most stalwart supporters of the Republican Party since 1980. And while it’s true that younger Cuban-Americans aren’t as monolithic, he overstates the defection rate. Some highly suspicious polls, which he cites, had Cuban-Americans barely giving Mitt Romney the nod in 2012. I conducted a precinct-by-precinct analysis of the most Cuban areas in Miami-Dade County and found that while Cuban-American support of the GOP candidate was down vs. 2008, it was only marginally down with more than 6 in 10 Cuban-Americans going for Romney.
Further proof of Cuban-American sentiment toward the embargo is evident in the continual return to office of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, two staunch defenders of the embargo. In fact, there are four Cuban-American congresspersons and three Cuban-American senators (from both parties), and none was elected on a platform that included removing the embargo.
Simply stated, a reversal in stance on the embargo would likely not net a single vote for the GOP and changing the policy would send a signal to the Castro brothers and the world that if you hold out long enough the U.S. can be duped into forgiving and forgetting anything.
One last thought on countries that do business with Cuba. The noted Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez opposes the embargo yet she admitted something in a recent interview with the Cato Institute:
There are governments in the world that prioritize the ability of entrepreneurs from their countries to have businesses and firms in Cuba and so they abstain from criticizing the Cuban government so as to preserve those possibilities, those advantages in the market.
To date, because of the embargo, the United States has not been one of those countries. Instead, we’ve promoted democracy and human rights; we haven’t accepted Cuba’s state of affairs as normal. For this reason alone, the embargo is a worthy endeavor.