Menendez clings to damaging embargo on Cuba | Editorial

The giant exodus we are witnessing from Cuba is unprecedented, bigger than the last two largest migration waves – the 1980 Mariel boatlift and 1994 rafter crisis – combined. More than 200,000 Cubans have fled to the United States over the last year and a half, mostly across the Mexican border, but also through the Florida Keys in rickety boats.

These people are desperate. The pandemic has hurt Cuba’s tourism industry, a major source of income, but another key factor is U.S. policy. We’ve been tightening our economic restrictions on the island. Our official policy is to choke off Cuba’s revenues and keep it impoverished. It’s immoral, out of proportion to how we treat other countries, and the bottom line is, it’s counterproductive.

et while President Biden has begun to retreat from some of the Trump administration’s hardline policies on Cuba, he’s been slow to act. This is political posturing for voters in Florida, and a powerful New Jersey senator also plays a central role. Biden fears angering the Cuban diaspora and incurring the wrath of Robert Menendez, American University professor and Cuba scholar William LeoGrande recently told the New York Times.

Menendez chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where many of Biden’s nominees must seek confirmation. The senator, who is Cuban American, says the goal is regime change in Cuba, something we haven’t achieved in 60 years. And in the meantime, we are hurting the very people we are ostensibly trying to help. To stay in their country, Cubans need economic opportunity. How can they build an opposition to change the regime when we are debilitating the growth of civil society in Cuba?

We are also depriving the U.S. of the chance to encourage change through engagement. Former President Obama opened the door a crack, restoring diplomatic relations and increasing travel to the island, and it helped. We saw some improvements, like the release of political prisoners, growth in the private sector and Internet access on the island. Yet that period lasted only two years until Trump slammed the door shut. And Biden hasn’t opened it again.

Certainly, the Cuban regime has an awful human rights record, jailing poets and protestors, as we saw in its crackdown on demonstrations last year. Its economic policy is suicidal, stifling the free market. But instead of trying to punish Cuba for specific human rights violations, we have a blanket embargo that’s aimed not at changing any particular policy, but at toppling the regime.

And as we freeze out Cuba on human rights grounds, consider the abuses of America’s allies: Egypt remains the third-biggest recipient of U.S. military aid, despite our State Department annually cataloguing its arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances and torture of prisoners. We trade with Communist China, which imprisons ethnic minorities in internment camps, and Saudi Arabia, which dismembered a journalist with a bone saw.

Our starkly different policy toward Cuba is a relic of the Cold War, a strategy without any real hope of success. The U.S. embargo also offers the regime a scapegoat for its own failings, Human Rights Watch says, “a pretext for its abuses, and a way to garner sympathy abroad with governments that might otherwise have been willing to condemn the country’s repressive practices more vocally.”

On the politics, Biden should focus on what Florida might look like in the future. We saw huge support even in the Cuban American community in Miami for Obama’s more open approach: A poll at the time found 69 percent of Cubans there supported his re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and 63 percent said we should drop the embargo.

The numbers were even higher among younger Cubans. About three-fourths of those between the ages of 18 and 59 oppose the embargo, the Florida International University survey found. So think about it: Our embargo can’t last forever, and hardly anyone is with us. Do we really want to bang our heads against this wall for decades more?

Anuncio publicitario