CNN.com – Senate votes to end Cuba travel ban – Oct. 23, 2003. Well, that ought to get the folks in Little Havana excited. But maybe not as excited as it would have a few years ago.
There is a pervasive myth that the US embargo of Cuba weakens the Castro dictatorship. I believe it strengthens it. I wish our Cuba policy were like our Poland policy during the regime of the evil General Wojciech Jaruzelski. At that time, and before, the US policy—spurred by the Polish-American lobby who wished to enrich rather than impoverish their families—was to encourage two-way cultural exchanges, and lend Poland lots of money to buy our goods. The combination was devastating to the Communists. When people saw what life was like on the other side of the Iron curtain they got, well, bolshi. US engagement helped create the conditions for Solidarity's victories. Conversely, embargo entrenches the dictatorship, by creating a foreign scapegoat for the nation's dismal economy. Viewed as an act of neighborly hostility, the embargo is invoked to justify repression.
Thus, I want to scream when I read,
Opponents warned that the provision sent a wrong signal at a time when the Castro regime has escalated its crackdown on dissidents. “Why should we now open up travel to Cuba to give additional cash flow to the Castro regime?” asked Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
No. No. It's not a “signal”. It's a policy. And the reason you live with whatever short run benefits might enure to a Communist regime — even when it's misbehaving — is that 40 years of your policy has produced nothing good. Meanwhile, doing the opposite in Europe brought down the entire Warsaw Pact.
It's true that for many years local passions in Miami ran so deep that local leaders and rank-and-file were basically (my Cuban secretary will not like me saying this…) irrational on the subject of the embargo. It was about honor, revenge, divorce, it was personal. There's still some of that feeling in Miami today, but my sense is that it is not as unthinking as it once was. The community is no longer monolithic, and even some of the supporters are not as passionate.
Of course, there's still the passionate opposition of US sugar beet farmers, who don't want to compete with Cuba in the sole industry in which it has any comparative advantage…
Expect a Bush veto.