Some recent letters have appeared in The Chronicle that criticize the Editorial Board's support for ending the U.S. embargo against Cuba. These letters reflect how many in the United States do not understand our own government's policies toward Cuba, nor do they understand what contemporary life is like on the island. In the June 27 issue, J. Edgar Williams wrote, "The U.S. embargo... has not affected Cuba's ability to trade with the rest of the world." To the contrary, the "Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act," the 1996 legislation that details the specific provisions of the U.S. embargo, penalizes all nations that trade with Cuba by disallowing ships to port in the United States for six months after they have visited any Cuban port.
Additionally, the act allows the United States to enact economic sanctions against countries that trade with Cuba. Both of these policies starve the small island nation of billions of dollars in potential revenue. As we speak, President George W. Bush pressures Mexican President Vicente Fox and other Latin American leaders to cut economic ties with Cuba in exchange for closer trade relations with the United States.
I am disturbed by the dichotomist options that the current debate has left us with, forcing us to decide whether the United States should: a) maintain the embargo or b) lift the embargo and allow Cubans to experience the "wonders" of free market capitalism. Cuba needs neither. Contrary to the dictates of our country's power-brokers, capitalism does not work for everyone.
Cubans in Cuba have chosen a socialist economy, and they should not be punished or patronized for that decision. Indeed, it is a tough lesson to learn that we in the United States do not know what is right for all the world's inhabitants.
I am not an apologist for the Cuban revolutionary government. I simply ask that we learn more about how things really work before judging a people and their right to self-determination. We can begin this process by respecting Cuba as an autonomous nation and lifting the unjust embargo.