Trading with Cuba
Alabama can make more economic hay if policies are changed
Friday, December 22, 2006
It's a reiteration, not a change of philosophy. And it doesn't carry the
same clout it would if he were destined to head the state Senate again.
Nevertheless, it's commendable and important for state Sen. Lowell
Barron, D-Fyffe, to urge the United States to reconsider its trade
policy with Cuba.
Barron was part of a state delegation that recently returned from the
island nation. It's one of his last acts as president pro tem of the
Senate, a position he won't seek again because he doesn't have the votes
But it's not just his lame-duck status that has given Barron the courage
to suggest a U.S. policy change that not all will welcome. Earlier this
year, the Alabama Legislature adopted a resolution urging Congress to
lift economic sanctions against Cuba. Gov. Bob Riley vetoed it, too late
in the session for the Legislature to try to override the veto.
But it's not the Legislature that deserves most of the credit or blame
for Alabama's Cuban connection. That goes to Agriculture Secretary Ron
Sparks, who was also part of the latest delegation to the island, and a
tireless worker in behalf of Alabama's agribusiness interests there.
In the last two trips, Sparks says, Alabama has received $30 million in
trade commitments. In 2005, Cuba bought $140 million worth of stuff from
Alabama, which translated into a $400 million boon for the state. In
2006, Cuba will have bought almost two-thirds of its U.S. purchases from
Alabama. And this was during a year when drought was devouring this
state's agricultural industry.
But, wait: Doesn't the United States forbid trade with Cuba? Yes, for
everything but food and medicine. It's Barron's contention that this
quasi-embargo makes no sense. And with Alabama's inroads in the Cuban
economy, our businesses and industry stand to benefit greatly from
Here are some other reasons for reconsidering the sanctions:
They aren't working. Other countries are trading with Cuba. They are
reaping the economic benefits. We're cutting off our noses to spite our
faces by keeping the embargo in place.
Cuba is about to undergo a major transition. Whether or not he's on his
death bed, Fidel Castro's days obviously are drastically numbered. And
when charismatic leaders pass away, countries change. Alabama is poised
to benefit from that change.
Surely we have learned by now that we can't impose our way of government
on other nations. We have to take them somewhat as they are. Talking to
them, interacting with them and, especially, trading with them is a more
productive program than isolating them – particularly if they don't pose
national harm to us, as Cuba doesn't.
Not everyone will agree with that assessment, which makes Sparks'
leadership, and Barron's support, all that more courageous.
Lifting the embargo needs to be examined in terms of practicality and
potential. When that's done, the politics of Cuba may not be a deal-breaker.
By David Prather, for the editorial board. E-mail: email@example.com