Maintain trade embargo on Cuba
Monday, April 21, 2008
I enjoyed reading Brian Hicks' recent articles on Cuba and share the
sentiments of most Americans, including Cuban-Americans, who are looking
forward to the time when our former closeness will be re-established.
I share, however, the strong sentiments of many Cuban Americans and
their relatives on the island who continue to support America's
insistence on substantial Cuban civil rights progress before dismantling
the statutes that restrict trade and the free flow of American travelers
with the island.
In making these comments, I write with two decades of involvement in my
prior life as general counsel and secretary of the U.S. Cuba Business
Council, which though now defunct, represented many of our largest U.S.
corporations in Washington on Cuba issues. I also served for nearly 15
years as Washington counsel for the largest U.S. sugar refiner and still
serve as an advisory director on the Miami Medical Team Foundation in
its humanitarian work on the island and elsewhere.
I visited Guantanamo during the height of the internment of thousands
who were desperate to reach our shores and the freedom we offered. I
have witnessed firsthand the devastating injuries these desperate people
inflicted on themselves in the hope that they would be airlifted to the
United States for treatment.
Though this occurred some years ago, nothing will erase those images
from my mind and will not remove my solidarity with them and their
struggle for freedom and a better life for all Cubans.
As revealed by your article, the "U.S. blockade," which Cuba claims
exists, is not a blockade at all. There is virtually a free flow of U.S.
agricultural products and medical assistance, and emergency aid has long
Goods the island needs are freely available from markets around the
world, and to the extent that trade terms can be agreed on, Cuba can get
anything it wants.
Many companies engage in that trade but are careful to look for assured
payment as Cuba is a notorious credit risk. This fact has been long
noted by Canadian companies that found out the hard way when they rushed
to the island in the early 1990s.
Cubans are united only in their thirst for freedom and their misery
under the failed policies of the current tyrannical regime.
I have never understood the romance associated with this regime. Even
today, it systematically targets "pre-unlawful" activity of young people
who are fed up with the repression under which they live. Cuba continues
to brutally and systematically repress dissent in its society. It has
incarcerated many of its citizens for speaking out on their belief in
and desires for democracy and has tortured and starved those who
actively oppose its tyranny. It has made clear that it will resist
departure from the controls of "the special period" with all means at
As for trade, our partner would be this very same state. It will insist
on payment in dollars at par, but it will pay its workers in pesos. As
for wanting thousand of U.S. tourists, I would be greatly surprised if
U.S. tourists would be permitted by Cuba in enough numbers to force Cuba
to come to terms with the reality of its failure.
In sum, though profits in the long run are promising, in the short run,
it should be against our policy to enable with our dollars even one day
more of Cuban tyranny over its people. The restrictions should remain.
ROBERT E. FREER JR.
Robert Freer Jr. is a visiting professor in the School of Business
Administration at The Citadel.