Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Cuban embargo and defending U.S. property rights


Libertarians hold that the fundamental reason for the existence of

governments is to protect life, liberty, and property. These are the

principles articulated by John Locke in the 17th Century, the principal

architect of liberal thought who deeply influenced our own Declaration

of Independence.

Within a democratic realm, citizens are expected to rely on our domestic

institutions for the protection of these rights. For instance, an

independent judiciary is essential for the resolution of property claims

and other matters. But what is a citizen to do when his property rights

are violated by a foreign totalitarian regime where no recourse to the

rule of law is available?

It would seem that, when a U.S. citizen's property is expropriated by a

foreign country, the property rights principle, so dear to libertarians,

would take center stage. And yet, paradoxically, libertarian thinkers

often argue against economic sanctions with nary a word about property


They argue that unilateral economic sanctions do not work, and that

individuals should be free to invest as they choose and undertake the

risk of their investments. Agreed, but that leaves open the question as

to how a government should protect its citizens' property rights when a

foreign government capriciously and arbitrarily changes the rules of the


U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba are a case in point. The sanctions

were first authorized in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy issued an

executive order in response to the Cuban government's expropriation

without compensation of American assets, an issue that remains unresolved.

It is valid to state that the sanctions have failed to change the course

or nature of the Cuban government, but the failure argument is

peculiarly offered in a form of isolated reverse logic. It is also valid

and necessary to point out that the alternative policy pursued by the

international community of engaging with the Cuban government has also

failed to change the nature of that regime.

Currently over 190 nations engage economically and politically with Cuba

while the United States remains alone in enforcing its economic

sanctions policy. If indeed U.S. policy is deemed as one case of failure

to change the nature of the Cuban government, there are 190 cases of

failure on the same grounds. By a preponderance of evidence (190 to 1)

the case can be made that engagement with that regime has been a dismal


Fifty years ago President Kennedy sent a reasonable message to the

international community that governments that choose to expropriate the

properties of U. S. citizens need to compensate them. Governments that

choose to simply steal the properties of U. S. citizens should expect

some form of retaliation from the U.S. government.

That message remains valid today as an expression of a government's duty

to protect the property rights of its citizenry in foreign countries

where the rule of law does not prevail. It is one thing to argue, as

those of us that value personal freedoms do, that investors should be

free to invest and accept all the risks of their decisions when the

rules of the game are known in advance and where the rule of law

prevails. It is a different situation when the rules are changed after

the fact, as the Cuban government did, and where no legal recourse is


Investors in communist countries cannot expect their government's

protection; they know in advance what they are getting into. The maxim

"investors beware" is fully in place. Karl Marx makes clear in The

Communist Manifesto that "the theory of the Communists may be summed up

in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."

Independently of their usefulness, the use of economic sanctions as a

foreign policy tool is neither new nor particularly American. Pericles'

decree banning the Megarians from the Athenian market and ports helped

incite the Peloponnesian War in 431 B. C.

Unintended and undesirable consequences are inherent in the use of

economic sanctions. Arguably they should not be used to compel a

democratic transformation or even to advance human rights or other

laudable goals. They seem, however, an appropriate in-kind response to

the economic aggression of another country, such as expropriations

without compensation.

What are the policy alternatives to protect the property rights of a

citizenry when negotiations fail?

José Azel is a senior scholar at the Institute for Cuban and

Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami and the author of the book,

Mañana in Cuba.

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