United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Monday, October 26, 2009

UN General Assembly Report on the U.S. Embargo on Cuba

There is a good op-ed in The Huffington Post
You can download the actual UN report below. It is a powerful statement from the world community. The issue is whether we are going to listen to the world community after 18 times. Will reason prevail over arrogance? President Obama inherited this embargo from his predecessors and then unfortunately made it his own when he extended it under the Trading With The Enemy Act last month. Whatever we do not like about Cuba's leaders or its government, the embargo is not the leverage we think it is. It continues to do one thing -- harm both the Cuban people and the American people. It also feeds the very authoritarianism we object to. Yet somehow, the political miscalculation is that the embargo community will determine which way Florida goes in a Presidential election. Mr. President, you did not need this interest group to win Florida in 2008 and you will not need them in 2012. Heck, they are mad you allowed Cuban Americans to come and go and freely visit their relatives now in Cuba and that you would even consider speaking with the Cuban government. Real diplomacy and the national interests demand that you do. And to Members of Congress who get checks from the embargo club -- how on earth can you face your constituents and tell them with any intellectual honesty you believe that the embargo works in America's interests and that travel restrictions on our own people help bring democracy to the Cuban people? Nothing could be more counter-intuitive or further from the truth. That the embargo crowd recognized that money greases the political wheels - yes it does. Often too much so and against the best interests of our country or even the will of the majority of the people. The embargo would be over yesterday if it were put to a public referendum. But our Constitution says the President determines the foreign policy of the country in consultation with the Congress. Isn't it time to represent the people and not special interests?The news wires reported that the President sent a message to Cuba via the Spanish government, whose foreign minister recently visited Cuba. Why was this even leaked out to the media?
"Have (Moratinos) tell the Cuban authorities we understand that change can't happen overnight, but down the road, when we look back at this time, it should be clear that now is when those changes began," Obama told Zapatero, according to diplomatic sources quoted by El Pais. "We're taking steps, but if they don't take steps, its going to be very hard for us to continue," Obama said.
Mr. President, the steps we have taken merely corrected an injustice done upon Cuban Americans with family in Cuba. Allowing U.S. telecommunications or any business to proceed in Cuba does not matter as long as Cuba stays on the Terror list of countries. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act applies and the Cubans have stated publicly they will not do business with us in an uncertain and legally predatory environment. I agree with you that Cuba does need to take steps. But it will probably only do so in an environment that is conducive to productive negotiations. However, the quid pro quo conditionality approach to negotiations does not work. There is a saying that flowers will grow in a garden, not in a desert. And our embargo and travel restrictions have helped make a desert out of our potential to achieve any real progress with Cuba. You have a host of options to exercise, without Congressional approval. The GAO report issued in September is a checklist. Use them Mr. President. Meet with and listen to the Cuban American majority who want the travel restrictions lifted for all Americans. Hear the voices of the majority of America that want our reputation and credibility restored in the world. While only Congress has the authority to legally end the embargo, you have the ability and leadership now to lay the foundation for the embargo's dissolution. The majority will give you and every other politician something more important than a campaign check, they will give you their vote. -TM

UN General Assembly Report on the U.S. Embargo on Cuba, To view the document and to download