Myths About U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

By Dr. Jaime Suchlicki of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies:

Myths About U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

Ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba will take away Castro’s excuses against the U.S. and about his own failures:

1) The embargo is not the cause of Cuba’s problems. A failed economic system that does not encourage productivity and creativity is the cause. Like Eastern European economies under communism, Cuba’s economic disaster has to do with the system, not U.S. policy.

2) If the embargo is ended, the Castro brothers will continue to claim that the U.S. owes Cuba $40-50 billion for the damages caused by the embargo. If the U.S. pays Cuba the $40-50 billion, Castro will claim damages for the U.S. occupation of Cuba (1899-1902) and on and on.

3) Most Cubans do not believe that the embargo is the cause of their economic problems. Instead of repeating this falsehood, U.S. policymakers should attempt to convince Cubans otherwise.

Ending the U.S. embargo will improve U.S.-Latin American relations.

1) Cuba is not the main issue dividing U.S.-Latin America. Drugs, migration, intellectual property, and ideological differences over Venezuela are higher on the Latin American agenda.

2) Ending the embargo unilaterally will do little to solve the above problems and will create new ones. A large influx of U.S. tourists to Cuba will have a dislocating effect on the economies of smaller Caribbean islands; will contradict U.S. policy in Latin America which has emphasized democracy and human rights for the past four decades; will accept in Cuba a military dictatorship and condemn Cubans to many more years of repression and misery.

3) Ending the embargo unilaterally will do little to change the Castro brothers’ anti-Americanism and their support for Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and for terrorist groups throughout the world. General Raul Castro is unwilling to renounce these relationships for an uncertain relationship with the U.S.

The periodic public statements that General Raul Castro has made about wanting negotiations with the U.S. are politically motivated and directed at audiences in the U.S. and Europe. In particular, Raul believes that the “correlation of forces” are such in the U.S. that Congress may lift the travel ban and end the embargo unilaterally, without Cuba having to make any concessions. Serious overtures for negotiations are usually not issued from the plaza; they are carried out through normal diplomatic avenues open to the Cubans. These avenues have never been closed as evidenced by the migration accord and the anti-hijacking agreement between the U.S. and Cuba. In the past, both Democratic and Republican administrations have had conversations with Cuban officials and made serious overtures for normalization, only to be rebuffed.

The issue is not about negotiations or talking. There has to be a willingness on the part of the Cuban leadership to offer real concessions-in the area of human rights and political and economic openings as well as cooperation on anti-terrorism and drug interdiction-for the U.S. to change its policies. The U.S., as well as other countries, does not give away major policies without a substantial quid pro quo. Only when Raul is willing to offer meaningful concessions not only to the United States, but more importantly to the Cuban people, then and only then the U.S. should change its policies.


*Jaime Suchlicki is Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro, now in its fifth edition; Mexico: From Montezuma to NAFTA, now in its second edition and the recently published Breve Historia de Cuba.