Why are we still stuck with failed U.S. policy on Cuba?

Over a half century is a long time, but the blockade of Cuba goes on, seemingly with no end in sight. When it was announced in October of 1960, and then tightened by President Kennedy two years later, who ever thought that it would still be in effect 50 years later?

Then and now there is no good justification for this punitive policy. It is against the best interests of the U.S. as well as the Cuban people. Cuba is not a threat either to our security or to the countries of Latin America.

Common sense would seem to dictate a complete reevaluation of our policy, but that has been lacking in Washington.

The blockade – not to mention the other forms of subversion carried out or sponsored by the U.S. – has not toppled the Cuban government in the past and it is safe to say that it won’t in the future. Indeed, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Cuban people are retooling their form of socialism to make it more effective in the 21st century.

Moreover, in recent years we have normalized our relations with socialist China and Vietnam.

And yet normalization of relations with Cuba seems dead in the water. What explains the tenacity of this retrograde policy?

Now some will argue that the right-wing Cuban emigré community in Miami drives our government’s policy toward Cuba. And they are correct, but only up to a point.
To leave matters here obscures the role of the U.S. ruling class.

While the ruling class is not of one mind as far as relations with Cuba are concerned, sections of the ruling elite still oppose even the slightest change in policy – let alone the lifting of the blockade. What they didn’t like a half century ago and don’t like now is Cuba’s decision to exercise its sovereign right to build socialism so close to our shores.

A socialist society oceans and continents away is one thing, but one only 90 miles from Miami is another. It was and is considered a frontal challenge to U.S. dominance in the Americas – a region of the world that we controlled with dollars and gunboats for more than a century. But that era is over.

A new Latin America, inspired by the Cuban revolution, is being born.

Cuba as well as other countries in the region that are pursuing an independent path of development want amicable and equal relations with our government and people, but not at the cost of trading away their patrimony and independence.

The sooner our leaders realize this fact the firmer the ground will be for mutually beneficial interactions between our country and theirs.

It is unlikely that much progress in resetting relations with Cuba will occur in this election year, even if the president were so inclined. The shrill anti-Cuba rhetoric of Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and other Republicans probably militates against any sober and sensible discussion of the issue.

It also underscores the likely turn for the worse in U.S.-Cuba relations if the Republican right gains control of the White House and Congress in the coming election. In fact, if this occurs, even the unthinkable – armed intervention – becomes a possibility.

One thing that the past half century has made clear is that foreign policy can’t be left to the politicians, generals, and corporate brass to decide. Too much blood and treasure is at stake. The people must intervene. End the blockade!

Photo: flippinyank // CC 2.0


Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.