US Embargo on Cuba a Failure: Leading Republican Senator

A further welcome outbreak of realism from Richard Lugar, the senior Republican on the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar has admitted that the embargo has failed to break support for the Revolution among the Cuban people. He recommends the reversal of the additional, petty vindicative restrictions introduced by the Bush regime, increasing cooperation between the two governments, and allowing the Cubans to buy agricultural machinery on credit. However, he has stopped short of calling for an end to the embargo, though that is clearly the logic of his position.

As Cuba seeks to rebuild those areas affected by the hurricanes, the ability to buy agricultural machinery on credit would be particularly useful. The Cuban government in pursuing reforms is seeking ways to improve productivity and the purchasing power of its citizens, and the relaxation and ultimate ending of the embargo would be a key factor, as well as providing other countries the opportunity to benefit from trade with Cuba, and especially with its advanced medical research in areas such as vaccinations, without the prospect of being punished by the remaining superpower.

The fact that moves are coming from within the Republican as well as the Democratic Party bodes well for Obama’s stated policy of seeking to engage with countries that the US has previously tried to bully, invade, strangle, and starve into submission. We can only hope that this approach will continue not only towards Cuba, but also the DPRK and elsewhere. From an Irish point of view, it makes the continued pursuit of Seán Garland initiated in the dying days of the Bush regime look all the more the petty and ideologically-driven act of vindicativeness it was.

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14 Responses to “US Embargo on Cuba a Failure: Leading Republican Senator”

  1. WorldbyStorm Says:

    Mind you there’s always been a realist wing in the Republican party which has argued for sane relations with Cuba, it’s just that local politics has tended to get in the way. Got to say, watching the prog on Sat about Iran and indeed a news report today from Cuba you have to wonder at the attitude of a state which is bosom buddies with say Saudi Arabia and yet can’t countenance dealing with Cuba and or Iran…

  2. Garibaldy Says:

    Yeah. What is worse is the people in other countries who should know better following that line of thinking too. As well as a realist wing, there has also been an ultra-ideological wing that wanted the embargo gone in the interests of the free market. As long as it goes, I’ll be happy whatever the reason, and I suspect the Cuban would feel the same.

  3. Wednesday Says:

    In the 1980s Lugar was one of the few Republicans to oppose Reagan’s “constructive engagement” policy with South Africa. As I recall he was actually fairly influential in bringing a change of sorts to US policy. Good luck to him now.

  4. Garibaldy Says:

    Didn’t know that Wednesday. Thanks for the info. Fair play to him.

  5. yourcousin Says:

    Lugar has admitted that the embargo has failed to break support for the Revolution among the Cuban people

    Really? Because he’s only quoted as saying, “We must recognise the ineffectiveness of our current policy”. Not quite the same thing failing to break support for the revolution. A “revolution” I might add that only within the last year let ordinary Cubans check into hotels, buy cell phones, computers, DVD players and fucking microwaves. I mean seriously, how seditious is a microwave? Though we should note that even though they now allow those things, most Cubans can’t even afford anything close to what those items cost.

    Also normally I would consider a regime where power passes along a familial line to be something more akin to a Monarchy than a red revolution. Pricks who wrap themselves in a red flag are still pricks. And I’m not saying that Batista was good, but why do Latin American “leftist leaders” feel the need to be a demagogue? If the roots of revolution are so shallow as to not outlive an individual then it was fucked to begin with.

  6. Garibaldy Says:

    Yourcousin,

    I may have chosen to interpret that quote in a certain way. As for the family line, Raul was one of the leaders of the Revolution himself (commander of one of the revolutionary armies) and has been involved from day one. I don’t think it is a case of family line so much as passing from one of the leaders of the revolutionary generation to another. I don’t think there is any doubt that the next leader will not be a Castro.

    As for the buying of goods, I can only speculate that there was a concern that these would introduce inequality but I don’t know. Personally, I think the Soviet Union went wrong in not producing more consumer goods, so this type of thing is to be welcomed.

  7. Remi Moses Says:

    Having visited Cuba a few years ago it was embarrassing, not to say disturbing for anyone with sympathy for the society there, to see ordinary Cubans barred from the hotels that cater for western tourists, and to see young Cuban women (and men) being sold to same tourists. I thought the revolution’s proudest boast was that it had stopped prostitution. Most ordinary Cubans would not engage in discussion about politics either or would nod or gesture towards the cops and go’we can’t talk about that.’
    Compared to the poverty of other Latin American countries; they have done well. A socialist country? Nein danke.

  8. Garibaldy Says:

    I think that the shift to make tourism essentially the centre of the economy has certainly brought problems in its wake, including those you suggest. I’ve been thinking about the issue of access relative to the post on the Irish Left Review about golf courses in Vietnam. I’m torn on the issue. If the overall effect is that more money is available to fund progressive social policies or buy necessary materials in Cuba and Vietnam, then the exclusion might be a price worth paying, but personally I haven’t made up my mind. As for the discussions of politics, different people have different experiences of that issue. Spanish-speakers tell me it is much easier for them to get people to talk politics than English-speaking ones.

    I think your last paragraph contains an essential point. We must bear in mind the circumstances of that region, and I think that most Cubans accept that they have a better lifestyle than would otherwise have been the case, but the problems faced by any socialist society in Ireland would be different (not least due to the weather being worse).

  9. yourcousin Says:

    Garibaldy,
    Context is important (ie Cuba in relation to etc, etc…) but the crap about Socialist utopia or even modern socialist society is utter crap. The fact that Raul in his own right was a revolutionary leader does not dimish the fact that there’s no real successor for Castro, he kept personal control and then handed it off to his brother. There’s nothing egalitarian about it, he couldn’t even hand control to another generation for fear of what might happen. I remember reading in the Wall Street Journal about Raul’s coming to power eventually. It also talked about how Raul was getting his army officers training in business and running hotels (surprise, suprise). But that is a side point.

    I found a quote on Castro’s children in an article worth requoting,

    “They live comfortably, only comfortably. In the eyes of other Cubans they may be living in luxury, but in Cuba eating three balanced meals a day is a luxury.”

    Any revolution worth its salt should give the people bread and roses, Cuba doesn’t do either right now and I can’t see what’s to be lauded about other than they stuck it to the big bad Americans for all those years. Castro didn’t lose and America didn’t lose but the Cuban people are losing and all for the sake of a pissing match, since the revolution certainly isn’t advanced, and I don’t like that (amongst many other things).

    When Pinochet died, all of the editorials while bemoaning his atrocities excused their previous support of him by invoking the Pinochet/Castro axis and said that it was one or the other. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy now. Strongmen, be they left or right who deny the needs of their people and curtail their liberties are to be called for what they are, tyrants. Men of conscience have no need to make excuses for them whatever flag they wrap themselves in.

  10. Garibaldy Says:

    Yourcousin,

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on whether there remains any socialist content in the Cuban revolution. As far as I am concerned it remains a country whose people are committed to building a socialist society, as does its government, and it is a society that has many achievements, not the least of which is its role in providing international aid.

    I also predict with a fair degree of confidence that when the change of leadership comes to a new generation it will be a smooth one. As Cubans say when you ask them what will happen when Fidel (or now Raul) dies, there will be a funeral, but the revolution will live on. I think it is a much less brittle entity than you do, and enjoys much more popular support, though I guess only time will tell.

    I don’t feel that I have to justify what has happened or happens in countries that have attempted to follow a socialist path. I don’t think I’m making excuses either. I am though making a judgment that all things considered the Cuban revolution is worthy of my support, and the support of the broader left, though I realise others may disagree.

  11. yourcousin Says:

    Garibaldy,
    I don’t expect we’ll find agreement, if we did then we’d have nothing to debate. While I don’t expect you to have to defend every country that goes down a “socialist” path I do feel obliged to respond when you put posts praising governments that trample on the rights of Man. Things like this Washington Post piece which highlights the role of community groups designed to spy and tout on their neighbors. I find this quote memorable,

    “Castro’s government adopted a motto, still present on Cuban billboards: “In a fortress under siege, all dissent is treason.”

    I don’t have the answers and wouldn’t pretend to but I don’t think I’m being out of line by asking that a government respects the inalienable rights of citizens. But I would ask what constitutes a socialist revolution? An autocratic government headed by one man and now his brother? A basic lack of amenities? A community comprised spies and touts? Sure you have nice hospitals, but without liberty it is castles built upon sand. But as you say, we will simply have to agree to disagree.

  12. Garibaldy Says:

    Yourcousin,

    I don’t believe that the revolutionary Cuban government has ever been a one man show, and I think that the government has tried to ensure a personality cult such as seen elsewhere has not formed, partly through the promotion of Che as the symbol of the revolution. I’d probably be inclined to see the provision of amenities as at a better state than you would.

    The dissent slogans are news to me, though I do think that defence of the revolution (be in in France or Russia or Cuba) does make some suspension of rights justifiable. At the risk of repeating myself, I think it’s important to remember that the Cubans themselves do not believe they live in a paradise, but they do think they are trying always to improve their society, and that does seem to me to genuinely be the case. I think that a socialist revolution is a process, and that the overthrow of the pre-existing regime is only ever the first step in that process. Cuba I think is headed in the right direction despite its difficulties, and I think that it is seeking ways to address areas where it might have been deficient in the past, such as gay rights.

  13. yourcousin Says:

    Garibaldy,
    I would be the first to agree that Che has had the pre-eminent cult of personality built around him in Cuba (and elsewhere). The fact that he’s dead also helps immensely. I would disagree that the Cuban government is not a one man show. Fidel took it one way and now Raul is taking it another. Once Fidel dies I believe you’ll see an opening in the markets in Cuba (not so sure of the political situation yet) but Raul seems to be intent that he and his cronies will have their fingers in the best pies (ie tourist industries) so we’ll see how that develops and hope it isn’t a rerun of the Soviet experience. I’m not overly filled with confidence in my predictions (I’ve had to eat crow more than once), but I’ve rarely been disappointed by believing the worst about government.

    I could use further clarification on the amenities line?

    As for suspension of rights. I don’t agree with that. And its not that I’m totally ungovernable but its been damn near half a century, when does the temporary suspension of rights let up? I mean FFS Orwell’s Animal Farm is still banned in Cuba. That not suspension, that’s surpression. The revolution is about the progress of mankind freeing himself of his chains. That a “revolutionary” government should put itself between man and liberty and say, “we’ll let you know when you’re ready to be free” is utter nonsense and makes a mockery of the so called revolution. As Rosa Luxemburg said,

    Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently

    Cubans have the right to disagree with Castro (be it Raul or Fidel) openly and freely without fear of persecution. Right now they do not. Much like Bush’s “War on Terror” the Cuban government has used a sometimes real threat (American intervention) as a permanent stop gag on political and individual liberties. The fact that the government doing this waves a metaphorical red flag should not be an issue.

  14. Garibaldy Says:

    I think that foreign intervention is the most unlikely now that it has ever been, and that the result will be shifts aimed at improving the situations we are discussing. On the amenities line, I am not sure that the food situation is as bad as the report you cite, nor that the situation on many basic amenities (housing etc) is as bad as often suggested, though there are clearly many difficulties.

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