Policy Position on the US Embargo of Cuba

The Center for a Free Cuba perspective on policy direction towards Cuba can be summarized by President Obama’s call in his first inaugural address. On that historic occasion President Obama stated, “we will extend our hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

The Center believes that the people of Cuba have been denied economic and political freedoms for far too long. That bringing Cuba into the family of democratic nations is in the interest of the United States, of the Cuban people, and of the family of democratic nations in the Americas.

Cuba should be encouraged to move in a democratic direction. A Cuba that implements democratic reforms should be rewarded not only with the lifting of the US embargo but with other more far reaching initiatives including the creation of a free trade zone with the US and the initiation of negotiation for the return of the US base in Guantanamo to Cuban control.

The Cuba policy implemented by the Obama administration did not make any demands for change from the Cuban Government and thereby betrayed the spirit of the President’s first inaugural. It is clear that the unilateral concessions made by the US government did not result in any reciprocal response from the Cuban Government. Indeed, in 2019 the newly promulgated Cuban constitution reiterated and entrenched the central role of the state and the communist party in its absolute control over political, economic, and social spheres. The Cuban people were denied their voice in a highly controlled voting process. Cuban doctors were sent abroad in a state-controlled slave trade that denied the Cuban people the medical support needed during the Covid pandemic. The limited and still nascent private sector is facing increasing constraints; private property rights are highly limited and subject to capricious state actions. Politically motivated arrests continue, artists endure greater censorship, and the LGTBQ community faces increased repression.

Moreover, Havana’s unwillingness to moderate repression at home is akin to the countries it continues to pursue toxic alliances with abroad, including North Korea, Syria, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. Cuban ships carry weapons to North Korea and Russian spy vessels once again dock in Havana’s Harbor. Cuban ‘volunteer soldiers’ have joined the Russian army and Wagner groups in its illegal war in Ukraine. In Venezuela, Castro’s military and security praetorian guard underpins the dictatorship, lead the security apparatus, and have been instrumental in the dismantling of democracy in the Venezuelan state. Moreover, beginning in 2016, in a series of unprecedented attacks, American diplomats serving in Cuba were seriously injured.

The Center calls on the US government and other democratic governments across the world to condition the development of their relationships with Cuba on a democratic opening by the regime. The Trump administration policy of confronting the Castro dictatorship was an important step in the right direction and needs to be furthered by the Biden administration by building an international coalition of like-minded countries that demand democratic changes in Cuba.