Last week, President Obama made one of the most important trips of his presidency—a visit to Cuba. His visit was met with praise from many on the left and scorn from many on the right. Despite the criticism of some in elected office, a majority of the American people agrees with ending the embargo on Cuba and allowing the American people to travel to the country without restriction. Feeling this way does not make one any less of a conservative, but rather affirms one’s faith in the free-market principles the United States was built on.
The embargo on Cuba has failed. President John F. Kennedy’s initial goal for the embargo was to isolate the island nation, leading to the fall of its communist regime, yet here we stand, 52 years later, with a communist Castro still in power in Cuba. It is an obvious fact that the embargo, though well-intentioned, was a futile attempt to end the Castro regime and instead hurt the Cuban people.
By isolating Cuba from the United States since 1962, America has harmed the very people we claimed to be helping. Cuba has suffered from outdated infrastructure, transportation, and essential services, in large part due to the isolation it suffered during the U.S. embargo. Instead of Cuba going forward with the United States, it has been stuck in the past. The Castros are not the ones who suffer from this. In fact, the Castros are probably able to use U.S. isolation as a political tactic to help garner anti-American and anti-capitalistic sentiments within Cuba. The U.S. has turned a blind eye to the people in need and it is time that we unleash the power of U.S. industry to help free them.
True free-market conservatives should be confident enough that by ending the barriers to trade, the Cuban people will see the benefits of capitalism. Only then will real change happen. We are far beyond the years of the Cold War, and the Cuban people must now choose their own government without the control of the United States. They have as much of a right to self-determination as does the rest of the world, and allowing them to experience free markets and American ingenuity will only help expedite their path to capitalism and democracy. After all, one of America’s largest trading partners is none other than the communist state of China. Is it not a double standard to do business with China but ignore Cuba? If the United States still had such strong anti-communist feelings, consistency would be necessary. It is obvious that these divisions are antiquated, and it is obvious that China’s transition from communism to capitalism has led toward more pressure for democracy from the Chinese people.
What does the United States truly have to lose by ending the Cuban embargo? Perhaps American leaders still do not want to admit that it has been a failure, but it is time to admit the truth and acknowledge the facts. If anything, the U.S. and U.S. companies stand to gain greatly from a repeal of the embargo. Many Americans are drawn to the idea of visiting Cuba, and airlines in the U.S. stand to gain greatly from expanded travel with new routes generating new revenue. American tourism will help the impoverished people of the island nation and will help American travel companies, too, a win-win situation for all parties. The opening of American companies in Cuba will help generate wealth and opportunities for the Cuban people as well, and the opening of a new market will help generate increased demand for American exports. The U.S. has nothing to lose. By helping the Cuban people generate wealth and helping American companies, U.S. government policies will finally reflect the values America stands for—freedom and opportunity.
Those who disagree with lifting the embargo often do so with many valid reasons. It is true that the Castro regime still holds political prisoners and limits freedoms. The Cuban government is well-deserving of intense scrutiny and criticism. But people who feel this way and support the embargo are only holding the Cuban people back. By limiting their access to the outside world we are shutting them out from seeing and experiencing another way of life. In fact, lifting the embargo could very well give people inside the communist country more access to outside information, a freedom that has been quite restricted inside of Cuba. Furthermore, the import of U.S. goods will help improve Cuba’s infrastructure, improving the quality of life of many of the citizens there. Cuba’s exports of world-renowned cigars and rum to the U.S. will also help employ Cubans by giving them more purchasing power. A growing middle class is the key to tackling communism.
Although it is unlikely for a Republican Congress to give President Obama a perceived policy victory in an election year, it is time for Congress to work together and carry out the popular opinion of the American people. Let us expose Cuba to capitalism and allow it to prosper. Cuba’s path to freedom begins with an opening of trade and travel between our two countries. A sharing of goods comes with a sharing of ideas and culture. Let’s let capitalism free Cuba.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor