Cuba’s Natural Disaster: A Good Time to Lift the US Embargo

Cuba’s Natural Disaster: A Good Time to Lift the US Embargo and End a Failed Policy.  

In the past weeks, Cuba has suffered some of the worst infrastructure damage in its history due to hurricanes Gustav and Ike. More than 320,000 houses and other structures have been destroyed or damaged and the United Nations estimates losses of between $3 and 4 billion. In addition, it is also estimated that more than half of this year's sugar cane crop (Cuba's primary agricultural export) has been destroyed.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said:   "If the government of the United States is really willing to cooperate with the Cuban people in the face of the tragedy of the hurricane, it is requested to allow the sale to Cuba of those materials considered indispensable and to temporarily suspend the trade restrictions that prevent U.S. companies from offering private commercial credits to our country for the purchase of food in the United States."

The US administration has refused. Instead, while it appropriated 22 billion dollars for disaster relief in our own Gulf states affected by these same hurricanes, for Cuba it has offered only a disaster assistance response team and $100,000 in assistance through charitable organizations.

Not only is this response to Cuba's disaster pitiful from a humanitarian perspective, the very notion of maintaining the embargo doesn't make any economic sense.1   The US is facing a critical downturn in the housing market, which has, among other serious economic consequences, reduced demand for construction materials. Cuba is ultimately going to buy these materials and the food it needs to feed its people from somewhere. They are willing to buy it from us.

But Secretary of State Rice said "I don't think that the lifting of the embargo would be wise."

At UFE, we respectfully disagree.

As a nation, the US must advance mutually beneficial trade with Cuba and move swiftly end the embargo.2 We should cease a policy that collectively punishes hundreds of thousands of Cubans for their audacity to have dared, 50 years ago, to challenge US political, military and economic hegemony in the hemisphere. To maintain the embargo, especially now when so many Cubans are suffering, is an insult to common decency bordering on a national obsession AND it's a stupid economic decision.

Please contact members of Congress and the White House and demand that all restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba immediately end. The phone number for Congress is 202-224-3121. The White House comment line is 202-456- 1111.

Also, consider making a tax-deductible donation to organizations with a history of providing aid to Cuba:

Pastors for Peace:

Other organizations:

1 A 2002 study by former Department of Transportation economists at the Washington-based Brattle Group found that the total impact on the U.S. economy of unrestricted travel with Cuba would generate up to $1.6 billion annually, and somewhere between 17,000 and 23,000 jobs. Kenneth Lipner, a University of Miami economist, estimates that the Florida economy alone loses between $750 million and $1 billion annually due to the embargo.

2 For 48 years, the economic embargo has been a totally ineffective tool to achieve the US objective of undermining the Cuban government. Our nation's global isolation in this misguided effort is shown by sixteen UN General assembly resolutions since 1992 alone condemning the embargo and the lack of support of it by even staunch European allies. As a matter of fact, many of these allies have scoffed at our threats expressed in the Helms Burton act and are actively pursuing business and investment opportunities with Cuba.