Thursday, January 26, 2017

PF Feb 2017 - Lift the Cuban Embargo - Con Position

Resolved: The United States should lift its embargo against Cuba.

Con Position

In 1962 the U.S. imposed an embargo against Cuba in a time of deepening Cold-War with the "evils" of Communism and the seizure of U.S. assets by the Marxist-style regime of Fidel Castro. At the time, our goal was the punishment of Castro for seizing U.S. property. Since then, communism in the form of the Soviet bloc has collapsed and existential threats from a hostile Soviet puppet state have faded. Through the years the purpose and goals for keeping the embargo have evolved. Now, after all those decades we live in a world where the regime remains in power and Cuba enjoys free-trade with many other nations around the world while the citizens of the island remain poor with limited civil rights. Many blame the U.S. for conditions in Cuba. And so it is, under condemnation from allies and the United Nations, we present our case as to why that embargo must remain ... at least for now.

The Restrictions Need Tightened

The proponents of lifting the embargo believe erroneously, the best way to promote democracy in Cuba is open up economic engagement and drop travel restrictions.  The argument is, engagement promotes the exchange of ideas and is key to the spread of democratization. In fact, U.S. tourism in Cuba is on the rise. Con acknowledges that fact.

Ribas (2010):
Dead among the ashes of economic warfare, the embargo fails to prevent the channeling of hard currency from the US into Cuba. US funds find their way into Cuba through the following vehicles: US visitors to Cuba, remittances, US telecommunications payments, US food exports, and investments. Thus, one must question if the embargo is indeed effective in meeting its primary objectives. If so much hard currency is making it to the island, and the primary goal is to prevent that from happening, one must conclude it is not effective. Tourism is one of the largest sectors of the Cuban economy. Despite regulations and laws making it difficult to travel to and spend money in Cuba, the US has become the nation representing the second most tourists in Cuba. Further, even when faced with tougher scrutiny and indirect flights, the number of US tourists traveling to Cuba is rising continually. In fact, in 1999, President Clinton streamlined the process of travel abroad for students, athletes, and artists (among others) to help promote peopleto-people interaction between the US and Cubans. This was seen as a way to promote democracy and open discourse. Nevertheless, tourism is a whole [sic] in the embargo that the US must face.[9]

In addition to the actions taken in 1999 to encourage people-to-people interaction, Cuba has long enjoyed such open interaction with close to 200 nations and their people, from around the world. And despite, all of that free-exchange, Cuba remains a repressive nation.

Azel (2015):
Others argue, with validity, that the embargo has failed to change the course or nature of the Cuban government. True, but it is also necessary to point out that the alternative policy of engaging with the Cuban government, pursued by the international community, has also failed to change the nature of that regime.
Currently over 190 nations engage economically and politically with Cuba, while the United States remains alone in enforcing economic sanctions. If the embargo is deemed a failure in changing the nature of the Cuban government, there are 190 cases of failure on the alternative policy of engagement. By a preponderance of evidence (190 to 1), it is clear that engagement with that regime has also been a dismal failure.

Even some in the U.S. Congress believe in the power of regime-change arising from tourism and open travel. But these claims are empirically denied.

Bustillo (2013):
U.S. Rep. Michael Honda argues that an influx of politically enlightened U.S. travelers to Cuba would put Havana in a difficult place, leading to their own people calling for change. However, this is erroneous. Due to the fractured and weakened state of the embargo, over 400,000 U.S. travelers visited Cuba in 2011, making the United States the second-largest source of foreign visitors after Canada, according to NPR’s Nick Miroff. Obviously, this influx of what has been theorized to be liberty-professing tourists has not resulted in an influx of such democratic ideals into this overwhelmingly federally controlled country.

With 190 examples of failure arising from open association with Cuba, there is no justification for lifting the embargo. In fact Con argues the embargo could be more effective if the U.S. closes some of the gaps in its existing policies.

Ribas (2010)
Neither the embargo nor the engagement policy has produced a legitimate and tolerable Cuba in the Post-Cold War world. The US must work to maintain its leverage while integrating a policy that promotes positive change in Cuba. A nation ought not to replace embargo policy with a policy of engagement when engagement shows no greater promises of bringing about Cuban democratization. Instead, the first action needs to be closing up the loopholes in the embargo that render it ineffective at reaching its primary goal of blocking flows of hard US currency into Cuba. Furthermore, unconditional engagement must be avoided. US lawmakers need to create a modern hybrid policy to promote a peaceful democratization of Cuba. As power in Castro’s rule of Cuba is turned over to Raul, Cuba will continue to remain communist and centralized. It is not the single ruler system that it was once thought to be. Now, US policy requires reevaluation if there is to be a peaceful transition to democratization in Cuba, with the appropriate first step being for the US to enforce a reduction of immigration from Cuba.[12]

Shifting the Blame

The idea that the U.S. embargo was somehow responsible for the collapse of the Cuban economy and poor conditions under which the majority of Cubans are forced to live, has no logical basis whatsoever. Any Cuban, economic losses which occurred when the embargo was put in place were soon filled by other nations which benefited from filling the gap left by the U.S. In fact, there is another more compelling reason for the collapse of the Cuban economy.

Azel (2015):
The collapse of the Cuban economy can be clearly traced to its communal ideology and actions when the Cuban Revolution abolished all private property rights. That experiment resulted in an economically bankrupt dystopian society featuring an enormously repressive system, and a government with unlimited power over its citizens.
What exactly is it about the embargo that keeps the Cuban government from allowing economic and political freedoms in Cuba? Allowing economic and political freedoms is entirely within the domain of Cuba’s government. It is not, in any way, impeded by US policy. Cuba’s abysmal sociopolitical and economic conditions are the direct result of the failed policies of the Cuban government, and not of the so-called failed policies of the US government.

Actually, because of the fact other nations have filled the gap, a wide range of consumer products are available in Cuba including many U.S. branded items. But the Cuban government requires other nations to trade in U.S. dollars while circulating devalued Cuban currency to the regime's citizens leaving them with little purchasing power.

Suchlicki (2000):
The Cubans can buy any products, including food and medicine from any country in the world. Dollar stores in Cuba have numerous U.S. products, including Coca-Cola, and other symbols of American consumerism. American dollars can purchase almost anything in Cuba.
 There are shortages in Cuba of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, bananas, mangos, boniatos, and other foodstuffs that have been traditionally produced locally. What do these shortages have to do with the U.S. embargo? The reason for Cuba’s economic suffering is a Marxist system that discourages incentives. As in Eastern Europe under Communism, the failed Communist system is the cause of the economic suffering of the Cubans, not the U.S. embargo.[15]

Cuban Debt Risk

To make matters worse Cuba does not pay its bills. It is heavily in debt forcing it to restructure its debt and make deals offering to pay off its debts with rum. While it is making some progress, Cuba is still viewed as at high risk of defaulting on its payment obligations.

Benitez (2014):
The U.S. should not normalize trade with the Castro regime for the plain and simple reasons that his ventures lose money and his government is an international “deadbeat.” Any economic partnerships with authoritarian regimes are morally suspect, but making deals with the Castro government is pouring billions of dollars down the drain. In 1986, Cuba defaulted on its multibillion dollar debt to the Paris Club of nations. That debt is now estimated to be around $37 billion and the Castro government refuses to pay it. A couple of months ago, Russia had to write off 90 percent of Cuba's $32 billion debt. That’s almost $29 billion dollars that Castro will never pay back to Moscow. In November, Mexico wrote off $340 million of Cuba’s debt to its development bank, Bancomext. It is no wonder that, according to Moody’s, Cuba’s credit rating is Caaa1, which means worse than highly speculative and a “substantial risk” to investors.
It makes no business sense to drop the embargo for the sake of trading with a government that reneged on so many loans its credit rating is now at the subprime or “junk bond” level. Yet, loans are what would be necessary to “normalize” relations with Cuba. The embargo allows for U.S. food and humanitarian supplies to be sold to Cuba. In fact, the U.S. is currently the fifth largest exporter to Cuba. The big difference is that, according to the embargo, the Castro government must pay for all U.S. imports with cash, no credit allowed.

One again, we see how it is the Cuban government policies, not the embargo which imperils the citizens of Cuba and contributes to their economic hardships. Penaloza explains, if anything, U.S. policy has actually been beneficial to Americans by avoiding doing business with Cuba.

Penaloza (2016):
The oft-repeated rhetoric that the embargo has “exacerbated the hardships” of the Cuban people is untrue. The Castros' totalitarian system of governance, which has created economic, sociopolitical and spiritual impoverishment, is the veritable culprit, not the embargo. Fifty-five years of global trade with Cuba refutes allegations of enforced isolation. Given Castro’s propensity to default on loans, the embargo has actually saved U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars by denying the corrupt regime easy credit.

Benefits to the Few

The inner workings of a government owned economy needs to be understood. All major businesses, and production sectors in Cuba are stated-owned and thus it is the state which reaps the profits. Moreover, we have already shown how the Cuban state avoids the losses by simply refusing to pay. A principle argument against lifting the embargo, is understanding the money will directly to the regime.

Benitez (2014);
This brings us to the most overlooked and dangerous factor in trading with Cuba. Most of the Cuban economy is owned by the Castro government and all foreign trade is channeled through agencies that support the regime. For example, all foreign companies must pay wages in hard currency (dollars or euros) to the Cuban government, and from those wages the state pays in local currency (Cuban pesos) a small percentage to the individual employees. As a report by the Brooking Foundation described it: “If the firm pays the employment agency $500 a month and the employment agency pays the workers 500 pesos, over 90 percent of the wage payment disappears in the currency conversion; the effective compensation is instantly deflated to $21 per month.” Brookings said this may be “the world’s heaviest labor tax.” Or as one Cuban worker disclosed: “In Cuba, it’s a great myth that we live off the state. In fact, it’s the state that lives off of us.”

Indeed many of the anti-American activities and adventurism ( see this article ) seen as late as the 1980s has been repressed by the ongoing embargo and the willingness of the U.S. to confront the regime. By lifting the embargo, it is argued the regime will be empowered.

Suchlicki (2000):
Without major internal reforms in Cuba, the Castro government and the military, not the Cuban people, will be the main beneficiary of the lifting of the embargo. While some prosperity may trickle down to the Cuban people, state enterprises, many now under military control, will benefit most.  The Castro regime will use this newly-acquired wealth to strengthen its hold on the Cuban people, to rebuild its military apparatus, and to engage again in supporting anti-American terrorist and violent groups in Latin America and elsewhere.[18]

The Castro regime backed by its military enforcers have cast a wide net of repression and put a stranglehold on the Cuban economy. Even those who think easing travel restrictions and promoting tourism is a harmless form of engagement are mistaken. All sectors of the Cuban economy are ensnared.

Jacoby (2010):
The transformative power of free trade is not to be denied, but trade with Cuba isn’t free. There is no Cuban parallel to the economic openness and flourishing private sector that has transformed China. Jerry Haar, a dean of business administration at Florida International University, observes in the Latin Business Chronicle that one unavoidable fact of life faces exporters to Cuba: “The entire distribution chain is in the hands of the Cuban military and intelligence services.” Foreign investors are compelled to deal with the state and its subsidiaries, since they control the “hotels, foreign trade operations, equipment sales, and factories.”
As long as the Castros maintain their stranglehold on the Cuban economy, enriching that economy enriches — and entrenches — them. The travel ban and embargo have not ended Cuba’s misery, but lifting them unilaterally will only make that misery worse. Rewarding the dictators who keep Cuba in chains is not the way to set Cubans free.

Environmental Impacts

The combination of economic embargo and U.S. and Cuban government policies have reaped benefits for the environment. Generally speaking the waters between the U.S. and Cuba remain clean and coral reefs are thriving, but if the U.S. lifts sanctions the environment may suffer.

Mellino (2014):
[Dr. David] Guggenheim readily admits the embargo was a "failed policy," but under the embargo, Cuba's environment—namely its pristine national parks and coral reefs—has thrived. He cites the fact that "Cuba has protected 25 percent of its marine waters compared to the worldwide average of one percent." So, the question going forward will be: Can Cuba maintain its pristine environment after it's opened up to the U.S. and the rest of the world?

For several years, with encouragement from Cuba, many international interests have focused on the deep-water oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico.  Cuba has refineries. After all, it seized them from U.S.-based companies, and it is anxious to make deals to tap the Gulf reserves and sensing a political change from the many calls to end the embargo, international concerns are positioning themselves to reap the rewards.

Claver-Carone (2008):
Clearly, foreign oil companies anticipate political changes in Cuba and are trying to position themselves accordingly. It is equally clear they are encountering legal and logistical obstacles preventing oil and gas exploration and development. Among the impediments are well-founded reservations as to how any new discovery can be turned into product. Cuba has very limited refining capacity, and the U.S. embargo prevents sending Cuban crude oil to American refineries. Neither is it financially or logistically viable for partners of the current Cuban regime to undertake deep-water exploration without access to U.S. technology, which the embargo prohibits transferring to Cuba. The prohibitions exist for good reason. Fidel Castro expropriated U.S. oil company assets after taking control of Cuba and has never provided compensation.
Equally important, foreign companies trying to do business with Cuba still face a lot of expenses and political risks. If, or when, the Cuban regime decides again to expropriate the assets of these companies, there is no legal recourse in Cuba.

It was a mere seven years ago when a blowout under the B.P.-financed Deepwater Horizon rig, spilled an estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude into the pristine waters of the Gulf causing untold environmental damages to the waters and seabed. Lifting the embargo, could encourage more drilling which is not under the purview of U.S. regulations. It is a recipe for environmental disaster and the U.S will pay the price.

Lack of Political Will

If there is one thing that Obama's recent overtures toward Cuba has taught us, it is there is little political will on the part of the repressive Cuban regime to relinquish its grip on the nation. If anything, even the mere suggestion of normalization entrenches the regime.

Penaloza (2016):
The fruits of Obama’s U.S.-Cuba policy has been an “annus horribilis” of over 8,600 short-term arbitrary detentions, weekly beatings of peaceful protesters, extrajudicial killings, long-term incarceration of political opponents, and a migratory crisis involving a number of Latin-American nations. The Cuban government has demonstrated a clear unwillingness to embrace free markets or incorporate judicial safeguards for business investments. The political opposition, fully cognizant that commerce without civil liberties is meaningless, seeks a restoration of their political rights and civil liberties.
The voices of Cuba’s dissidents and exiles, ignored and marginalized, must be respected and acknowledged

It would seem that regime change is the only path forward to achieving justice for the harms perpetrated by the Castro government. But until that happens, the U.S. also has no political will make any major changes.

Zengerle (2016):
The top Republican in the U.S. Congress dimmed hopes that lawmakers might end the embargo on Cuba after President Barack Obama leaves office, saying on Tuesday he intends to keep the trade restrictions in place.
"As the past two years of normalizing relations have only emboldened the regime at the expense of the Cuban people, I fully intend to maintain our embargo on Cuba," U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.

Cuba is Not Ready

There are many examples of how the U.S. has moved from imposing sanctions on former enemies and hostile actors to opening the avenues of free-trade and diplomatic normalization. The Pro side will no doubt be happy to cite examples.  But in each of those cases, there was some bilateral interest in changing the status quo and advancing beyond hostilities. At this point, our objectives for the embargo are mostly political. There is very little economic benefit to be gained from trade with Cuba. In fact, it risks harming our trade relations with other regional interests.

Suchlicki (2000):
Given Cuba’s scant foreign exchange, its ability to buy U.S. products remains very limited. Cuba’s major exports, i.e. sugar, tobacco, nickel, citrus, are neither economically nor strategically important to the United States.
Lifting the embargo would create severe market distortions in the already precarious economies of the Caribbean and Central America since the U.S. would have to divert some portion of the existing sugar quota away from these countries to accommodate Cuba. The impact of tourism diversion toward Cuba would profoundly hurt the economies of the Caribbean and Central American countries.
Cuba, cited as one of the worst political and commercial risks in the world by several recently issued country risk guides, lags far behind China and Vietnam in establishing the necessary conditions for economic development and successful corporate involvement. Current foreign investments are small and limited to dollar sectors of the economy such as the tourist industry and mining. American companies are not “losing out.” In a free Cuba, U.S. companies will quickly regain the prominent role they held in pre-Castro Cuba. 

We need to stay the course and remain vigilant for signs of real change on the part of the Cuban government. Until then, the embargo remains.

Sadowski (2011):
Despite calls for its revocation, the embargo’s purpose is as important now as when it was enacted. Cuba is still an oppressive country. Cubans may not leave the country without permission and still lack fundamental freedoms of expression. José Miguel Vivanco, the director of Americas division at Human Rights Watch, notes that as “Cuba’s draconian laws and sham trials remain in place, [the country] continue[s] to restock the prison cells with new generations of innocent Cubans who dare to exercise their basic rights.” Moreover, a recent proposal by the Cuban Communist Party makes clear that there will be no change in the country’s oppressive one-party political system. In doing so, the lengthy document declares “[o]nly socialism is capable of overcoming the current difficulties and preserving the victories of the revolution.” Cuba’s treatment of its own citizens is a situation the United States cannot ignore. The embargo’s twin goals of backing democracy and ending oppressive rule have not been met. Until they are, the embargo must remain in place.[38]

For all these reasons and more...
We urge a Con ballot.

For more information on this topic or other information related to Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.


Azel, J (2015), Cuba’s Problem Is Not the Embargo, PanAm Post, June 30, 2015. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

Benitez, J (2014), Lining a Dictator's Pockets, U.S. News and World Report, Feb. 27, 2014. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

Bustillo, M (2013), Time to Strengthen the Cuban Embargo, International Policy Digest, May 9, 2013. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

Claver-Carone, M (2008), How the Cuban embargo protects the environment, The New York Times, Jul 25, 2008. Accessed 1/17/2017 at:

Jacoby, J (2010), Lift Embargo on Cuba? Not So Fast, The Patriot Post, Aug 26, 2010. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

Mellino, C (2014), The End Of The Cuban Embargo Is Bad News For Its Pristine Environments, Business Insider, Dec. 21, 2014. Accessed 1/17/2017 at:

Penaloza, D. (2016): The U.S. Should Keep the Cuba Embargo in Place, capital Hill Cubans, Jan. 30, 2016. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

Ribas, Joseph (2010) "The Cuban Embargo: Why US Sanctions Fail and What to do About it," Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 2. (available online)

Sadowski, R (2011). Cuban Offshore Drilling: Preparation and Prevention within the Framework of the United States’ Embargo, Sustainable Development Law & Policy 12, no. 1 (2011): 37-39, 63-65. Accessed 1/17/2017 at:

Suchlicki, J (2000), The U.S. Embargo of Cuba, Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies Occasional Papers, Paper 31. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

Zengerle, P (2016), Top Republican pledges to maintain Cuba trade embargo, Reuters News, Oct 18, 2016. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

PF Feb 2017 - Lift the Cuban Embargo - Pro Position

Resolved: The United States should lift its embargo against Cuba.

Pro Position

This resolution is short, simple, and easy to interpret as long we do not get too hung up on the meaning of the word 'embargo'. I am confident that many debaters will be talking about economic sanctions at various times and I don't necessarily see that as a problem. The economic impacts of the embargo are a major contention for both sides of this debate. Pro is expected to argue the U.S. embargo of Cuba should end. The embargo is basically a unilateral (one-sided) action which we have tried to force on other non-cooperating governments by passing laws which impose penalties on countries which do try to continue normal trade with Cuba. I guess we can assume, these other restrictions will also be ended since they will no longer be needed to enforce the embargo. There is no need to propose or debate the normalization of political relations with Cuba. The Obama administration has already taken some steps toward achieving that goal and it is possible, there may some steps forward or backward in that area under the new Trump administration. Much of that depends on the strength and activism of the anti-Castro immigrants and sympathizers in the U.S., many of whom have suffered losses or hardships under that regime and indeed, at the time this analysis is written, Raul Castro is still in power, and there are no signs of free and open elections and recognition of the kind of first amendment rights, U.S. citizens enjoy and this is a major contention for both sides of this debate. As a means of bringing about political change, Pro will argue the embargo has failed, whereas Con may argue the small steps toward reconciliation taken by Raul Castro are influenced by a desire to end the embargo.

End of Hostility

It is supposed by some authors, the new Trump administration will roll-back some of the efforts taken by the Obama administration toward normalization of relations with Cuba. Political engagement with the island-nation is often predicated upon ideological differences rather than common ideals and the there may be little reason to believe, under an "America First" lens on international relations, any further progress is likely in the short-term. Thus there is a significant political barrier which makes the Pro position of this resolution all the more necessary.

Lopez-Levy (2016):
However, the U.S. strategy toward Cuba has demonstrated it is not based on a rational foreign policy. Several elements allow for auguring a rough road ahead for the process of normalization of relations between the two countries.
In the first place, the last positions of nominee Trump at the end of the campaign were of hostility toward the rapprochement between the two countries. Such a posture was ratified in October by Vice President Mike Pence’s statement that the presidential directives on the rapprochement would be repealed after the January 20 presidential inauguration. The president-elect’s appointments for important posts in his administration, with potential influence on the U.S. Cuba policy, do not have a moderate profile but rather of rage, with an imperial agenda in the relationship with the NATO, Mexican and the western hemisphere allies.
It is logical to suppose dangers for the normalization of relations process in those appointments. General Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and designated by Trump as national security adviser, has described Cuba as an adversary of the United States in a “world war” that comprises Islamic fundamentalists, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.

In the eyes of many in the international community, the embargo is seen as an act of hostility by an aggressor bully against its weaker neighbor. From the outside world, there are no signs the embargo has accomplished any meaningful political objective and has only harmed innocent individuals.

Betancourt (2014):
Since these restrictions are imposed by governments unilaterally, they are usually viewed as acts of hostility toward the target of the restrictions when they involve international relations but not when they involve within “country” restrictions. Thus, from a political perspective they become mechanisms for sending signals of various types in an international setting. From a strictly economic perspective, however, their impact is the same. They restrict the level of trade across borders whether they are external or internal and provide incentives for illegal activities in the form of smuggling. Moreover, the end result often includes a negative economic impact on the entity imposing the restrictions as well as on those subject to the restrictions.[2]

Much of the world has condemned the U.S. embargo of Cuba. For 24 years in a row, the U.N. has called for the U.S. to end the embargo. Nearly all of the U.S. allies have called for an end to the embargo.

Rosenblum (2002):
While the United States maintains neither diplomatic nor commercial relations with Cuba, other countries have taken advantage of the opportunity to positively engage with the island nation. During the mid and late 1980s, most countries in Europe and Latin America resumed relations with Cuba. To date, Cuba has re-established diplomatic relations with 164 different countries (78 of which have embassies on the island), and Cuba has embassies in 86 countries and representation in several major international bodies. Cuba, along with the United States, is an original co-signer of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and an original member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The international community has repeatedly denounced U.S. policy towards Cuba. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has voted for the past ten consecutive years to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba. In the most recent vote in November 2001, there were 167 votes in favor of denouncing the embargo, three against (U.S., Marshall Islands, and Israel), and three abstentions (Latvia, Micronesia, and Nicaragua). Individual member states have also spoken out against U.S. policy towards Cuba. Throughout the 1990s, with the stiffening of the terms of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, member states from the European Union (EU) and Latin America repeatedly denounced U.S. sanctions against Cuba (while also criticizing Cuba for its human rights record). In 1992, after the Congress approved legislation to tighten the embargo, the European Union criticized the U.S. action. Speaking on behalf of the EU, the UN representative from the United Kingdom said, “Although the European Community and its member states are fully supportive of the peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, they cannot accept that the United States unilaterally determines and restricts European Community economic and commercial relations with any foreign nation which has not been collectively determined by the United Nations Security Council to be a threat to international peace and security.”[9-10]

It is important to understand the Cuban point of view as well. The political agenda behind the embargo are clear. The U.S. intention is to undermine the Cuban regime. It is an intervention into the ideological and political structure of Cuba and even the modest steps forward by Obama are viewed with suspicion.

Kornbluh (2016):
After decades of multi-form US intervention, el mismo perro is what some Cuban officials continue to see. “We are not stupid,” Cuba’s ambassador to Mexico, Dagoberto Rodriguez, declared in harsh terms during an interview with the leading Mexican magazine, Proceso. “We realize that the policy of the United States continues to have the same objective” of subverting the revolution. From the foreign ministry in Havana, Cuba’s chief negotiator with the United States, Josefina Vidal, issued a somewhat more diplomatic response. Obama’s directive was a “positive step” toward normalization, she said, but “does not hide the purpose of promoting changes in the political, economic and social order, nor hide the intentions to further develop interventionist programs.” Overt or covert, the Cuban government objects to the democracy-promotion programs, and Cuban officials believe Obama can do more to gut the embargo than he has.

The Embargo Has Failed

For many years now, experts have been claiming the U.S. embargo has failed to meet any of its objectives. Generally speaking, economic sanctions such as the kind imposed by the embargo, fail to turn oppressive regimes.

Griswold (2005):
Economic sanctions rarely work. Trade and investment sanctions against Burma, Iran, and North Korea have failed to change the behavior of any of those oppressive regimes; sanctions have only deepened the deprivation of the very people we are trying to help. Our research at the Cato Institute confirms that trade and globalization till the soil for democracy. Nations open to trade are more likely to be democracies where human rights are respected. Trade and the development it creates give people tools of communication-cell phones, satellite TV, fax machines, the Internet-that tend to undermine oppressive authority. Trade not only increases the flow of goods and services but also of people and ideas. Development also creates a larger middle class that is usually the backbone of democracy.

Even if our opponents can claim, the embargo had some initial impacts on the Castro regime, the unilateral nature of the embargo, failed to close other paths of economic engagement for Cuba. Cuba merely turned to other sources for its needs.

Lincicome (2014):
The United States has pursued unilateral economic sanctions on the Cuban regime for upwards of five decades. During a Cold War, pre-World Trade Organization (WTO) period of immobile capital, these trade and travel restrictions very likely achieved significant U.S. foreign policy and national security gains. It is extremely difficult, however, to continue to make that case given today’s economic realities. The Cuban regime trades with almost everyone (China, Canada, Europe, and Brazil are among its top export partners, to the total of about $20 billion per year); Cuban exports have recovered to pre-Cold War levels; Cuba has access to internationally-traded, fully-convertible currencies like Euros, Canadian Dollars, and Yen; Cuba is a full member of the WTO (unlike Iran, North Korea, and others); and it even conducts hundreds of millions of dollars of annual trade with the United States—yes, the United States— every year. To argue that the embargo somehow isolates the Cuban regime from anyone other than American travelers, exporters, and consumers simply defies reality.

Admittedly, the U.S. economy is the largest in the world and favorable economic trade status with the U.S. could be very beneficial. However, in the case of Cuba, it can be argued the embargo, while having no political effect whatsoever, only served to benefit the economies of Cuba's many other trading partners.

Lincicome (2014):
In the case of Cuban embargo, however, the federal government has failed to meet its basic burden of proof. First, legislation codifying the embargo—i.e., the “Helms-Burton” Act of 1996—has not achieved either of its two primary objectives: regime change and foreign investment deterrence. The first failed objective is manifest: the Castros remain in power and the Cuban government continues to pursue its particularly-thuggish form of authoritarian communism. The second failed objective is almost as obvious: according to a running tally by the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, approximately 4,500 companies from over 100 countries import to, export from, provide services to, or have investments within Cuba.

As for the political objectives inherent in the U.S. goal of spreading democracy and capitalism throughout the world, especially the western hemisphere, we can only look to the embargo as an ineffective means of achieving such ends.

Griswold (2005):
If the goal of U.S. policy toward Cuba is to help its people achieve freedom and a better life, the economic embargo has completely failed. Its economic effect is to make the people of Cuba worse off by depriving them of lower-cost food and other goods that could be bought from the United States. It means less independence for Cuban workers and entrepreneurs, who could be earning dollars from American tourists and fueling private-sector growth. Meanwhile, Castro and his ruling elite enjoy a comfortable, insulated lifestyle by extracting any meager surplus produced by their captive subjects.

In many cases, and it is not difficult to find the evidence, when economic sanctions are used against authoritarian governments, the regime benefits through a 'rally-around-the-flag' type of backlash. The Cuban regime was able to project the idea the U.S. was a hostile actor seeking to destroy the economy of Cuba and harming the people of the island. Such propaganda generates support for the regime as citizens rally to defend the homeland.

Cuba Study Group (2013):
Although U.S. sanctions had an early devastating impact on the then-chaotic Cuban economy, the political benefits they have since provided to the Cuban political leadership have far outweighed their economic costs. For the nearly 30 years that Cuba survived as a closed economy that was mostly dependent on the Soviet bloc, economic sanctions were largely innocuous. The resulting U.S. hostility facilitated the consolidation of the revolutionary process by providing the Cuban state with a convenient scapegoat for the failures of its economic policies, the hardships endured by the Cuban people and the repressive practices employed. It bestowed the Cuban state with the added legitimacy derived from being a “state under siege.”[3]

Harms To The U.S.

Trade is a mechanism for exchanging not only goods but ideas by exposing the partners to a diversity of cultures and ideologies and so it can be argued that both the U.S. and Cuba have been harmed. In more real economic terms the U.S. lost money by imposition of its own policies, designed to put more trading pressure on Cuba.

Rosenblum (2002):
Ultimately, the U.S. embargo on Cuba increases the shipping costs of critical food and medical products. The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 established that vessels that have docked at Cuban ports within 180 days (or six months) are prohibited from docking at U.S. ports. This stipulation strongly dissuades foreign companies from exporting products to Cuba, as the United States is a logical stopping point for a ship due to its proximity to the island. It also delays the arrival of foodstuffs and medicine, while increasing their price. A 1997 AAWH report calculated that, “if goods could be sent to Cuba from the United States, Cuba would save $215,800 for each ship replacing a European freighter and $516,700 for each ship replacing an Asian freighter.” Saving $200,000-$500,000 per shipment would likely alleviate some of Cuba’s economic problems and improve its access to food and medical products.[15-16]

Obviously Cuba continued to trade with other nations despite the 1992 Act barring freighters, except those ships were no longing coming to U.S. and so it was the U.S. that lost economic benefits. Shortly after this law was enacted, experts were already pointing out the economic impacts to the United States.

Wong (1994):
The harm that section 1706(a) inflicts upon U.S. businesses is real and considerable. Carrier Co. estimates that it will lose between $10 and $20 million because its foreign subsidiaries can no longer trade with Cuba." At least 103 U.S. companies whose foreign subsidiaries have been trading with Cuba since 1985 will be similarly affected." According to Donna Rich Kaplowitz, one of the authors of the Johns Hopkins University study and a consultant on the Cuban market, "there's no question [that] the U.S. is losing business to Europe, Canada, and South America. .... The best beaches are being divided by Canada, Spain, and Italy."" Already, it may be too late for the United States to find a foothold in the Cuban market. In telecommunications, for example, Italcable recently entered into a $65 million joint venture to service Cuba's overseas calls, pushing AT&T out of the market."[679]

When Communist governments around the world began collapsing the U.S. Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act which was aimed toward putting one more nail in the coffin of Communism. Helms-Burton co-sponsor, Jesse Helms, famously declared the law, “tightened the noose around the neck of the last dictator in the Western Hemisphere, Fidel Castro." However, Helms-Burton effectively weakened the power of U.S. President.

Cuban Study Group (2013):
Helms-Burton also transferred the authority to suspend the Cuban embargo to the U.S. Congress, thereby severely hindering the President’s ability to exercise his constitutional power to conduct foreign policy. Instead, the Act allows the Executive Branch limited licensing authority to implement its foreign policy, which U.S. Presidents have since used to either expand or limit private engagement with the Island.[4]

Since passage, every President has worked with Congress to modify for better or worse, the various provisions in trade policy within the constraints of the Helms-Burton Act. Even, with the advancement of improved relations with Cuba under Obama, Helms-Burton severely impacted the President's power to go further toward normalizing relations.

Francis (2016):
Obama can’t do much more unless Congress acts to repeal the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which formalized the embargo put in place by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 and bars the executive branch from lifting it without congressional approval. In other words, without the help of Congress, Obama can’t fully lift all financial penalties against Havana, and proponents of the move have acknowledged that is unlikely to happen while Republicans control both the House and the Senate.

So it seems our efforts to undermine the Cuban government have only resulted in the diminishing of U.S. executive power and the ability of a moderate, administration to put an end to U.S. hostility toward Cuba. As of this writing, nothing has changed in Cuba. It is still is non-democratic and it still holds political prisoners. Moreover, it is unclear what policies will be enacted under the Trump Administration functioning under a Republican majority Congress which historically, has not favored normalization of relations with Cuba.

Human Rights

Perhaps the reasons for continuing the embargo are complex and nuanced but most other nations, especially those which have repeatedly called for the U.S. to lift its embargo, see it a weapon aimed at Cuba to force regime change.  In response, the U.S. has tried to repaint the embargo as a humanitarian action aimed toward ending human rights abuses in Cuba.

Rosenblum (2002):
The embargo has also failed to promote human rights and democracy in Cuba. After forty years, the embargo has had no visible effect in encouraging the Cuban government to permit multi-party elections, or broaden freedom of speech and assembly, or to release political prisoners. In fact, it is during the times when the United States puts the most pressure on the Cuban regime (for example, after the passage of the Cuban Democracy Act in 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act in 1996) that the human rights situation in Cuba deteriorates. External threats have caused the Cuban government to crack down on any perceived threats within the system rather than to open avenues of public criticism. If the United States is serious about promoting human rights and democracy in Cuba, then it needs to look for a new approach.[20-21]

The embargo has had the effect of isolating the U.S. from Cuba and greatly diminished our ability to influence Cuban policy. For example, the U.S. has made attempts to directly ease the human rights situation in Cuba by collaborating with dissidents but such efforts further undermine the human rights.

Rosenblum (2002):
Currently, the United States is in no position to encourage improved human rights conditions in Cuba or to support the institutionalization of democracy. The efforts the U.S. government makes to support dissidents, or to strengthen civil society, are mostly counterproductive. (In fact, as noted elsewhere in this report, U.S. support and funding for dissidents has made them more vulnerable to the charge that they are U.S. agents. Those who hope for change in Cuban society but do not see themselves as dissidents, or in open opposition to the government, neither seek nor accept U.S. support.) U.S. influence on the Cuban government for positive change is basically non-existent.[31]

It can be argued the U.S. is perpetrating a significant abuse upon the people of Cuba by continuing to enforce the embargo.

Ernest (2016):
However, even with a strong, proactive healthcare system, Cuba still faces a number of health problems rarely seen in developed countries owing to a lack of access to food, medicine and equipment. In the documentary ¡Salud!, one Cuban doctor tells a story about the x-ray machine in her office, which is over 40 years old and which the doctors sometimes have to tie with wire to make it work. Another doctor talks about having to go through third party countries to buy a specific medicine (Prostaglandin E1) only made in U.S. labs, which is used in surgery for children with congenital heart defects and which at one point was so hard to get in Cuba that there was only one ampule in the whole country. Many of these healthcare problems developed or became more pronounced in the 1990’s, owing to a combination of the Soviet Union’s collapse and the passing of the Torricelli Act and the Helms-Burton Act in the United States. During the first three decades of the embargo, life expectancy in Cuba grew about 0.54% per year, for total growth of 15.5% from 1960 to 1989. In addition to general support for their economy, the Soviet Union was providing Cuba with a large portion of their raw materials for medicine. When this support was lost, Cuban access to medicine and healthcare declined. From 1990 to 2013, life expectancy grew only about 6%, or 0.26% per year. Additionally, adult caloric intake decreased by 40% and the percentage of underweight newborns increased 23% after the loss of Soviet aid (Drain & Barry). The Torricelli Act also drastically reduced access to medicine in 1992 by preventing U.S. subsidiaries from selling medicine to Cuba. Cuba had previously imported $719 million worth of goods from U.S. subsidiaries annually, 90% of which was food and medicine. After 1992, this number fell to $0.3 million total over a period of three years (Drain & Barry). Then in 1996, the Helms-Burton Act again reduced the number of companies supplying medicine or raw materials used in pharmaceutical production to Cuba. Throughout the decade, numerous healthcare crises resulted. In 1994, an epidemic of optic and peripheral neuropathy began which was later attributed to food shortages and malnutrition, and an increase in diarrheal diseases and an outbreak of Guillain-Barré Syndrome were associated with contaminated water due chemical shortages. Medicine shortages were associated with a 48% increase in tuberculosis deaths from 1992 to 1993 (Drain & Barry).[27-28]

It is clear from all sources, the use of the embargo as a means to promote democracy and prevent human rights abuses has been a complete failure. Continuation of the embargo with that purpose is no longer justified.

Exporting Terror

In 1982, Cuba was named a state sponsor of terror. This designation was applied at the time because of Cuba's collaboration with FARC and other groups in Colombia and because some Basque separatists had taken refuge on the island. Often, since that time, proponents of the embargo have continued to use the terrorism claims as justification of continuing or strengthening the sanctions against Cuba.

Rosenblum (2002):
While Cuba has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist nations since 1982, it has remained on this list due to domestic political considerations rather than actual national security concerns. It would be politically difficult for the President to remove Cuba from the terrorist list because the vocal and politically influential Cuban-American hard-liners would fiercely oppose such a measure.
A year 2000 State Department report entitled, “Patterns of Global Terrorism” did not report any terrorist acts sponsored by Cuba itself. Instead, it reported that: “Cuba continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists and U.S. fugitives in the year 2000.” Specifically, the report mentioned that Cuba harbors Basque separatists; has maintained ties with Colombian guerilla forces; and allowed a number of U.S. fugitives to live within its borders.[23]

Finally, Obama has officially removed Cuba from the list of states sponsoring terrorism which removes one more plank from the platform justifying continuation of the embargo.

Restoration of Benefits

As means of justifying the Pro position we can look to the benefits. Admittedly, the U.S. economy is enormous in comparison to Cuba and no doubt Con will argue the economic benefits will be minimal. But in the world of debate, it is good to remember, one may gain advantages by turning disadvantages.  Lifting the embargo has direct benefits.

Scull (2016);
Removing the embargo will be good for U.S. economy. It is estimated that the embargo costs the U.S. upwards of $4.8 billion in annual lost export sales and other economic outputs. A March 2010 study by Texas A & M University calculated that removing the embargo could create some 6,000 jobs in agricultural exports and travel to Cuba. In fact in a letter to congress by nine U.S. governors it was stated: “Foreign competitors such as Canada, Brazil and the European Union are increasingly taking market share from U.S. industry [in Cuba], as these countries do not face the same restrictions on financing… Ending the embargo will create jobs here at home, especially in rural America, and will create new opportunities for U.S. agriculture.”

And modest gains in the near term will lead to more significant gains in the long-term.

Mylotrade (2016):
Significant opportunities exist for U.S. exporters in Cuba, with the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba now underway, potential reforms could help support U.S. competitiveness, increase total U.S. agricultural export value, improve U.S. market share, and benefit both U.S. exporters and Cuban consumers. Demand for high quality U.S. agricultural products is driven not only by the increasingly middle class Cuban population of 11 million, but also by remittances and tourism, which is expected to rise dramatically.
According to a report on Cuba imports and the effects of U.S. restrictions on U.S. exports to Cuba by U.S. International Trade Commission, overall U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba could see significant gains from the removal of U.S. restrictions on trade. Some sectors may see immediate expansion, while others would more likely experience additional sales after Cuban tourism, incomes, and foreign capital have grown. For manufactured goods, exports would likely increase somewhat after the removal of U.S. restrictions, with prospects for larger increases in the longer term, subject to changes in Cuban policy and economic growth.

And the claims of economic and employment benefits are supported by a host of other authors.

Rosson (2015):
Many U.S. competitors in the Cuban market offer some type of credit terms to ALIMORT for food purchases. U.S. firms are precluded from doing so and also face an added constraint of being required to offer only cash-in-advance sales, or cash against documents. U.S. exporters cannot use letters of credit to facilitate sales and manage risk, raising the cost of U.S. products and making them less competitive relative to Spain, Canada, Brazil, China and Vietnam. Reducing the cost and time necessary to process payment for U.S. exports to Cuba would have positive economic impacts in terms of increased exports and economic activity. U.S. exports to Cuba would be expected to rise by $271.2 million/year, requiring an additional $561.9 million in business activity for a total economic impact of $833.1 million and supporting 4,478 new jobs (Rosson, Adcock and Manthei). In summary, consistent, transparent and facilitative policies related to export finance for U.S. exports to Cuba would have positive economic impacts on U.S. exports and the U.S. economy.[6]

And to further the idea that advantages can be realized by turning a disadvantage, we look to Teegan, et al.

Teegan, et al (2013):
Even though the overall economic impact of sanctions on the United States has been minimal, we feel they have exacted great costs in terms of lost and foreclosed international business opportunities. They also have compromised U.S. global leadership on trade and social policy issues and caused potentially irreparable damage for humanity in key areas such as advances in biotechnology and avoidance of environmental degradation.[3-4]

As we have shown in the Pro position, the embargo has not only harmed Cuba but it has harmed the U.S. Perhaps greater than all the harms we have realized due to lost business, and higher-priced imports of some products, is the negative perception we have forced upon ourselves. We have been viewed as a bully nation and have harmed our reputation as the protector of global free-trade. It is past time to end this embargo.


In this Pro position, we have exposed how the Cuban embargo has perpetrated hardships not only on the people of Cuba, but has done damage to the U.S. economically (loss of trade), politically (loss of executive power) and diplomatically (loss of reputation and influence). Most importantly, after more than fifty years of continued hostility toward our neighbor to the south, the Cuban regime remains entrenched.

Scull (2016):
Has Cuba met the conditions required by the various congressional statutes to lift the embargo?
This is an important question since the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, and the 1996 Helms-Burton specify conditions for terminating the embargo stipulating that Cuba must legalize all political activity, release all political prisoners, commit to free and fair elections, grant freedom to the press, respect and recognize human rights, and allow labor unions.
This is a very tall order, which obviously the Cuban government is nowhere near attaining. The problem with these conditions is that the U.S. does not hold other countries to the same ideals. China is the first one to come to mind. Obviously the importance of trading with the Middle Kingdom, which is highly profitable to American corporations, trumps its abysmal record on human rights, lack of elections, lack of freedom of the press, political oppression, political prisoners, lack of labor unions, and other absences of democratic values.
Of course China is not the only totalitarian country with which we do business. There are many more. Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia plus another forty-odd others.
It is obvious that these conditions as they apply to Cuba are disingenuous at best.

So, if we lift the embargo, how do we turn this into an opportunity to improve life in Cuba in a meaningful and lasting way? Betancourt suggests a quid-pro-quo; a give and take to our mutual benefit.

Betancourt (2014):
One possible path for a lifting of the embargo by the U.S. based on all these considerations might be as follows: (1) unilaterally eliminate the trade embargo on goods and services and claim it as a strong act of goodwill that should warrant reciprocity from Cuba; (2) propose eliminating the remaining travel restrictions on Americans of non-Cuban origin, in exchange for specific agreements on future dispute resolution mechanisms with respect to individuals that run afoul of the laws in both places; (3) put the lifting of restrictions on capital flows with respect to IFIs, FDI and credit on the table in exchange for the attainment of specific verifiable goals on progress with respect to human rights, possibly including the property rights associated with compensation or perhaps putting the latter in a separate category; and (4) treat debt repayment issues on the same basis as they are for any other country in the region.[19-20]

For all these reasons and more, we urge a Pro ballot.

For more information on this topic or other information related to Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.


Betancourt, R. (2014). Should the U.S. lift the Cuban embargo? Yes; it already has; and it depends!. Cuba in Transition, vol. 23, Miami: ASCE. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Cuba Study Group (2013), Restoring Executive Authority Over U.S. Policy Toward Cuba, Cuban Study Group, February 2013. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Ernest, E. D.(2016). Cuban Trade Relations Under the U.S. Embargo and their Impact on Human Development. (Master's thesis). Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Francis, D (2016), Obama’s Cuba Reset Is Now in the Hands of Congress. Too Bad It Won’t Budge, Foreign Policy, Mar. 21, 2016. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Griswold, D (2005), Four Decades of Failure: The U.S. Embargo against Cuba, CATO Institute, October 12, 2005. Accessed 1/1/2017 at:

Kornbluh, P (2016), ? Normalization of Relations With Cuba Is All But Irreversible Now, The Nation, October 19, 2016. Accessed 1/12/2017 at:

Lincicome, S (2014), Yes, Of Course We Should Lift The Cuban Embargo, The Federealist, December 23, 2014. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Lopez-Levy, A 92016), Cuba-U.S. relations in Trump's era: Reserved forecast, On Cuba Magazine, 18 Dec, 2016: accessed 1/20/2017 at:

Mylotrade (2016), Lifting the U.S. Trade Embargo on Cuba, Mylo Trade, 29 Sept 2016. accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Rosenblum, L (2002), A Time for Change: Rethinking U.S.-Cuba Policy, Washington Office on Latin America, May 2002. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Rosson, CP (2015), Hearing on Opportunities and Challenges in Agriculture Trade with Cuba, Testimony before the Senate of the united States, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, April 21, 2015. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Scull, JC (2016), Should the embargo on Cuba be lifted, Medium, May 11, 2016. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Teegan, H. Askari, H. Forre, J. Yang, J. Economic and Strategic Impacts of U.S. Economic Sanctions on Cuba, The center For Latin American Issues, George Washington University. Presented July 6, 2003. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:

Wong, KS (1994), The Cuban Demicracy Act of 1992: The Extraterritorial Scope of Section 1706(a), University of Pennslyvania Journal of International Business Law, Vol.14:4, 1994. Accessed 1/10/2017 at:'lBus.L.651(1993).pdf

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

PF Feb 2017 - Lift the Cuban Embargo - Introduction

Resolved: The United States should lift its embargo against Cuba.


Even though I have not formally defined embargo I think most debaters understand this topic will deal with the U.S. policy of banning exports and imports with Cuba.  At one time, the U.S. had favorable relations with the Cuban government of Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s. Batista welcomed U.S. companies to invest in Cuba which had a thriving tourist business with casinos, entertainment facilities and lovely beaches. But more importantly, U.S. (and multinational) companies had established several large oil refineries on the island. Moreover, Cuba was a leading exporter of sugar to the U.S. However, Batista would be more properly labeled as an unpopular military dictator, propped by the U.S. government, known for imprisoning or executing political rivals and dissidents, and allegedly enriching himself with corruption, alliances with organized crime and narcotics. The U.S. government, especially under President Dwight Eisenhower, protected the interests of U.S. corporations which were dominating a large portion of the lucrative Cuban economy, financing most of the mining operations on the island as well as a sizable portion of the sugar industry and various other economic sectors. These factors; strong U.S influence and colonialism, a corrupt and careless Batista regime and the imprisonment and murder of thousands political prisoners, fueled a popular, clandestine uprising which sought to overturn the Batista dictatorship. One such rebel group led by Fidel Castro, approached the U.S. for support which at the time was embroiled in a cold war and arms race with the Soviet Union. Castro, a well-educated, lawyer, turned-revolutionary, held a Marxist-Leninist ideology and so his request for aid was rebuffed by the U.S. With the assistance of his brother Raul and Che Guevara and enlistment of thousands of economically disadvantaged farmers, and laborers his guerrilla war became popularly known as "The 26th of July Movement".  Realizing the Batista regime was doomed, the U.S. backed a military coup led by Eulogio Cantillo and eventually toppled the Batista regime. When Cantillo attempted to set up another U.S.-puppet government, Castro swept in and pushed out the short-lived Cantillo-appointed regime. Castro formed a new government, employing his Marxist ideology. The Soviets, perhaps seeing an opportunity to extend their political and military reach, quickly agreed to various economic exchanges and began shipping crude oil to Cuba in exchange various goods. When the U.S. held refineries refused to process the Soviet crude oil, Castro seized the refineries and refused to compensate the Corporate owners. The seizure plus the closure of the casinos, and other acts quickly spurred the U.S. government to retaliate and in October of 1960, imposed an economic embargo which banned the import of Cuban goods and most exports to Cuba. Cuba, in turn, began to rely more heavily on its Soviet ally for goods and arms.

The initiation of the embargo was followed by other incidents of historic importance for U.S.-Cuban relations, including the so-called Bay of Pigs incident and the events collectively known as the Cuban Missile Crisis which pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. I don't intend to discuss those events in this analysis, as important as they may be as background for this topic. I encourage you, as a Public Forum debater to research these events to broaden your background knowledge. We are intending to debate the embargo, so I will limit additional background to that specific aspect of U.S.-Cuban relations, especially in light of the current situation in the world, particularly the collapse of the Soviet Union and the death of Fidel Castro.

First, let's examine the terminology of the resolution.


The United States
There is no need to define this group of words. The United States in this context refers to the government of the United States. comprised of the legislative, executive and judicial branches acting in accordance with the normal means permitted by the laws of the United States. Much of the government power behind the imposition of economic sanctions or embargoes lies within the executive branch through the Department of State and Treasury Departments functioning under executive order. Often, as is the case for Cuba, sanctions may be strengthened through Congressional legislation.

According to Merriam Webster, 'should' is used "to express obligation, propriety, or expediency". The word 'should' may considered a suggestion of sorts although in some contexts the suggestion may be considered as carrying a sense of duty.

I think most of us can understand that verb 'to lift' as the act of raising or picking up. If we view an embargo as a type of burden (a weight), then in this context 'lift' refers to the raising (with intent to remove) the burden of the sanctions upon Cuba.

This is the possessive pronoun for the United States. I include it to point out this embargo belongs to the U.S. and for the most part the U.S. alone. All other nations in the world are not legally obligated to adhere to its provisions and most do not, trading freely with Cuba.  However, none of these countries have the strength of the U.S economy.

Though we can loosely equate an embargo with economic sanctions, they are not quite the same. An embargo is usually limited to mean a ban on shipments departing or arriving at ports (and, yes, airplanes arrive and depart from ports). Economic sanctions can be far more intrusive by shutting down all forms of economic activity including bank transactions.

West's legal dictionary provides the following definition:
"A proclamation or order of government, usually issued in time of war or threatened hostilities, prohibiting the departure of ships or goods from some or all ports until further order. Government order prohibiting commercial trade with individuals or businesses of other specified nations. Legal prohibition on commerce."

It should be noted, the embargo against Cuba is not absolute. Humanitarian goods, such as medicine and food, are not banned. We will refine this definition as needed as we look at the Pro and Con positions.

Merriam Webster defines 'against' as "in opposition or hostility to" and it is appropriate. An embargo is a type of weapon designed to deprive and enemy or hostile actor of the goods and materials it needs to continue its course of action.

This is name of the island nation situated approximately 90 miles south of Florida. It is currently ruled by the government of Raul Castro (brother of Fidel Castro).

Resolution Analysis

Having now looked at the resolution wording in isolation we can begin to interpret the broader meaning and context a littler more closely. The U.S. is currently engaged in an economic embargo against Cuba and has been for the last 57 years (as of February 2017). The world, politically speaking, was a very different place in 1960. Most U.S. politicians and citizens stood in strong opposition to Communist ideology and viewed the nuclear power of the Soviet Union as an existential threat to the American way of life. We were locked in an ever-growing arms race with the Soviet Union, functioning under a theory of mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.); the idea that if either the U.S. or Soviets launched a nuclear attack, the resulting counter-attack would completely destroy both nations and probably most of the world. Our mistrust of all things 'communist' extended to anyone espousing communist ideology or supporting communist governments, and Castro, a Marxist thinker and revolutionary, already turned away by the U.S. found the support he needed in Moscow. When the Soviets attempted to ship "defensive" nuclear missiles to Cuba, a U.S. naval blockade pushed the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

The effects of the embargo have been devastating to the Cuban economy, despite the support it received from Moscow. Most Cubans live on very little money, often reside in inadequate housing, and have very little access to goods and supplies which can be used to improve their overall standard of living. In addition, as shall be examined more fully in the Pro position, the embargo has potentially had a some impact on the U.S. economy as well. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Cuba's primary source of commerce disappeared. Immediately afterward, the U.S. passed the Cuban Democracy Act and Helms-Burton Act which set strict conditions on the lifting of the embargo and attempted to extend sanctions to foreign governments which traded with Cuba.

Today, the Soviet Union no longer exists. Fidel Castro, died in November, 2016 and the control of the government of Cuba has been assumed by Raul Castro, who made some overtones of reconciliation toward the United States. But many Cuban refugees live in the United States, many of whom fled from the repressive Castro regime and have been very actively opposed to the Cuban dictatorship. To date, there have not been any free and open elections even if one could argue the government of Cuba has made some very tiny shifts toward liberalizing. Historically, the U.S. has tolerated dictatorships in the Western Hemisphere when it has served U.S. interests to do so, but there has been little desire to support Communist dictatorships which have taken hold in the West.

The resolution claims specifically and without further qualification, the embargo against Cuba should be lifted. Thus the ban on imports and exports will no longer be in force. This position is opposed, one may assume, by the general declaration the embargo should be continued. Does this mean, continued wholly, or partially or in some modified form? I tend to believe the opposition ground can be found in the idea we are not debating "The Embargo" as if is some monolithic entity which deprived of its parts would no longer be a U.S. embargo. We have defined embargo as a prohibition against shipments, but even in the status quo, we are not banning all shipments. The U.S. embargo has been shaped to some degree by expediency.  As I see it, a very substantial part of this debate will deal with Pro idea, that economic engagement helps spread democracy while the Con will be claiming continued sanctions in some form or other, will provide incentive for democratic reforms. We shall see what the evidence uncovers.

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"embargo." West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. 2008. The Gale Group 17 Jan. 2017