OP/ED: End America’s Perverse Embargo Against Cuba 5

Jesse Jackson meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba on June 25, 1984.

Jesse Jackson meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba on June 25, 1984.

By Jesse Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times


When President Barack Obama called on the world to contribute to fighting Ebola in West Africa, the response was, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “underwhelming.” One nation stood up immediately: Cuba dispatched 165 medical personnel to Sierra Leone, the largest single contribution to that country. “Against Ebola, we can work with anyone,” said Jorge Delgado Bustillo, head of the Cuban Sierra Leone Medical Brigade “The United States? Yes, we can.”

Cuba has sent tens of thousands of health workers to aid foreign nations in distress, including 1,500 to Haiti after its 2010 earthquake. The Cubans cooperate with the U.S. on migration issues and in patrolling the seas. The Cubans also aid the U.S. in the wars on drugs and terror, now hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and guerrilla leaders there that even American officials acknowledge are helpful.

Cubans are freer to travel to the U.S. than Americans are to travel to Cuba. The Cubans are expanding private ownership and encouraging foreign investment, with the Brazilians, Europeans, Chinese and Russians all grabbing opportunities. While the Cubans are far from a democracy and continue to curb dissent and limit freedom of assembly, their leaders are slowly opening the country up, while playing a responsible role across the developing world.

And yet America continues to enforce an embargo that began in 1961. The State Department still includes Cuba on its list of terrorist nations.

This perverse policy has helped to isolate the U.S. in its own hemisphere. The U.S. government’s unrelenting opposition to Cuba’s presence at hemispheric meetings has offended virtually all of our neighbors, while isolating the U.S. Now the U.S. has been put on notice: When Latin American governments open the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City next spring, Cuba will be in attendance whether Obama comes or not.

The failed embargo against Cuba should have been lifted decades ago. The embargo has been sustained largely for two reasons. First, Castro embarrassed the CIA and the cold warriors, frustrating their attempts to invade the island, destabilize the regime and assassinate him. Second, domestic politics, particularly the passion of Cuban American voters in the swing state Florida, sustained the policy long past its expiration date. But the Cold War is long over, and the new generation of Cuban Americans wants relations opened up.

The New York Times recently called on President Obama to normalize relations with Cuba. Only Congress can fully end the embargo, but the president can expand the right to travel to and invest in the island, and can restore normal diplomatic ties. He might sensibly commute the sentences of the three of the five Cuban men who remain in jail after 16 years, and exchange them for Alan Gross, now imprisoned in Cuba for five years as an American spy.

This could help launch a new era of engagement with our own hemisphere. The U.S. has been so busy across the world that it has neglected — and often scorned — our neighbors. Yet from immigration to terrorism to climate change and economic vitality, good relations with our neighbors are critical.

Ending the outmoded cold war against an island 90 miles off our shore is long overdue. By taking this step, President Obama can revive U.S. leadership in the region and bring to an end an historic embarrassment.


  1. On February 21, 1972 Richard Milhouse Nixon was the first United States President, who visited the People´s Republic of China. Nixon, indeed, was right when he coined his visit to the People´s Republic of China: “The week that changed the world”. It is useless, from a U.S. foreign relations policy standpoint, for anyone to attempt to establsih an analysis or the comparison in the level of differences that would exist, if a side-by-side comparison were to be made between the PRC at that time and Cuba today with regards to the status of their economies, human rights issues, diplomatic relations with regards to the U.S.. The fact is–and no matter issues relating to economy, human rights and diplomatic and foreign policy factors–on December 16, 1978 the United States and the People´s Republic of China published a joint communiqué regarding the establishment of U.S. and China relationships. Thereafter, January 1, 1979 became the official date of the establishment of such U.S./China diplomatic relationships. This is all now not only an intrinsically important part of history, but it also changed the world and the course of the United States on a globally at a time of very complicated world scenarios such as the Vietnam war, the Soviet Bloc. Chairman Mao had been ill just priior to President Nixon´s arrival for his visit to China, notwithstading Chairman Mao, it was later confirmed to have insisted in meeting with the U.S. President. I believe such meeting not only marked an important point of the visit itself–for what it was and it represented–between the United States and the PRC, but it also subliminally served to visually crystalize before of millions and millions of people in China that Mao–himself–the father of the PRC and founder of the PRC Revolution, was procative and was seen ratifying with his presence to meeting the leader of the United Satates on a road to establish relationships between the two nations. Fidel Castro may have relinquished power to his brother Raúl, but it is Fidel Castro–his personna–that represents the figurehead symbol of the Cuban nation and the father of the Cuban Revolution, upon which such revolution evolved. It would be more advantageous for the United States and also for Cuba to re-establish their diplomatic relationships prior to Fidel Castro´s–much predicted death, although one may never know when–and would be the most effective way to open-up relations with the island, a place having less population than the entire State of Florida. To intend to rationalize the “whys and why nots” of establishing diplomatic relationships between Cuba and the United States is not as important as the fact the Western Hemisphere to the South of the United States has gone virtually unattended by the U.S. for far too long, meanwhile, the U.S. Latino population in the United States continues to grow. It is expected, by the year 2035, the United States will be composed of a Latino demographic majority. The Pew Center Report of February 2012 predicted that between 2012 and 2020 Latinos, in the United States, will occupy 75% of all new jobs in this nation. Every year, there are three million newborns in the United States. Of such amount of newborns annually, 50% approximately are Latinos born from legal Latinos parents. The numbers statistically scream-out-loud to indicate that every month that passes without the U.S. opening-up diplomatic relationships with Cuba is not only a disastrous policy for the United States in regards to the image of this nation throughout all of Latin America and the rest of the world, but it is a lossing proposition for the economy of this nation guided by a U.S. government designed by the forefathers to protect the “general welfare” of its citizens, which includes the businesses owned by such citizens–too–who, at present time, cannot do business with Cuba. It is a matter of time now when the U.S. and Cuba re-establish diplomatic realtionships. The question is, who will be the President of the United States to bring about this change and perhaps, even, visit Cuba as Nixon once did in his historic trip to China in 1972. I strongly believe it will be President Barack Obama. If he doesn´t act upon it, I believe, Hillary Clinton, if she dicides to run for President and is elected President in 2016, will do it. Retrospectively, this is why I believe President Obama will establish diplomatic ties with Cuba–the bigger issue–and it is then, the issue of the overly chanted ” U.S. trade embargo” will be moot and rapidly gone.

  2. Yes, sometimes the age-old adage; “Like father like son” is not true to its meaning at a given point in time. It would be unfair to character assasinate Reverend Jackson on the basis of third party association. It is my understanding his son–as many other people in the United States suffers from manic deppression, a recognized diagnosis of an illness, which when treated serves to improve the patient´s quality of life. As with any person who may suffer from this illness, I am truly sorry for the choices his son made and I´m sure the financial restitution made and the term of confinement will give his son the right to have his civil rights reatored and made whole again as a free nation that we live-in can guarantee. I´ll take the high road on this subject and keep it short. yet nevertheless will provide a brief analysis about this, so as not to get into subject matter of “who are the real looters of this nation”–and who are not ill, but plain greedy–and who are not in prison for greater financial wrongdoing tan Jesse Jackson Jr.. For instance, there has not been one-single criminal indictment during the settlemnet by the U.S. with Bank of America. It is now a reported historic fact. $17 billion in settlement payment without as much as one single person from that Bank of America a participant of the ensemble–among other Banks–that forged the greatest financial debacle in U.S. history, which made millions of Americans to loose their most precios asste and destroy the fiber of the American dream. Nobody went to prison. Let´s keep it there. It is a disgusting subject.

  3. Cuba’s propaganda machine does not give up. It makes me sick everytime I read some none sense crazy reporting by the cuban dictatorship. Boy, how I hope the end of the Castro’s regime will come soon.

  4. I wouldn´t exactly refer to the sending of 165 Cuban physicians to fight Ebola as a matter of “propaganda”. Madison Avenue, where I worked for over a span of 35 years is truly the cradle of advertising creativity and production in all facets of American life, including those facets, which permeate into the international preamble of our nation´s actions both politically and militarily overseas. Ask the people in Liberia and other parts of Africa if sending 165 Cuban physicians to the African continent is sheer “propaganda” or is it effective problem solving. Perhaps the real “propaganda” comes from the part of those who attempt to spin their falsehoods into a truth, by the act of accusing Cuba who brings much needed help to Africa as if delving in “propaganda”. It is totally ridiculous, self serving and shortsided by those who attempt to spin this great humanitarian aid into the label of being “propaganda”. “Nuff” said.

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