FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How to Break the Embargo on Cuba

The normalization of relations with Cuba – a long-delayed measure – offers the opportunity to lift the embargo on the island that so many negative consequences has had for the Cuban people. An initial measure could be to open the medical communication channels between American and Cuban doctors.

Although lifting the embargo – or recognizing the Cuban regime –  requires congressional approval, President Obama should move that motion forward, despite the opposition of recalcitrant members of Congress, many Democrats among them.

History has shown that the embargo has benefited no one except its targets: the Castro brothers. It has allowed them to maintain a strong grip on power, to use it as a rallying point against the United States, and as a scapegoat for the deprivations Cubans have endured since the embargo was imposed in 1962.

The efforts of those supporting the embargo -mostly in the Cuban exile community in Florida- as a way to undermine the Castros’ regime have proven to be counterproductive, since they have not weakened their power nor turned the population against them. In addition, the changing demographics in Florida has made the younger generation less obsessed with the Cuban regime and more open to negotiation.

For several years, as a result of the embargo, there were severe restrictions on the export of medicines from the US to Cuba. In 1995, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States informed the U.S. Government that such activities were a violation of international law, and requested that the U.S. take immediate actions to exempt medicines from the embargo. According to the Cuban delegation to the U.N. the restrictions on medical products were “so extensive that they make such imports practically impossible.”

In spite of these difficulties, Cuba has created one of the best public healthcare systems in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Kaiser Family Foundation, a U.S. non governmental organization that evaluated Cuba’s health care system in 2000-2001, described Cuba as “a shining example of the power of public health to transform the health of an entire country by a commitment to prevention and by careful management of its medical resources.”

As things stand now it is improbable that the US embargo will hurt Raul Castro more than it hurt Fidel. Now is the perfect time to try a diplomatic approach that could lead to lifting the embargo and establishing normal relations between both countries. The process should consist of several steps to allow the development of trust, trade and lead to the free movement of people between the U.S. and Cuba.

An initial measure that should have widespread approval could be the creation of a commission of American and Cuban doctors who could analyze the specific health needs of the Cubans still hindered by the embargo and suggest measures to overcome these obstacles. In addition, there could be an intense exchange of medical professionals from both countries and the sharing of medical knowledge in areas where the Cubans have made great progress.

In 1991 I led a U.N. medical delegation to Cuba in charge of evaluating the progress of a project using interferon to treat inoperable lung cancer, an area of intense research then in Cuba. In addition, public health approaches taken by the Cuban doctors could be of interest to its American colleagues.

So far, those who stand to lose the most in this situation have been ordinary Cubans, who enjoy good health care and education but none of the advantages of living in an open society with access to goods that people in other countries take for granted.

All Cubans I spoke to on the island are eager for normal relations with the U.S. They feel emotionally closer to the Americans than they were to the Russians at the time they were receiving considerable help from the Russian government. One Cuban told me, half jokingly, “The Cuban regime will be more easily defeated by iPods and jeans than by an American army.”

Lifting the embargo on Cuba is a much less complex endeavor than ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or solving the Middle East nightmare. Ending this measure would create an atmosphere of goodwill worldwide of unpredictable, but certainly good consequences for world peace. Persisting in a course of action that has been proven to be wrong for almost half a century is to accept the tyranny of failed ideas.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant, and a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and a national journalism award from Argentina.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail