The travel and trade embargo on Cuba is, and has always been, a subject of much debate for the people of the United States. When it was first put in place in the early 1960s, it was seen as a solution to many of the problems that the U.S. was facing at the time, such as the war with the USSR and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
These days, however, many people in the U.S. think that the ban should be terminated so that the people of the U.S and Cuba may reconnect once more. The Cuban travel and trade embargo is a relic of the Cold War, a poorly thought out solution that didn’t function as the U.S. hoped it would.
I will prove this with three points: the suffering of the Cuban people, the fact that the embargo did almost nothing to harm the government of Cuba, and that Cuba is a different place altogether since Cold War times.
To begin with, I will elaborate on how the ban has harmed the people of Cuba. The amount of suffering of the Cuban people because of the ban has been nothing short of astonishing. I have gone to Cuba twice now, and it is tragic how dilapidated the once proud houses of Old Havana have become. In some parts of Havana, people will go out to the Malecon with nothing but some fishing line and a hook to try to catch dinner for their family. Others will do random jobs, like tugging around a washing machine on a bicycle to do people’s laundry. Some tourists think that things like these are quaint, but it is actually a hardship of the embargo that needs to change. While the ban has harmed the people of Cuba immensely, it has done almost nothing to harm the government.
The Cuban government was the reason that the travel and trade embargo was put into effect on February 7, 1962. After the Fulgencio Batista regime, Fidel Castro came into power on February 16, 1959. Almost immediately, he made Cuba a communist nation. At this time, the Cold War was being waged between the U.S. and the USSR and Cuba, being a newly formed communist nation, was of much interest to the USSR
After the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. placed the travel and trade ban on Cuba with the intent of harming their government. This strategy has not worked out too well for the U.S. The before-mentioned suffering of the Cuban people is basically all that the embargo has managed to cause, while the government of Cuba has remained relatively unaffected.
At a recent gathering of all the countries in the world, only two countries voted against scrapping the embargo while 191 countries said the embargo was a relic that should be terminated. These statistics, coupled with the fact that Cuba is a different place entirely today, makes keeping the ban in place seem a little shortsighted.
The island of Cuba has become a different place altogether since Cold War times. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report in 1998 saying, “Cuba does not pose a significant military threat to the U.S. or to other countries in the region.” Seeing as this was almost 20 years ago, it seems that Cuba should pose even less of a threat to the U.S. as of now.
On both my trips to Cuba, I have seen that the Cuban people are both willing and eager to reconnect to the U.S. Even the people who have suffered the most because of the ban want a fresh start with the U.S. The amount of suffering of the Cuban people can be frightening to contemplate in full, but it leaves us with a much better understanding of what they have endured and what must be changed.
The suffering of the Cuban people and their land has been so immense that we must realize that we should not quarrel any longer over problems that are so far in the past. The Cuban embargo is a Cold War relic and a solution that failed to serve its purpose long ago. I hope that the three points I have presented have helped support the conclusion that it is past time for the embargo to be terminated and for the U.S. to search for a new beginning with both the government and the people of Cuba.
Julian Colby just completed seventh grade at the Durango Shared School. His parents are Chad and Sara Colby of Durango.