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story.lead_photo.caption Richard Mason

In the midst of all the political wrangling there should be issues which most Americans can embrace, and there are several. However, the first one that comes to my mind is the Cuban Embargo. As you know the Unites States has maintained an embargo on Cuba for 60 years, and the result has been, very simply, to maintain the status quo for the repressive dictatorship, without any improvement in the status of the average Cuban. Actually there has been an increasing hardship on the Cuban people, without any perceptible change in the Cuban political situation.

The Cuban Embargo that is in place is the result of a possible missile threat by having Russian warheads based on the island. That threat was taken care of in the 1960s, and there isn’t any indication that it will ever occur again. The continuing embargo is, according to official sources, because of the oppressive Communist Government, or because we don’t want a Communist Government in the Western Hemisphere, but I believe the real reason is to mollify the Cuban Exiles in Florida and keep their votes. But whatever the reason, it’s time to completely remove the Embargo, and not just make tiny adjustments without actually allowing the Cuban people to have the benefits of free trade, which will economically improve the lot of the Cuban people. In a study by Reuters the overall cost of the Embargo to the Cuba people is 130 billion dollars. The entire country has suffered without any significant change in the repressive Communist Government.

Let’s put it in perspective: First, World opinion: only Israel supports the U. S. Position, and their support strongly suggests economic considerations are paramount, and if you’re wondering about why Israel would follow our lead, check out our aid package to Israel. At last count, by a 189-2 in a United Nations vote to condemn the Embargo, it is clear that a huge majority of the World’s nations strongly condemn the Embargo, and of course that includes all of the E. U. Nations. To sum it up: essentially the rest of the world is against the Embargo.

How can our country possible continue to justify the Embargo when we ignore the repressive governments in countries such as Red China…oh wait, it not Red China anymore. No, one of our biggest trading partner is now just China, and our President counts their leader as a friend. While we’re considering repressive, Communist Governments let’s look at Vietnam where over 50,000 Americans died trying to stop the spread of Communism. Well, how did that work out? Of course, it was a political war where our military had to fight it with an arm tied behind their back, and it was a total disaster for the USA. Of course North Vietnam won, but the victory cost them at least 2,000,000 men, women and children, who were either killed or wounded.

Well, if you consider how we treat a perceived Communist enemy in Cuba, you would think the USA would have blockaded Vietnam, and asked our worldwide Democratic Allies to join us in an economic blockade. It would be a Cuba situation except in SE Asia. Remember the domino theory, which said if South Vietnam goes Commie, the rest of SE Asia would follow, and then Japan, South Korea, and in a few years Hawaii, and pretty soon the Commies would be knocking on the Golden Gate Bridge. Well how’s the blockade going? Hummm, well you don’t blockade one of our new best friends and trading partners. Especially one where our President visits, and tour groups travel to see the famous tunnels. It seems we’re now saying Vietnam is a wonderful country, a buffer to Chinese expansion. Vietnam has turned into a Communist-Capitalist country and the dominoes didn’t fall.

Will, somebody explain to me how a country whose military killed 50,000 Americans is now our best friend in Southeast Asia, and Cuba, poor deprived country that has never killed an American, is still our enemy after almost a 60 year embargo? Of course, you might say, it’s a dictatorship, and as freedom loving Americans we really can’t stand dictators. Oh really? Let’s be at least a little honest and see if our blockade is the way to achieve a democratic society. I guess the best example would be a country that has thrown off a Communist dictatorship and is now a great example of how Democracy can improve the life of its people. There are many, but the best example I can think of is East Germany. That country went from one of the most repressive countries on the planet to a prosperous fully democratic society. Of course, we didn’t blockade East Germany, they did it for us with the Berlin Wall.

Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we traveled through what had been the heart of Communist Eastern Europe. We were met by people in various countries, which really didn’t care that much about free elections. What they really wanted was what they were seeing on the other side of the barricades or in East Germany it was what they were seeing across the wall in West Germany. The basic economic advantages in the West became such an overwhelming desire to have that Eastern European populations eagerly embraced capitalism. They talked freedom, but dollar signs and goods were the incentive to embrace democracy.

We returned to Eastern Europe only five years later, and we were astonished at the changes that had been made in such a short period of time. Tourism, capitalism, and a free people had combined to create the Eastern European miracle. Something that happened when barriers were removed and people had the opportunity to engage in free trade without restrictions.

Speaking of free trade items that sends dollars flowing into Arkansas, let’s take a quick look at a key possible export commodity that we have a lot of and that Cuba would jump at the opportunity to buy, if it wasn’t for the Embargo. It’s rice. Arkansas farmers would see millions in trade dollars flow into Arkansas, if they could trade openly with Cuba. Senator Boozman is proposing a loosening of trade restrictions with Cuba, which is a good first step, but a complete elimination of the Embargo should be our goal. After all the current free trade practices around the world have resulted in a better quality of life for not just our country, but for every country that has embraced the free trade concept.

That’s where we’re missing it with our Cuban Embargo. Open the trade-tourism gates to Cuba and stand back. They see our TV, Internet, and they want what we have. We have proved an embargo, which deprives the Cuban people, won’t loosen a dictatorship. Surely we have proved that after nearly 60 wasted years, and we don’t need a deal. Just unilaterally remove the embargo and stand back. I believe in less than a year, as capitalism sweeps the country, we will see another Vietnam miracle.

What have we got to lose? The Cuban —USA relationship can’t get any worse.

Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email richard@

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