Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Don’t Reward Castro, Keep the Embargo

Don’t Reward Castro, Keep the Embargo

Until the end of the Soviet Union, the U.S. domestic argument in favor of lifting the trade embargo on Cuba was strictly ideological and largely the monopoly of the pro-Castro, anti-anticommunist fringe, including aging hippies and former volunteers of the Venceremos Brigades of the I96Os. Their objections reflected their view of Fidel Castro as a Caribbean progressive and anti-imperialist David being strangled by the big, bad, reactionary, norteamericano Goliath.

Most of these marginal anti-embargo groups posed no threat to the (then) unanimous and loud anti-Castro voice of the large and politically influential Cuban exile community in Florida and New Jersey. To be sure, a short-lived deviation from the Washington establishment’s consensus on maintaining the embargo occurred during the first years of the Carter administration, when Cubans in the United States were for the first time allowed to visit Cuba and send money to their relatives there, and Washington’s rhetoric turned unusually mild. Indeed, Wayne S. Smith, chief of the American interests section in Havana, began his lengthy and ongoing career of anti-embargo advocacy at that time. But Castro reciprocated Caner’s good intentions toward Havana in typical fashion: in Nicaragua and Grenada in 1979 Cuban arms, money, and political support helped bring to power and sustain Marxist regimes as well as fuel terrorism in Central America; in Africa, Castro’s troops went on a rampage. Carter’s Cuba experiment ended effectively with the Mariel exodus of 1980, when Castro emptied his jails of 120,000 people, some of them criminals, most of them active and potential dissidents who came to the United States. Carter was one political victim of the Mariel exodus; another was an obscure and youthful governor of Arkansas named William Jefferson Clinton, who lost his 1980 reelection bid due to his mishandling of noting marielitos.

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