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The Helms Burton Act: Necessary Law Or Dysfunctional Policy?

5702 words - 23 pages

The Helms-Burton Act: Necessary Law or Dysfunctional Policy? U.S. policy toward Cuba, centered as it is on the embargo, is both obsolete and counterproductive. There is a near-total disjuncture between our stated objectives and the means chosen to achieve them. Not only do the means not serve the ends, it seems the US designed to work against them. With the Cold War over, Cuba is of little importance to the United States. Yet, under the Helms-Burton Act, the United States appears willing to jeopardize its vital relationships with Canada, Europe, and Mexico all in an effort to force their compliance with its Cuba policy. To place at risk that which is of major importance on behalf of that which is of little importance would certainly seem irrational. This goes far to explain why no other government supports the embargo.History of the Original Embargo Initially, the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba made sense. Imposed after Castro had nationalized all American properties without compensation, vowed to spread his revolution to the rest of Latin America, and edged toward alliance with the Soviet Union . The embargo was designed to punish Cuba for the expropriations and to raise the cost to the Soviet Union of maintaining its new relationship with Cuba. It was also meant to raise the cost of Cuban promiscuity in the rest of the hemisphere, and thus expressed a containment strategy. At first there was even some expectation that it might prove so damaging as to bring about the collapse of the Castro regime. By the end of the 1962 missile crisis, that hope was gone. Nevertheless, given the potential threat to U.S. security arising from Cuba's military alliance with the Soviet Union, the imperatives for maintaining the embargo were strong.In these early years, moreover, the embargo was not simply a unilateral measure on the part of the United States. Feeling themselves threatened by Castro's vow to project Cuba's power throughout Latin and South America, other governments joined the efforts to contain Cuba until, by 1964; all members of the Organization of American States (OAS) except Mexico had broken diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba .For its part, until well into the 1970s, the United States put forward but two conditions for rapprochement with Cuba: 1) that the latter end its efforts to spread revolution in this hemisphere, and 2) that it sever its military ties with the Soviet Union . There was no demand that Cuba become a democracy or adopt a market economy. On the contrary, in his speech before the 1962 OAS Meeting for Foreign Ministers in Punta del Este, at which Cuban membership in the OAS was suspended, Secretary of State Dean Rusk emphasized that the United States objected to Cuba's activities and policies in the international arena, not to its internal system or arrangements .The support of the OAS countries for the U.S. embargo lasted for more than a decade--or so long as they felt threatened by Cuba. By the early 1970s, however,...

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