Cuba and the Trade Embargo

January 3, 2000

January 3, 2000

I am going to Cuba. I have supported trade with Cuba for years. In 1995 after Castro's speech to the United Nations in New York City, I had this to say on my radio commentary. I said, "Watching Castro's speech at the UN last week gave me indigestion." What was even worse was to see the wild and warm reception he got as he addressed a church in New York City.

And yet as little good as I may have to say about Fidel Castro, I am not proud of the U. S. policy of continuing to maintain sanctions against Cuba. They were imposed 40 years ago before a lot of our voters were even born. They were imposed when the cold war with the Soviet Union was at its peak. They were imposed when Castro was armed with Soviet missiles targeting the U. S. That was a long time ago. The missiles are gone. The Soviet Union has imploded. World communism has collapsed. Cuba is the only communist nation in the western hemisphere. Communism is a failed system. Cuba is an impoverished nation.

The day when our self-imposed trade embargo with Cuba might have been of some questionable value has long passed. All of our trading competitors long ago opened trade with Cuba. We sacrifice a chance to trade with Cuba for what? We punish the poor people of a tiny island only 90 miles off our shore and for what? We do it for politics. We want to beat our chest. We say all the while how important it is to be engaged with China and North Korea. We have recognized Vietnam and opened trade and business with them . But not Cuba.

I'll be part of a delegation of agri-business leaders organized by the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs. Our objective is to help bring free market principles, democracy, trade and business to Cuba. The only thing standing in our way is hypocritical U. S. government policy. That old man with a beard is not a threat to the U.S.

It's time for our political leaders to show some courage, drop the embargo and look to the future. I'll tell you more next week about my visit. Until then, I'm John Block, reporting from Washington