A few months ago, it was revealed that the US government had attempted to undermine the Cuban government via a clandestine social media network.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) had essentially tried to establish a "Cuban Twitter," in the hopes of fomenting dissent against the communist government.
The program was called ZunZuneo, and it utilized a cell phone text-messaging service in order to avoid the Cuban government's strict control over the Internet and flow of information.
At one point, the program had nearly 40,000 subscribers. None of them, however, were aware that it was a US government program, or that their private information would be used for political purposes.
The Obama administration claimed that it was not a clandestine program, but simply an attempt to increase the flow of information within Cuba. This seems like quite a dubious assertion. The US government went to great lengths to make sure that its role in the program was kept a secret.
The program is reminiscent of the Cold War, in which the United States habitually attempted to undermine communist regimes around the world via clandestine programs.
Indeed, it is reminiscent of the Cold War, in that it is a product of an anachronistic policy from that era that is no longer relevant or necessary: the US embargo on Cuba.
It's time to end the embargo on Cuba, and to stop punishing generations of Cubans who had nothing to do with the events and policies that led up to its establishment.
Furthermore, on top of this recent "Cuban Twitter" scheme, news recently broke that another USAID program, an HIV-prevention workshop, was also a front for another clandestine operation. The workshop was in fact designed to promote political activism.
Starting in 2009, the United States began recruiting young Latin Americans and sending them to Cuba via this program. Once they got there, they were meant to recruit political activists.
Both of these programs have undermined the legitimacy of USAID, an organization that does important humanitarian work around the world. Moreover, quite frankly, they make the US government look very stupid and quite amateur.
In April, when ZunZuneo was revealed, Senator Patrick Leahy described it as "dumb, dumb, dumb."
His words are also quite relevant now that this other program has been revealed. In fact, they are an apt description for the US government's general stance towards Cuba.
In 1960, after all US businesses in Cuba were nationalized by Castro's regime, the United States placed an embargo on the tiny Caribbean nation. Two years later, in 1962, it essentially became a total embargo.
While the US government uses the term "embargo," the Cuban government refers to it as a "blockade."
The embargo's history is intimately tied with many of the major events of the Cold War, such as the Cuban missile crisis.
Yet, the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union no longer exists. In essence, Cuba poses no palpable threat to the United States in the present-day.
Arguably, it is the most failed foreign policy in US history, as it was essentially established to decimate the communist regime in Cuba. Half a century later, this has yet to occur.
Moreover, some might argue that the embargo grants the regime more legitimacy, as it can blame Cuba's economic woes on the United States, rather than its own poor leadership and policies.
Five decades of use will wear anything thin, and the logic behind the embargo looks ever weaker. It has failed to dislodge the Castro regime of either Fidel or, since 2006, his brother Raúl. Indeed, by enabling the island’s rulers to present themselves as the victims of hegemonic bullying, it has shored up support for Cuba abroad and given an excuse for totalitarianism at home. America’s allies think the embargo is counter-productive at best, vindictive at worst.
Indeed, much of the world stands against the US embargo of Cuba. The United Nations has repetitively voted for the repeal of the embargo.
At this point, the majority of Americans would also like to see US-Cuban relations reestablished.
The embargo only exists for one reason: A cohort of stubborn US politicians, primarily Republicans, refuse to join us in the 21st century. They do not want to antagonize a large voting base of Cuban exiles in Florida that want to see Castro's regime punished.
Moreover, as the Economist notes, some of these politicians do not want to appear "soft on communism."
Yet, the US government's foreign policy should not be held hostage by a small group of voters that has failed to let go of the past.
Yes, it's true that Castro's regime has committed numerous human rights violations, among other crimes. However, that does not mean that more generations of Cubans should be punished for his transgressions.
The embargo on Cuba has accomplished none of its goals. The US government claims that it simply desires to improve the lives of regular Cubans.
The Obama administration essentially used these exact words when defending itself in the wake of the revelations surrounding the recent clandestine programs.
Yet, the embargo has done nothing but make the lives of regular Cubans more difficult.
It has deprived them of low-cost food and other goods that could be bought at reasonable prices from the United States.
Moreover, if US citizens were allowed to travel to Cuba, Cubans would greatly benefit from tourism.
This would be an enormous boost to the Cuban economy, fueling entrepreneurship and private sector growth.
The US economy is also missing out by not having a trading partner in Cuba, which is one of its closest neighbors geographically. Accordingly, as David Griswold of the Cato Institute puts it:
Meanwhile, Castro and his ruling elite enjoy a comfortable, insulated lifestyle by extracting any meager surplus produced by their captive subjects.
Hence, if the US government truly wants to witness change in Cuba, it should reestablish open and earnest dialogue with both the Cuban government and people.
It's time to say goodbye to the Cuban embargo once and for all.
The American people and the wider world have called for its cessation, and if the United States is truly a democracy, the government must listen.
Simply put, it's time to let go of the past, and move forward.
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