Sunday, March 29, 2009

Obama and the embargo

Joe Biden has ruled out scrapping the Cuba embargo. This does not come as a surprise, as I think it's fair to say that conventional wisdom held that Obama would mostly use executive authority to repeal some of the more restrictive measures enacted during the Bush administration. There is still a review of Cuba policy going on (unless it is complete) so best case scenario is that we could move gradually toward the whole enchilada. Obviously, getting rid of the embargo requires Congress, and it is not a priority. There is, however, growing congressional interest in the matter.

What particularly got my attention, however, was Biden's logic, which is worse than the Bush administration's because it is so cloaked in the "we are moving in a new direction" language. So, Mr. Vice President, why not end the embargo?

"We think that Cuban people should determine their own fate and they should be able to live in freedom and have some prospect of economic prosperity"

I guess technically it is true that the best way to let people determine their own fate is to refuse to have anything to do with them.

But it gets worse:

"Obama and I made it clear during our campaign that we thought there's a need for transition in our policy toward Cuba"*

But refusing to get rid of the embargo means no real transition in our policy, so this is contradictory. Unless there is a very gradual plan they're not revealing, which does not seem terribly likely. We'll see.

* It also seemed a little weird for a VP to refer to his president by his last name.


Kelby,  11:25 AM  

The Cuban novelist Achy Obejas was in Asheville this past week talking about and siging her book "Ruins".

At one point, she essentially said that while the embargo is in place, it is becoming less and less enforced. While you dont want to try to fly from Miami to Cuba, if you use a more western airport, (suggested Chicago) and write "research" when you return, there is very little risk.

It is important to consider de facto and de jure applicataions of the law. Perhaps while the embargo is going nowhere for the time being (I would guess that there are much more important domestic issues and that the administration doesnt want to get congress sidetracked), the administration is signalling looser enforcement?

Greg Weeks 4:03 PM  

I don't really know--the main question would be whether or not the looser restrictions just appeared, or had been gradually occurring even before Obama took office.

FYI, I reviewed Ruins here on the blog and am assigning it to POLS/LTAM 3144 in the fall.

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