NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

To Topple Castro, Lift The Embargo

December 20, 1999

After a week in Havana, editorial writer Glenn Sheller of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch returned convinced more than ever that the United States should lift its embargo against Cuba.

"If the U.S. embargo were lifted, the full force of American culture and commerce would hit Cuban shores like a tidal wave," says Sheller, "sweeping away whatever loyalty to Castro and socialism remains there."

Conditions are ripe for change in Cuba:

  • For instance, when a lottery was held last year for some of the 20,000 visas allotted each year to Cubans who want to emigrate to the U.S., officials received 540,000 applications, equal to a quarter of the population of Havana, or one in 20 Cubans.
  • Despite trade with Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe and Asia, foreign investment since 1990 has amounted to only $2 billion or less.
  • And Cuba, with virtually the same land area and population as Ohio, had an estimated gross domestic product of just $16.9 billion in 1997 -- compared to Ohio's gross state product of $342 billion in 1998.

Although Castro blames the island's poverty on the embargo, the U.S. State Department estimates the embargo only adds about 5 percent to the cost of Cuba's imports. The real cause of Cuba's impoverishment is socialism -- which the small entreprenuerial class, the underground economy and the tourist trade are undermining.

Those Cubans with access to dollars, either from relatives in the U.S. or by working in the tourist trade, can buy consumer goods and food at stores closed to others. In fact, tourism employees often make more in tips in a day than most Cubans earn in a month. State-mandated salaries for all other workers, even doctors, range from $10 to $20 a month.

Source: Glenn Sheller (Columbus Dispatch), "The Failure of Communism in Cuba," On Principle, October 1999, John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, Ashland University, 401 College Avenue, Ashland, Ohio 44805, (419) 289-5411.


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