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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 4:12 PM

Pass the Cigars: US Lifts Some Restrictions on Cuba; Why Now?

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Sanctions and embargoes don't work. And in the case of Cuba, it took the US 52 years to partially realize that.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed into law a Cuban trade embargo. I have long known how foolish Kennedy's decision was (and the decision of every president since).  But I did not know until today how blatantly hypocritical Kennedy's action was.

A clip from Cigars All Around in the Financial Times explains: 

The day before Kennedy signed the law, "Kennedy ordered an aide to buy him 1,000 Petit Upmanns cigars. It was only after Kennedy got word that his request had been carried out that he authorised the new regulations that banned Cuban imports and would have made the purchase illegal."


For 52 years, the US embargo poisoned he Cuba-US relationship. What good did it do? Did it drive Castro out of power? Or did it help keep Castro in power?

I suggest the latter.

Free trade is always beneficial and always better than war or cold war. US goods flowing into Cuba and tourists with money would have done more for a regime change than pressure.

Hopefully it won't take 52 years for the US to realize the stupidity of sanctions on Russia. Don't hold your breath.

Cuba's Support of Terrorism

The Financial Times notes "Obama ordered a six month review of Cuba’s designation as a 'state sponsor of terrorism'. Even the State Department no longer attempts to justify this label, which devalues Washington’s word on international terrorism issues and triggers international financial sanctions against Cuba."

In other words, we've been lied to for years about Cuba. Hardly shocking.

Why Now?

I would like to suggest Obama is taking this step because it's the right thing to do, but that's not what is likely happening.

I believe this sentence explains what's going on. "In 2000, Cuban-American voters broke three-to-one for Republicans in the presidential election. But in 2012, exit polls showed Cuban-Americans splitting 50:50."

When push comes to shove, expect a choice to be made on how many votes that decision may win. Right vs. wrong is simply not part of the decision-making process!

Regardless, doing the right thing for the wrong reason is better than doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

So pass the cigars. Just don't smoke the damn things unless you want cancer of the tongue and mouth.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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