Last week in Miami, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for ending trade sanctions on Cuba. This was a brave move on her part, and I applaud her for it. I also applaud President Obama for re-establishing diplomatic relations and the Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress who are seeking to preserve Americans’ right to travel freely to Cuba.
We have seen that decades without diplomatic relations have done nothing to change the regime in Havana.
Likewise, decades of economic sanctions and travel restrictions have been unproductive at best and arguably may have even strengthened the Castros’ hold on power.
We often forget that free people have the right to travel. We should never advocate our government or any other government restricting our travel. We also have the right to do business where and with whom we choose. We have the right to do business in Cuba and with Cubans. But our government is currently preventing us from exercising those rights.
Some people advocate sanctions in the name of liberty. I think their intentions are benevolent. They think that sanctions are a relatively peaceful tool for opposing regimes that we think are inappropriate in some way, typically in the realm of human rights. I, too, am passionate about the human rights of oppressed people worldwide. But the United States now has decades of evidence that shows that sanctions rarely achieve their intended goal and, instead, hurt the very people the sanctions were intended to help.
Advocates of sanctions also forget that such restrictions also violate our rights, as Americans, to travel and trade where and with whom we choose.
Freedom is best advanced not by governments, but by individual people interacting with each other of their own accord.
If we are truly concerned about the human rights of people in countries such as Cuba, Iran and North Korea, the best thing we can do is to end our sanctions on those countries and let our citizens interact and trade freely with their people.
Nicholas Sarwark, chair, Libertarian National Committee, Alexandria, Va.