Issues & Ideas

As U.S., Cuba renew relations, South Florida speaks out

NEW RELATIONSHIP: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with Bruno Parilla, Cuba’s foreign minister.
NEW RELATIONSHIP: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with Bruno Parilla, Cuba’s foreign minister. Bloomberg

As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to raise the U.S. flag over its embassy in Havana on Friday, the U.S. trade embargo with the island remains the greatest impediment to truly open relations between the two countries.

The embargo, which began to be imposed in 1960, has been a point of contention for South Floridians on both sides of the debate. Supporters argue that without concessions from the Castro regime and a commitment toward democracy, lifting the embargo will only worsen conditions for Cubans on the island. Opponents argue that after 54 years of keeping the island isolated from American trade, nothing has changed and Cubans are suffering the repercussions.

But since President Barack Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement of normalizing relations with Cuba, opinions on the embargo have also shifted. Traveling restrictions have diminished, embassies have opened and cruises and ferries are preparing to travel across the Florida Straits.

The question remains: Is lifting the embargo next?

We asked readers on the Public Insight Network whether they thought it was time to do away with the embargo, and what effect that could have on the Cuban people. Some responses:

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In 2011, I went to Cuba on a visa with a group to help kids who were into skating. It was 15 of us from various parts of the U.S. We all packed about 150 pounds of goods to give to them. Lifting the embargo would be a historical moment that’s way overdue. Cuban people are the hardest working, resourceful people I have ever seen in my life. I saw them use foreign car parts to repair American-made cars that they use as taxis. Giving the Cuban people the opportunity to have jobs and a decent wage would be beneficial for both countries. It’ll create more jobs in the U.S., such as airlines and cruise ships. In Cuba, they’d welcome the business.

Gregory Pitts, Weston

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It certainly would improve life for Cubans in Cuba and Cubans here. Cubans, as they have shown in their migration to Miami, are very entrepreneurial people who always seem to know how to make money given the opportunity. Opening tourism to Cuba will create numerous small business opportunities on both sides of the Florida Straits. The side benefit of capitalism taking over the Cuban economy is that the government will also change into a more democratic form of government because the uplifted people, with money in their pockets, will force the change to true democracy. It’s a win-win for all.

Bruce Lamberto, North Miami Beach

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Not as conceptualized at present. Obama has dissipated all leverage in negotiations for human rights matters, real court of law offerings and banking compliance. Businesses will be hesitant upon establishing trade unless they have safeguards, hence the necessity for a real court of law. Life for Cubans there may improve slightly but democracy will not ring true as long as communism is the official rule of the island.

Jim Angleton, Bay Harbour Islands

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Having an embargo for about 50 years has certainly not helped the Cuban people and as a tactic has been a dismal failure. With communication and the lifting of the embargo, an improvement is far more likely and would benefit both nations. Surely, if we can work with 1.3 billion Chinese, we certainly can work with 12 million Cubans.

Steven Redlich, Miami

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It will not improve the life of Cubans, but it will prove to the Cuban people and the world that Castro is the one who has the embargo on the Cuban people and not this government. The embargo has always been the scapegoat for all the failures of a socialist/communist regime. Lift the embargo, and the misery will remain the same.

Teresita Verdaguer, Miami

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I believe it would because it would give the Cuban people more of a look into what they are missing out on and would give us in the U.S. a better look at what their day-to-day struggle is like. The more they see what kinds of technology and goods we have an abundance of, the more likely that they will want them also. It might cause a change in Cuban public opinion, which might affect change from within the government. It occurred when we opened up more with the Soviet Union and it’s Soviet Block countries. It could happen again. No lasting change in a government happens unless it is accepted from within and by its people.

Mark Wisby, Cutler Bay

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The U.S. should remove the embargo with Cuba with conditions that would help Cubans to have a freer environment. The embargo is not the cause of the poor economy in Cuba — there is trade between the two countries in the millions, plus Cuba’s trade with other countries. The lifting of the embargo would improve the economic conditions of Cubans. Let’s see what happens with human rights.

Mara Houstoun, Miami

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Yes, it will remove a justification for the atrocities that the Castros have been committing for all these years. It will show the Cuban people how friendly the “estadounidenses” [Americans] are, how they have been foolish and mislead all these years. It will show the world that they are the obsolete, that they are not willing to engage.

Arturo Pollo Jr., Miami Beach

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Sure it will. The rest of the world is going there now and tourism from the U.S. will help their economy and influence their government to be more democratic. The Castros won’t live forever.

Larry Whipple, Miami

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Not possible. With three currencies, Cuba managed to hide economic failure for decades, and minimum wage and retirement under $10 per month. It needs a miracle.

Juan Tomas Sanchez

Coral Gables

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