Feb 20, 2015 - 4:30pm

Dump the Cuba Embargo, Americans Say


Senior Editor, Digital Content

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A woman selling tomatoes outside Cienfuegos, Cuba.
A woman selling tomatoes outside Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photo credit: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg.

If you think 55 years is long enough for the Cuba embargo, you’re in good company--and momentum in Washington is building to end it.

Here are three charts from Gallup showing strong public support for normalizing relations with Cuba. 

1. The poll finds that 59% of Americans favor ending the embargo. “This is the highest Gallup has measured since it began asking this specific question in 1999,” writes Gallup’s Art Swift.

2. The same percentage favors the U.S. lifting travel restrictions to the Caribbean nation.

3. Forty-six percent have a favorable view of Cuba, the highest it has been in 20 years.

Last December, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue applauded President Obama’s steps to normalize relations with Cuba:

We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between the U.S. and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish. In countries around the world, where leaders from across the political spectrum have made a concerted effort to liberalize their economy, we have seen a sharp rise in the quality of life of their citizens.

Donohue visited Cuba in 2014 and saw the seeds of free enterprise beginning to take root.

Gallup's finding provide an interesting backdrop to efforts by Congress and the administration to end Cuba sanctions. 

House of Representatives delegation led by Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is visiting the island nation this week. "I do believe that there is strong bipartisan support in the Congress of the United States to lift the embargo," she told reporters.

Pelosi's group followed a Senate delegation that included Amy Klobuchar (D-MN):

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says the Cuba market is ripe for increased exports from Minnesota farms and businesses.

The Democratic senator was part of a Senate delegation visiting the island nation this week to talk about expanding trade relationships. She is co-sponsoring legislation to relax restrictions against doing business with Cuba, as well as to lift a travel ban.

Klobuchar says she was struck by the number of small-business owners and entrepreneurs eager to do business.

Along with the visits by Members of Congress, bipartisan legislation in the Senate [subscription required] was introduced earlier this month to end the embargo that began in 1960.

The administration isn’t standing still either. Next week, a new round of negotiations on normalizing relations between the two countries will take place in Washington, DC:

"The talks will be held on the 27th (of February) here at the State Department," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a daily briefing for reporters.

The sides held historic negotiations in Havana last month and the next round is seen by U.S. officials as critical to fleshing out details on re-establishing ties.

In particular, the United States wants to reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana before Cuba is officially removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. It also wants travel restrictions on U.S. diplomatic staff in Cuba lifted.

Cuba made clear in last month's talks that it first wants to be removed from the terrorism list and wants Washington to halt support for Cuban political dissidents, a step the United States has firmly rejected.

This growing momentum is welcome, because as the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome writes, the Cuban embargo hasn't worked:

First, legislation codifying the embargo — i.e., the “Helms-Burton” Act of 1996 — has not achieved either of its two primary objectives: regime change and foreign investment deterrence. The first failed objective is manifest: the Castros remain in power and the Cuban government continues to pursue its particularly-thuggish form of authoritarian communism. The second failed objective is almost as obvious: according to a running tally by the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, approximately 4,500 companies from over 100 countries import to, export from, provide services to, or have investments within Cuba.

What's happened is U.S. companies have stood on the outside looking in at their global competitors engaging in commerce. “Cuban regime trades with almost everyone (China, Canada, Europe, and Brazil are among its top export partners, to the total of about $20 billion per year),” Lincicome notes. 

It’s good to see positives steps from Congress and the administration happening to end this unsuccessful policy.  After over five decades of ineffective policy, it’s time for a change. The public agrees.

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Tom Donohue talking to reporters in Cuba.
U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue talks to reporters in Cuba. Photo credit: © 2015 U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.