Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where embargo relaxation should not be heading

Stephen Wilkinson, assistant director of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba London Metropolitan University, has written an article in The Guardian explaining that President Obama last week signed the omnibus spending bill that loosens restrictions on American travel to Cuba. The tone of the article is rightly optimistic, detailing the historical necessity of such an event, and also the stubborn thinking behind the persistence of the embargo.

Obviously these events should be welcomed by everyone who continues to condemn the embargo, but it is still an existing worry that the relaxation of restrictions on Cuba will fall directly into the laps of those with less than altruistic plans for Cuba, for example Philip Peters of the Lexington Institute (who I saw speak at my old university, chaired by Stephen Wilkinson). It was his intention that, on relaxation of the embargo, Washington could sweep its way into the fabric of the island, into its ideas and property.

Private business, like the black market taxi industry in Cuba, is proof, so says Peters, that not all aspects of Cuban society can be regulated by the state, and its about time these expressions of free enterprise are authorised. Peters is (obviously) not interested in promoting ties with countries more in touch with Cuba (such as the emerging latin american left) and instigating ways of curbing Cuba's isolation this way, but of seizing cultural hegemony and handing it back to Washington.

Furthermore, despite the progressive turn America under Obama is set to take, there is no evidence to show that the Obama Government will want anything other than this seizure. Obama is a symbol of hope, but his economic advisers (of the Robert Rubin ilk) are covered in scandal.

Sadly, the need to end the embargo has been hijacked by hardcore free marketeers like Philip Peters, and, even if the world was not in the throes of the worst economic crisis we might ever see, this cause would still be as highly dishonest and unethical.

Embargo, after all, should be the mark of a massive apology by the states, not the introduction of the biggest (and most repressed) cultural ambush since the Iraq war.

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