United States embargo against Cuba
Overview
 
The United States embargo against Cuba (described in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 and Latin America as el bloqueo, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 for "the blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

") is a commercial, economic, and financial embargo
Embargo
An embargo is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, in order to isolate it. Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is...

 partially imposed on Cuba in October 1960. It was enacted after Cuba nationalized
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 the properties of United States citizens and corporations and it was strengthened to a near-total embargo on February 7, 1962.

Titled the Cuban Democracy Act
Cuban Democracy Act
The Cuban Democracy Act was a bill presented by U.S. Congressman Robert Torricelli and passed in 1992 which prohibited foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and family remittances to Cuba...

, the embargo was codified into law in 1992 with the stated purpose of maintaining sanctions on Cuba so long as the Cuban government continues to refuse to move toward "democratization and greater respect for human rights".
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The United States embargo against Cuba (described in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 and Latin America as el bloqueo, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 for "the blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

") is a commercial, economic, and financial embargo
Embargo
An embargo is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, in order to isolate it. Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is...

 partially imposed on Cuba in October 1960. It was enacted after Cuba nationalized
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 the properties of United States citizens and corporations and it was strengthened to a near-total embargo on February 7, 1962.

Titled the Cuban Democracy Act
Cuban Democracy Act
The Cuban Democracy Act was a bill presented by U.S. Congressman Robert Torricelli and passed in 1992 which prohibited foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and family remittances to Cuba...

, the embargo was codified into law in 1992 with the stated purpose of maintaining sanctions on Cuba so long as the Cuban government continues to refuse to move toward "democratization and greater respect for human rights". In 1996, Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act
Helms-Burton Act
The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 is a United States federal law which strengthens and continues the United States embargo against Cuba...

, which further restricted United States citizens from doing business in or with Cuba, and mandated restrictions on giving public or private assistance to any successor government in Havana
Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

 unless and until certain claims against the Cuban government are met. In 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 expanded the trade embargo even further by ending the practice of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies trading with Cuba. In 2000, Clinton authorized the sale of certain "humanitarian" US products to Cuba.

It has been argued that pro-embargo Cuban-American exiles
Cuban-American lobby
The Cuban-American lobby describes those various groups of Cuban exiles in the United States and their descendants who have historically influenced the United States' policy toward Cuba...

, whose votes are crucial in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, have swayed many politicians to also adopt similar views. The Cuban-American views have been opposed by business leaders who argue that trading freely would be good for Cuba and the United States.

At present, the embargo, which limits American businesses from conducting business with Cuban interests, is still in effect and is the most enduring trade
Trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

 embargo in modern history. Despite the existence of the embargo, the United States is the fifth largest exporter to Cuba (6.6% of Cuba's imports are from the US). However, Cuba must pay cash for all imports, as credit is not allowed.

On September 13, 2011, President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 extended the embargo through September 14, 2012.

History

U.S. arms embargo had been in force since March 1958 when armed conflict broke out in Cuba between rebels and the Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

 government. In July 1960, in response to Cuba's new revolutionary government's seizure of US properties, the United States reduced the Cuban import quota of brown sugar to 700,000 tons, under the Sugar Act of 1948; the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 responded by agreeing to purchase the sugar instead, as Cuba's new government continued to take further actions to nationalize
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 American businesses and privately owned properties.

Kennedy-era embargo

In response to the Cuban alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 extended measures by Executive Order, first widening the scope of the trade restrictions on February 7 (announced on February 3 and again on March 23, 1962). According to his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, Kennedy asked him to purchase 1,000 Cuban cigars for his future use immediately before the extended embargo was to come into effect. Salinger succeeded, returning in the morning with 1,201 Petit H. Upmann cigars, Kennedy's favorite cigar size and brand. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...

, Kennedy imposed travel restrictions on February 8, 1963, and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations
Cuban Assets Control Regulations
The Cuban Assets Control Regulations, , are regulations of the United States Department of the Treasury on July 8, 1963, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, that general regulate relations between Cuba and the U.S...

 were issued on July 8, 1963, under the Trading with the Enemy Act in response to Cubans hosting Soviet nuclear weapons. Under these restrictions, Cuban assets in the U.S. were frozen and the existing restrictions were consolidated.

In 1962, Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States
Organization of American States
The Organization of American States is a regional international organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States...

 (OAS) "by a vote of 14 in favor, one (Cuba) against with six abstentions. Mexico and Ecuador, two abstaining members argued that the expulsion was not authorized in the OAS Charter."
Multilateral sanctions were imposed by the OAS on July 26, 1964, which were later rescinded on July 29, 1975. Cuban relations with the Organization of American States
Cuban relations with the Organization of American States
Despite being a founding member of the Organization of American States , Cuba was effectively suspended from 21 January 1962 to 3 June 2009. Thus, for almost the entire time that the OAS has been operating, Cuba has been barred from sending representatives to the OAS and effectively had its...

 have improved as of 3 June 2009 (membership suspension lifted).

The restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba lapsed on March 19, 1977; the regulation was renewable every six months, but President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 did not renew it and the regulation on spending U.S. dollars
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

 in Cuba was lifted shortly afterwards. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 reinstated the trade embargo on April 19, 1982. This has been modified subsequently with the present regulation, effective June 30, 2004, being the Cuban Assets Control Regulations
Cuban Assets Control Regulations
The Cuban Assets Control Regulations, , are regulations of the United States Department of the Treasury on July 8, 1963, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, that general regulate relations between Cuba and the U.S...

, 31 C.F.R. part 515. The current regulation does not limit travel of US Citizens to Cuba per se, but it makes it illegal for US Citizens to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba under most circumstances without a US government Office of Foreign Assets Control
Office of Foreign Assets Control
The Office of Foreign Assets Control is an agency of the United States Department of the Treasury under the auspices of the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S...

 issued license.

Helms-Burton Act

The 1963 U.S. embargo was reinforced in October 1992 by the Cuban Democracy Act
Cuban Democracy Act
The Cuban Democracy Act was a bill presented by U.S. Congressman Robert Torricelli and passed in 1992 which prohibited foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and family remittances to Cuba...

 (the "Torricelli Law") and in 1996 by the Cuban Liberty and Democracy Solidarity Act (known as the Helms-Burton Act
Helms-Burton Act
The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 is a United States federal law which strengthens and continues the United States embargo against Cuba...

) which penalizes foreign companies that do business in Cuba by preventing them from doing business in the US. Justification provided for these restrictions was that these companies were trafficking in stolen U.S. properties, and should, thus, be excluded from the United States.

The European Union resented the Helms Burton Act because it felt that the US was dictating how other nations ought to conduct their trade and challenged it on that basis. The EU eventually dropped its challenge in favor of negotiating a solution.

After Cuba shot-down two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue
Brothers to the Rescue
Brothers to the Rescue is a Miami-based activist organization headed by José Basulto. Formed by Cuban exiles, the group is widely known for its opposition to the Cuban government and, then President, Fidel Castro...

 planes in 1996, killing three Americans and a US resident, a bi-partisan coalition in the United States Congress approved the Helms-Burton Act. The Title III of this law also states that any non-U.S. company that "knowingly trafficks in property in Cuba confiscated without compensation from a U.S. person" can be subjected to litigation and that company's leadership can be barred from entry into the United States. Sanctions may also be applied to non-U.S. companies trading with Cuba. This restriction also applies to maritime shipping, as ships docking at Cuban ports are not allowed to dock at U.S. ports for six months. It's important to note that this title includes waiver authority, so that the President might suspend its application. This waiver must be renewed every six months and it has traditionally been. It was renewed for the last time July 17, 2006, therefore the suspension of this provision will remain effective for, at least, another six months following that date.

In response to pressure from some American farmers and agribusiness
Agribusiness
In agriculture, agribusiness is a generic term for the various businesses involved in food production, including farming and contract farming, seed supply, agrichemicals, farm machinery, wholesale and distribution, processing, marketing, and retail sales....

, the embargo was relaxed by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act
Trade sanctions reform and export enhancement act
The Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act was passed by United States’ former President Bill Clinton in 2000 . The act altered regulations in regards to U.S. trade with Cuba...

, which was passed by the Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 in October 2000 and signed by President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

. The relaxation allowed the sale of agricultural goods and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian reasons. Although Cuba initially declined to engage in such trade having even refused US food aid in the past, seeing it as a half-measure serving U.S. interests, the Cuban government began to allow the purchase of food from the U.S. as a result of Hurricane Michelle
Hurricane Michelle
Hurricane Michelle was the thirteenth named storm and the strongest tropical cyclone of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. Michelle developed from a tropical wave that moved across the Atlantic, and formed into Tropical Depression Fifteen on the October 29. The depression slowly intensified as...

 in November 2001. These purchases have continued and grown since then, even though all sales are done in cash. In 2007, the US was the largest food supplier of Cuba and its fifth largest trading partner.

In some touristic spots across the island, American brands such as Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...

 can be purchased. Ford tankers refuel planes in airports and some computers use Microsoft software. However, the origin of the financing behind such goods is not always clear in today's market where billions of dollars move around the earth every minute. The goods often come from third parties based in countries outside the US, even if the product being dealt originally has US shareholders or investors. This can be seen for example with Nestle
Nestlé
Nestlé S.A. is the world's largest food and nutrition company. Founded and headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland, Nestlé originated in a 1905 merger of the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company, established in 1867 by brothers George Page and Charles Page, and Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé, founded in 1866 by Henri...

 products (which have a 10% US ownership) and can be bought in "Convertible Pesos” (CUCs)-hard currency, stores that are pegged to the US dollar, Euro and other currencies.

Ban on travel by families and individuals

According to the U.S. Department of State: "Cuban Assets Control Regulations
Cuban Assets Control Regulations
The Cuban Assets Control Regulations, , are regulations of the United States Department of the Treasury on July 8, 1963, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, that general regulate relations between Cuba and the U.S...

 are enforced by the U.S. Treasury Department and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically located in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world. Regulation does not limit travel of US Citizens to Cuba per se, but it makes it illegal for US Citizens to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba, under most circumstances. The regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related solely to tourist travel are not licensable." Meanwhile, Canadian and European tourists continue to visit the island.

Spurred by a burgeoning interest in the assumed untapped product demand in Cuba, a growing number of free-marketers in Congress, backed by Western and Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 lawmakers who represent agribusiness, have tried each year since 2000 to water down or completely erase regulations preventing Americans from traveling to Cuba. Four times over that time period the United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 has adopted language lifting the travel ban, and in 2003 the U.S. Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 followed suit for the first time. However, each time President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 threatened to veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 the bill. Faced with a veto threat, each year Congress dropped its attempt to lift the travel ban. United States nationals can circumvent the ban by traveling to Cuba from a different country (such as Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, The Bahamas
The Bahamas
The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a nation consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets . It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola , northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 or Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

), as Cuban immigration authorities do not stamp passports. In doing so, they would risk prosecution by the U.S. government if discovered.

On October 10, 2006 the United States announced the creation of a task force made up of officials from several US agencies that will pursue more aggressively violators of the US trade embargo against Cuba, with severe penalties. The regulations are still in force and are administered by the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control. Criminal penalties for violating the embargo range up to ten years in prison, $1 million in corporate fines, and $250,000S in individual fines; civil penalties up to $55,000 per violation.

The Obama administration has made only slight changes to the restrictions on US travel to Cuba. On April 13, 2009, President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 loosened the travel ban, now allowing Cuban-Americans to travel freely to the country; and on January 14, 2011 he further loosened the ban, by allowing students and religious missionaries to travel to Cuba if they meet certain restrictions. The President has outlined a series of steps that Cuba could take to demonstrate a willingness to open its closed society, including releasing political prisoners, allowing United States telecommunications companies to operate on the island and ending government fees on US dollars sent by relatives in the United States. In confirmation hearings for the position of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said that she believed that the ban on Cuban-American family travel should be lifted. Many saw this as opportunity for Cubans and Americans to engage in viable businesses together. As of November 2011 US-Cuba relations remain frozen and Cuba also remains one of the four countries in the world designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the United States Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 

The 1998 US State Department in the report Zenith and Eclipse: A Comparative Look at Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro and Present Day Cuba argued that the U.S. embargo has added, at most, relatively small increases in transportation costs. It claims that the main problem is not the embargo but the lack of foreign currency due to the unwillingness to liberalize the economy, diversify the export base, during the years of abundant Soviet aid. Cuba also amassed substantial debts owed to its Japanese, European, and Latin American trading partners acquired during the years of abundant Soviet aid.

The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that the embargo costs the US economy $1.2 billion per year in lost sales and exports, while the Cuban government estimates that the embargo only costs the island itself $685 million annually. The US has spent over $500 million broadcasting Radio Marti
Radio Martí
Radio y Televisión Martí is a radio and television broadcaster based in Miami, Florida, financed by the United States government , which transmits Spanish radio broadcasts to Cuba...

 and TV Marti
TV Martí
TV Martí was created by the US government to provide news and current affairs programming to Cuba. It is named after Cuban independence leader José Martí, and is the television equivalent to Radio Marti.-History:...

, even though the transmission signals of the latter are effectively blocked by the Cuban government. The non-partisan Cuba Policy Foundation estimates that the embargo costs the US economy $3.6 billion per year in economic output.

Critiques of embargo laws and rules

The embargo has been criticized for its effects on food, clean water, medicine, and other economic needs of the Cuban population. Criticism has come from both Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 and Raúl Castro
Raúl Castro
Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008; he previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008...

, citizens and groups from within Cuba, and international organizations and leaders including Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

. Some academic critics, outside Cuba, have also linked the embargo to shortages of medical supplies and soap which have resulted in a series of medical crises and heightened levels of infectious diseases. It has also been linked to epidemics of specific diseases, including neurological disorders and blindness caused by poor nutrition. Travel restrictions embedded in the embargo have also been shown to limit the amount of medical information that flows into Cuba from the United States. An article written in 1997 suggests malnutrition and disease resulting from increased food and medicine prices have affected men and the elderly, in particular, due to Cuba's rationing system which gives preferential treatment to women and children.

On May 1, 2009, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

 voiced his concern over the continued embargo. While speaking about his meeting U.S. President Barack Obama at a summit days earlier, Chávez stated "if President Obama does not dismantle this savage blockade of the Cuban people, then it is all a lie, it will all be a great farce and the U.S. empire will be alive and well, threatening us."
The Helms-Burton Act has been the target of criticism from Canadian and European governments in particular, who resent the extraterritorial pretensions of a piece of legislation aimed at punishing non-U.S. corporations and non-U.S. investors who have economic interests in Cuba. In the Canadian House of Commons
Canadian House of Commons
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 308 members known as Members of Parliament...

, Helms-Burton was mocked by the introduction of the Godfrey-Milliken Bill
Godfrey-Milliken Bill
The Godfrey-Milliken Bill, officially Bill C-339: The American Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act was a Private Member's Bill introduced in the Canadian parliament by Liberal MPs Peter Milliken and John Godfrey...

, which called for the return of property of United Empire Loyalists
United Empire Loyalists
The name United Empire Loyalists is an honorific given after the fact to those American Loyalists who resettled in British North America and other British Colonies as an act of fealty to King George III after the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War and prior to the Treaty of Paris...

 seized by the American government as a result of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 (the bill never became law). Furthermore, the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 in 1996 passed a law making it illegal for EU citizens to obey the Helms-Burton act. The European Council
European Council
The European Council is an institution of the European Union. It comprises the heads of state or government of the EU member states, along with the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, currently Herman Van Rompuy...

:


while reaffirming its concern to promote democratic reform in Cuba, recalled the deep concern expressed by the European Council over the extraterritorial effects of the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act" adopted by the United States and similar pending legislation regarding Iran and Libya. It noted the widespread international objections to this legislation. It called upon President Clinton to waive the provisions of Title III and expressed serious concern at the measures already taken to implement Title IV of the Act. The Council identified a range of measures which could be deployed by the EU in response to the damage to the interests of EU companies resulting from the implementation of the Act. Among these are the following:
  1. a move to a WTO dispute settlement panel;
  2. changes in the procedures governing entry by representatives of US companies to EU Member States;
  3. the use/introduction of legislation within the EU to neutralize the extraterritorial effects of the US legislation;
  4. the establishment of a watch list of US companies filing Title III actions.



Some libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 and conservative critics argue that the embargo actually helps Fidel and Raul Castro more than it hurts them, by providing a scapegoat to blame for all of Cuba's problems. Hillary Clinton has publicly shared the view that the embargo helps the Castros, noting that "It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do no want to see normalization with the United States." Clinton said in the same interview that "we're open to changing with them," though the US government maintains its strong stance in support of the embargo while the Castros continue to oppose it.

George P. Shultz
George P. Shultz
George Pratt Shultz is an American economist, statesman, and businessman. He served as the United States Secretary of Labor from 1969 to 1970, as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1972 to 1974, and as the U.S. Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989...

, who served as Secretary of State
Secretary of State
Secretary of State or State Secretary is a commonly used title for a senior or mid-level post in governments around the world. The role varies between countries, and in some cases there are multiple Secretaries of State in the Government....

 under Reagan, has gone as far as to call the continued embargo "insane". Daniel Griswold, director of the Cato Institute
Cato Institute
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, who remains president and CEO, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc., the largest privately held...

's Center for Trade Policy Studies, criticized the current policy in June 2009 by stating:
"The embargo has been a failure by every measure. It has not changed the course or nature of the Cuban government. It has not liberated a single Cuban citizen. In fact, the embargo has made the Cuban people a bit more impoverished, without making them one bit more free. At the same time, it has deprived Americans of their freedom to travel and has cost US farmers and other producers billions of dollars of potential exports."


Some American business leaders argue that, as long as the embargo continues, non-U.S. foreign businesses in Cuba do not have to compete with U.S. businesses and thus will have a head start when and if the embargo is ended. They openly call for an end to the embargo.

Some religious leaders oppose the embargo for a variety of reasons, including humanitarian and economic hardships the embargo imposes on Cubans. Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 called for the end to the embargo during his 1979 pastoral visit to Mexico, and again during his 1998 visit to Cuba. Patriarch Bartholomew I called the embargo a "historic mistake" while visiting the island on January 25, 2004. United States religious leaders have also opposed the embargo. A joint letter in 1998 from the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination primarily in the Reformed tradition but also historically influenced by Lutheranism. The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC...

 to the U.S. Senate called for the easing of economic restrictions against Cuba. Rev. Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. is an African-American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to...

, Rev. Al Sharpton
Al Sharpton
Alfred Charles "Al" Sharpton, Jr. is an American Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and television/radio talk show host. In 2004, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidential election...

, and Minister Louis Farrakhan
Louis Farrakhan
Louis Farrakhan Muhammad, Sr. is the leader of the African-American religious movement the Nation of Islam . He served as the minister of major mosques in Boston and Harlem, and was appointed by the longtime NOI leader, Elijah Muhammad, before his death in 1975, as the National Representative of...

 have also publicly opposed the embargo. On May 15, 2002 former President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 spoke in Havana, calling for an end to the embargo, saying "Our two nations have been trapped in a destructive state of belligerence for 42 years, and it is time for us to change our relationship."

The United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 has condemned the embargo as a violation of international law every year since 1992. Israel routinely joins the U.S. in voting against the resolution as has Palau
Palau
Palau , officially the Republic of Palau , is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and south of Tokyo. In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a...

 every year since 2004 to 2008. On October 26, 2010, for the 19th time, the United Nations condemned the embargo, 192 to 2 with 3 abstentions. Israel sided with the U.S.

The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cuba, Perez Roque called the embargo "an act of genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

". Cuba has also denounced as "theft" the use of frozen Cuban assets to pay for lawsuits filed in the US against the Republic of Cuba.

In addition to the Cuban authorities, film director Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Michael Francis Moore is an American filmmaker, author, social critic and activist. He is the director and producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, which is the highest-grossing documentary of all time. His films Bowling for Columbine and Sicko also place in the top ten highest-grossing documentaries...

 has also challenged the embargo by bringing 9/11 rescue workers
Rescue and recovery effort after the September 11, 2001 attacks
The rescue and recovery effort after the September 11 attacks comprised the local, state and federal agency reaction to the September 11 attacks. The unprecedented events of that day elicited the largest response of local emergency and rescue personnel to assist in the evacuation of the two towers...

 in need of health care to Cuba to obtain subsidized health care.

In June 2011, former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern
George McGovern
George Stanley McGovern is an historian, author, and former U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and the Democratic Party nominee in the 1972 presidential election....

 spoke out against the travel ban before visiting Cuba, remarking:

McGovern blamed "embittered Cuban exiles in Miami" for keeping the embargo alive all these years, because of their dislike for Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

.

Bill to End the Travel Ban

On February 23, 2010, U.S. Congressman Rep. Collin Peterson
Collin Peterson
Collin Clark Peterson , is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1991, and the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. He is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and is the dean of the Minnesota congressional delegation.The district, Minnesota's largest and most rural...

 of Minnesota introduced a bill that would bar the president from prohibiting travel to Cuba or preventing transactions required for such trips.

June 2010 letter by 74 Cuban Dissidents in support of ending the travel ban

On Thursday, June 10, 2010 seventy-four of Cuba's dissidents signed a letter to the United States Congress in support of a bill that would lift the U.S. travel ban for Americans wishing to visit Cuba. The signers include blogger Yoani Sanchez
Yoani Sánchez
Yoani Maria Sánchez Cordero is a Cuban blogger who has achieved international fame and multiple international awards for her critical portrayal of life in Cuba under its current government....

 and hunger striker Guillermo Farinas
Guillermo Fariñas
Guillermo Fariñas Hernández is a Cuban doctor of psychology, independent journalist and political dissident in Cuba. He has conducted 23 hunger strikes over the years to protest various elements of the Cuban regime. He has stated that he is ready to die in the struggle against censorship in...

, as well as Elizardo Sanchez
Elizardo Sanchez
Elizardo Sanchez Santa-Cruz is a Cuban human rights campaigner and founder of the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission, a group supporting change in Cuba....

, head of Cuba's most prominent human rights group and Miriam Levi, who helped found the Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of jailed dissidents. The letter supports a bill introduced on Feb. 23 by Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, that would bar the president from prohibiting travel to Cuba or blocking transactions required to make such trips. It also would bar the White House from stopping direct transfers between U.S. and Cuban banks. The signers stated that:

"We share the opinion that the isolation of the people of Cuba benefits the most inflexible interests of its government, while any opening serves to inform and empower the Cuban people and helps to further strengthen our civil society."


The Center for Democracy in the Americas, a Washington-based group supporting the bill, issued a press release stating that "74 of Cuba's most prominent political dissidents have endorsed the Peterson-Moran legislation to end the travel ban and expand food exports to Cuba because in their words it is good for human rights, good for alleviating hunger, and good for spreading information and showing solidarity with the Cuban people. Their letter answers every argument the pro-embargo forces use to oppose this legislation. This, itself, answers the question 'who is speaking for the Cuban people in this debate?' - those who want to send food and Americans to visit the island and stand with ordinary Cubans, or those who don't. If Cuba's best known bloggers, dissidents, hunger strikers, and other activists for human rights want this legislation enacted, what else needs be said?" The Center also hosts English as well as the Spanish version of the letter signed by the 74 dissidents.

Polling data

Recent U.S. polling indicates that the American public is slightly in favor of continuing the embargo, and in favor of normalizing diplomatic relations as well. For instance, a 2007 AP
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

/Ipsos Poll indicates that 48% of Americans favor continuing the embargo, against 40% who favor ending it. Interestingly the same poll revealed that despite overwhelmingly unfavorable opinions of Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 (6% favorable vs. 64% unfavorable), Americans believe that diplomatic relations "should" be re-established with Cuba. (61% in favor, 31% opposed).

An April 2009 CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 / Opinion Research Corporation
Opinion Research Corporation
Opinion Research Corporation, based in Princeton, New Jersey, is a demographic, health, and market research company. It was founded in 1938 by Claude Robinson and George Gallup, although Gallup quickly left the firm in 1939....

 poll showed that 64% of Americans surveyed think the U.S. should lift its travel ban on Cuba, while 71% thought the U.S. should reestablish diplomatic relations with the island nation.

In lieu of changing perceptions, in March 2011, former Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Gary Hart
Gary Hart
Gary Hart is an American politician, lawyer, author, professor and commentator. He served as a Democratic Senator representing Colorado , and ran in the U.S...

 criticized the continuing embargo, remarking "second generation Cuban-Americans are finally beginning to change their community's attitudes and make it clear they no longer are interested in holding the mighty U.S.'s foreign policy toward a tiny nearby country hostage to their parents' anger."

External links

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