After I followed Paris School of Economics, with some of the best French economists, I was surprised that there was not a wide consensus among them about embargoes.
I understand the game theory argument that if you only threaten but never apply any sanction you might loose credibility in the long run. But is that to say that France is not credible with its nuclear arsenal because, contrary to America, it never used that weapon of mass destruction on civilians, and if so, when is it best to start? I admit that this comparison is rather provocative, but I am just about to make another proposition in that sense.
After researching academic articles about embargoes (see articles here and here), I believe we should never use them again. As for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Irak, Iran and Cuba have been good enough demonstrations of power that now leaders should be able to stop employing them but still be threateningly credible.
Now after fifty years of american embargo against Cuba, we can see a long process unfold where the United-States of America are slowly restoring their ties with Cuba.
I believe that this process is too slow and Europe should show that it is all for peace and remains a funky place to live on Earth. That is why I want Europe to invite Cuba to join the Eurozone.
It might actually be the best diplomatic move Europe could do to help Cuba, indeed, as Hillary R. Clinton wrote in her memoir, the American administration did not lift the embargo on Burma because they realized it was uselessly harmful to Burmese population, but rather because, as she wrote: “we were inadvertently creating an opportunity for China to expand its economic and political influence in the country. Chinese companies were investing heavily in dams, mines, and energy projects across Burma, including a major new pipeline.” Under those considerations, the United-States progressively lifted the sanctions against Burma as Hillary R. Clinton was serving as Secretary of State. In some cases, business competition might be the only thing that makes America move in the right direction. So Europe should try to preempt Cuba as a privileged economic partner.
Here are some arguments I can put forward and I am happy to hear any further ones on why Europe should invite Cuba to join the euro area:
- the shortest distance between France and Greece is more than 1 000 kilometers, but the shortest distance between France and Cuba is 1 400 km (don’t underestimate Guadeloupe…), so the gap is not that great;
- Cuba shares Spanish, a European language with Spain and has strong historical ties with that country;
- the level of education in Cuba has not much to envy from Europe;
- Cuba, when it comes to austerity, is much better prepared than Greece and we wouldn’t have had all those discussion about whether Greece would be able to survive the austerity measures and stay in the monetary union;
- in fact Cuba has pegged its currency to the US dollar, so switching to the euro as a currency would not make it loose any degree of freedom (as it did when Greece abandoned the Drachma);
The Real Reason It’s Nearly Impossible to End the Cuba Embargo
Although Hillary Clinton recognized in 2014 that “the embargo is Castro’s best friend,” providing him “with an excuse for everything.” her husband passed this very embargo into law. The Helms-Burton law as it became officially codified “dominated public debate on Cuba policy in the latter half of 1995 – a veritable Greek tragedy played out in the skies over Cuba’s coast— set in motion by repeated incursions into Cuban airspace by a group of Cuban-American pilots known as Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR).” The group was founded in 1991 by José Basulto, a hardliner who had participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion alongside 1500 other Cuban exiles, all of whom had been trained by the CIA. To give some insight into Basulto’s personality and motives, the article quotes him as saying: “When I was young, my Hollywood hero was John Wayne. Now I’m like Luke Skywalker. I believe the force is with us.”
In “1994, however, Basulto shifted BTTR’s mission from rescue to provocation. […] Repeatedly over the next eight months, BTTR planes violated Cuban airspace,” prompting the Cuban government to register at least five diplomatic protests regarding the airspace violations. The FAA took little notice, requesting additional evidence but refusing to ground Basulto in the meantime.
Basulto penetrated Cuban airspace despite a clear warning from Cuban controllers on February 24, 1996, and one of the planes in his retinue was shot down. The next political move was Clinton’s: he signed the Helms-Burton bill into law as a “powerful, unified message to Havana.” Clinton understood what he had done. He felt “backed into a policy of proven failure,” he lamented to a confidante in the Oval Office, “closing off political engagement toward a peaceful transition in Cuba” for the sake of electoral expediency. “Supporting the bill was good election-year politics in Florida,” Clinton conceded in his autobiography, “but it undermined whatever chance I might have had if I won a second term to lift the embargo in return for positive changes within Cuba.”
As Arthur Culvahouse pointed out in the Houston Journal of International Law, “The Cuban sanctions have been in place since 1962 and are the most restrictive [among U.S. embargoes], having been issued under the Trading with the Enemy Act, which was passed during World War I.” His analysis is not far from Clinton’s: “The current Cuban regime does not want the sanctions lifted for fear of loss of control.”
The emergence of social networking sites and increased flow of information has played a strategic role during the Arab spring and other popular uprisings. So much so, in fact, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once intervened as “Twitter was planning to shut down its global service for preplanned maintenance at a time that would be the middle of the day in Tehran.” Her team “quickly reached out to alert [Twitter][…] to the disruption the shutdown could cause to Iranian activists. As a result Twitter delayed its maintenance until the middle of the following night. In a blog post the company noted that the reason for the delay was ‘the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.’”
As Kathy Castor, a US Representative from the state of Florida, acknowledged in September 2013, “Cuba and its citizens are more than a decade behind with respect to the Internet and broadband.” I personally believe in the effort to digitalize Cubans, especially as it would help them fight against local corruption.