Over 200 US Congressmen and women vote to end embargo on Cuba


On Thursday, by a vote of 211-208, the US House of Representatives voted against a measure dismantling the 45 year-old trade embargo on Cuba. The fact that the measure did not pass is less significant than the extreme closeness of the vote, given that it would in any case have been thrown out by Presidential veto. However, combined with the US Congress’s recent moves to relax travel sanctions to Cuba, it indicates a significant change in attitude. The fact is that many members of Congress have heard that the Cold War is over, and no longer take Cuba seriously as a threat to their country's security, attempts by the Bush junta to present it as a sponsor of terrorism notwithstanding.

Cuba is, in global terms, a middle income country which could provide a significant market for some US producers were it allowed to trade freely, and this consideration is much closer to the hearts of those politicians whose re-election hopes are pinned much more on being seen to do something for the people of the regions they represent than does some residual Cold Warriorship or pandering to a discredited administration's unfounded allegations about links to terrorism. Coming hard on the heels of the EU's decision to freeze diplomatic sanctions on Cuba until June 2006, calling in the meantime for a year of “constructive dialogue”, this is good news indeed for a country whose economy was already beginning to show signs of greatly improved health.

The Bush junta, of course, continues to peddle its lies about Cuba, whilst holding five Cuban agents, whose only crime was to have infiltrated a real terrorist ring, in prison. Cuba poses no military threat to the United States or anyone else. The only threat it poses is that of the good example. Only by economic sabotage can this be undermined.

Cuba’s continuing poverty is entirely a product of this sabotage. Until it is allowed to trade freely, until it is treated as a country with a great deal to offer in exchange for the help it needs in overcoming its poverty, it will never be able to progress towards either an improved standard of living or, indeed, becoming the more open society which its detractors claim to want to see.

Thanks to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs for supplying the news about the Congressional vote.