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Rob Horowitz: It’s Time to End the Cuban Trade Embargo

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

 

Years have passed and tensions between the US and Cuba have eased; it may finally be time to lift the country's trade embargo.

Spending last week in Cuba (along with 17 other people—mainly Rhode Islanders) on an interesting, fun and thought provoking trip put together by URI Political Science Professor and public radio and television regular Maureen Moakley, leaves me more convinced then ever that it is long past time to end our ill-advised trade embargo with Cuba and normalize diplomatic relations.

Our policy towards Cuba is a vestige of the Cold War, stemming from when Fidel Castro originally took power and began to move Cuba towards a one-party Communist form of government more than 50 years ago. The United States first put in place the trade embargo in 1960 and broke off diplomatic relations a year later.

The changing of times

While we have expanded trade and normalized diplomatic relations with other Communist nations including China and Vietnam, not to mention most authoritarian regimes around the world, our Cuba policy remains fundamentally unchanged due to the intense feelings and political power of the first generation of Cuban Americans who fled Cuba in the wake of the revolution and settled in large numbers in South Florida.

Fiercely anti-Castro, strategically located in an important swing state, historically overwhelmingly Republican in voting preference and always willing to contribute in large amounts to favored candidates and causes—this resourceful, entrepreneurial, and successful generation of Cuban immigrants have amassed political power far exceeding their small share of the overall US population.

However, as a second generation of Cubans mainly born in the United States comes of age and mortality takes its inevitable toll on the founding generation, attitudes in the Cuban community are shifting markedly. For example, in the 2012 election, Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential candidate, narrowly defeated Mitt Romney among Floridians of Cuban descent, according to an exit poll conducted for NBC News. Obama is the first Democratic Presidential candidate to win in this sub-group in memory. As recently as 1988, the Democratic Presidential candidate, Mike Dukakis only garnered 15% of the Cuban American vote in Florida.

And support for the trade embargo in the South Florida Cuban community has already significantly eroded. A 2011, Florida International University Poll recorded only a slight majority of Cuban Americans in the region in favor of continuing the embargo. Among younger South Florida Cuban Americans between ages 18 and 44, the same poll showed a majority for ending it (the University is conducting a new poll of Cubans Americans this year and I expect there will now be an overall majority in favor of opening up trade with Cuba and ending the embargo). Perhaps most telling, more than 8-in-10 South Florida Cuban Americans say that the embargo is working “not well or not at all”.

What's to be gained

Recently, both the United States and Cuba have opened up travel restrictions between the nations, and despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties, there have been productive discussions on taking other constructive steps forward. Also, Cuba is slowly creating some space for a private sector with the recent ability for people to own their own businesses in certain parts of the economy, including the tourism industry. Since the end of the Cold War and the withdrawal of a large amount of economic support from the Soviet Union, the Cuban economy has really struggled and the overwhelming majority of the Cuban people—while having access to good health care and enough to eat—are relatively poor. There is a broad recognition that in order to bring about more prosperity, private enterprise most be expanded.

Ending the embargo would have a significantly positive impact on the process now underway, speeding the development of a thriving private sector where individual initiative and hard work is rewarded. United States trade and investment could also facilitate a better and more open flow of information by helping to bring about the development of broadband capacity and spreading the use of the internet and social media throughout Cuba. Cuba has a literate and educated population that can readily take advantage of new technology as well as make it profitable for American technology companies and investors. Finally, opening up trade with Cuba eliminates an all-purpose excuse that the Cuban government has been able to use for their inability to deliver real economic growth.

It is in both Cuba's and the United States' interest to end the trade embargo and normalize relations. In other words, in today’s parlance, it is win-win. Given that this view is becoming the majority view of even Cuban-Americans, the group most responsible for the embargo’s continued existence, the political moment for a fundamental change in our failed policy towards Cuba may be arriving fairly soon. At least, I sure hope so.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

Related Slideshow: New England Communities With the Most Political Clout 2013

The Sunlight Foundation, in conjunction with Azavea, released data maps this week showing political contribution dollars to federal elections dating back to 1990 -- by county.

GoLocal takes a look at the counties in New England that had the highest per-capita contributions in the 2012 election cycle -- and talked with experts about what that meant for those areas in New Engand, as well as the candidates.  

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25. Merrimack County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.86

Total contributions: $1,447,713

Merrimack County is named after the Merrimack River and is home to the states capital, Concord. Merrimack County has a total area of 956 square miles and a population of 146,761.

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24. Cheshire County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.88

Total contributions: $759,209

Cheshire is one of the five original counties in New Hampshire and was founded in 1771. The highest point in Cheshire County is located at the top of Mount Monadnock, which was made famous by the poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

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23. Rockingham County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.96

Total contributions: $2,965,530

Rockingham has 37 communities and has a population of 297,820. Rockingham County also was home to the famous poet, Robert Frost

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22. Belknap County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.02

Total contributions: $604,512

Belknap County is one of the ten counties in New Hampshire and has a population of 60,327. It is located in the center of New Hampshire and the largest city is Laconia.

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21. Hampshire County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.41

Total contributions: $1,664,077

Hampshire County has a total area of 545 square miles and is located in the middle of Massachusetts. Hampshire County is also the only county to be surrounded in all directions by other Massachusetts counties.

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20. Barnstable County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.90

Total contributions: $2,348,541

Barnstable County was founded in 1685 and has three national protected areas. Cape Cod National Seashore is the most famous protected area within Barnstable County and brings in a high amount of tourists every year.

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19. Berkshire County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $12.49

Total contributions: $1,624,400

Berkshire County is located on the western side of Massachusetts and borders three different neighboring states. Originally the Mahican Native American Tribe inhabited Berkshire County up until the English settlers arrived and bought the land in 1724. 

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18. Essex County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.22

Total contributions: $9,991,201

Essex is located in the northeastern part of Massachusetts and contains towns such as Salem, Lynn, and Andover. Essex was founded in 1643 and because of Essex historical background, the whole county has been designated as the Essex National Heritage Area.

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17. Chittendon County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.86

Total contributions: $2,196,107

Chittenden has a population of 158,504, making it Vermont’s most populated county. Chittenden’s largest city is Burlington, which has about one third of Vermont’s total population.

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16. Lamoille County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $14.82

Total contributions: $369,854

Lamoille County was founded in 1835 and has a population of 24,958. The county has 464 square miles, of which 461 of them are land.

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15. Addison County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $15.49

Total contributions: $569,299

Located on the west side of Vermont, Addison County has a total area of 808 square miles. Addison's largest town is Middlebury, where the Community College of Vermont and Middlebury College are located.

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14. Newport County, RI

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $16.02

Total contributions: $1,214,26

Newport County is one of the five Rhode Island Counties and was founded in 1703. Just like Connecticut, none of Rhode Island counties have an any governmental functions.

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13. Cumberland County, ME

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $18.33

Total contributions: $5,205,507

Cumberland County has a population of 283,921 and is Maine’s most populated county. The county was named after the William, Duke of Cumberland, a son of King George II.

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12. Windsor County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.57

Total contributions: $1,156,149

Windsor County is the largest county in Vermont and consists of 971 square miles of land and 5 square miles of water.

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11. Bristol County, RI

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.91

Total contributions: $1,027,472

Bristol County has a population of 49,144 and is the third smallest county in the United States. Bristol County was originally apart of Massachusetts, but was transferred to Rhode Island in 1746.

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10. Grafton County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012 :$20.95

Total contributions: $1,868,739

With a population of 89,181, Grafton County is the second largest county in New Hampshire. Home of New Hampshire’s only national forest, White Mountain National Forest takes up about half of Grafton’s total area 

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9. Carrol County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: 2012: $22.81

Total contributions: $1,012,10

Created in 1840, Carroll County has a population of 47,567. Carroll County was also named after Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the United States Declaration of Independence.

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8. LItchfield County, CT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $22.86

Total contributions: $4,286,143

Although it is Connecticut’s largest county, Litchfield has the lowest population density in all of Connecticut. Since 1960 all Connecticut counties have no county government.

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7. Middlesex County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $32.81

Total contributions: $50,432,154

Middlesex County has a population of 1,503,085 and has been ranked as the most populous county in New England.  The county government was abolished in 1997, but the county boundaries still exists for court jurisdictions and other administrative purposes.

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6. Nantucket County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $33.41

Total contributions: $344,021

Nantucket County consists of a couple of small islands and is a major tourist destination in Massachusetts. Normally Nantucket has a population of 10,298, but during the summer months the population can reach up to 50,000.

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5. Norfolk County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $35.87

Total contributions: $24,459,854

Named after a county from England, Norfolk County is the wealthiest county in Massachusetts. As of 2011, Norfolk was ranked the 32nd highest income county in the United States. 

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4. Dukes County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $36.32

Total contributions: $618,960

Consisting of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, Dukes County is one of Massachusetts’ top vacation spots. Originally Dukes County was apart New York, however it was transferred to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691.

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3. Suffolk County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $40.73

Total contributions: $30,323,537

Suffolk County has a population of 744,426 and contains Massachusetts’s largest city, Boston. Although Suffolk’s county government was abolished in the late 1900’s, it still remains as a geographic area.

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2. Knox County, ME

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $45.89

Total contributions: $1,820,410

Knox County was established on April 1st, 1860 and was named after American Revolutionary War General Henry Knox.  The county has a population of 39,668 and is the home of the Union Fair.

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1. Fairfield County, CT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $55.65.  

Total contributions: $51,970,701 

In a population of 933,835, Fairfield County is the most densely populated county in Connecticut, and contains four of the state's largest cities -- Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk and Danbury.

 
 

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