After 43 years of ineffective nonsense, it is time to end the U.S. embargo of Cuba and focus on more productive issues like counter-terrorism or, at the very least, something bigger than a bourgeois vendetta against Fidel Castro. This week, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter gave a speech that can be described as nothing less than courageous in the face of opposition from a White House whose leader probably does not know how to spell “Cuba.”

Carter succinctly described the state of U.S.-Cuba relations as, “There are some in Cuba who think the simple answer is for the United States to lift the embargo, and there are some in my country who believe the answer is for your president to step down from power and allow free elections. There is no doubt that the question deserves a more comprehensive assessment.”

Not only are there some folks in Cuba that believe the embargo should be lifted, most Americans, regardless of partisan identity, believe that the embargo should be lifted. The biggest problem that Cuban exiles have with Castro is that he nationalized their property or the property of a friend. The biggest problem that the U.S. government has with Castro is that he is one of the few dictators on the planet without the words “Made in the USA” tattooed to his ass.

The embargo initiated by Eisenhower after the Cuban revolution of 1959 has created some jarring facts. American exporters lose over $1.2 billion per year because they cannot directly trade with Cuba. The island nation trades comfortably with everyone except the U.S. Cuba is only Latin-American country that has not evolved into a democracy and, coincidently, they are the only Latin American country to endure a trade embargo.

Nobody in their right mind would try to make an argument that the Cubans are starving because the U.S. will not trade with them. The argument here is that the trade embargo is a horrendous waste of U.S. government resources in terms of both time and money. American tax payers should not tolerate the Immigration and naturalization Service (INS) spending money to determine if group of Cubans washed up on Miami Beach have wet feet or dry feet. The Department of the Treasury should not be investigating European firms to see if they are using Cuban-American property for their business ventures.

Most importantly, the U.S. government should get out of the business of restricting travel and investment money of American citizens.

Because the reasons against the embargo are crystal clear, Americans across the political spectrum from free traders to social progressives would like to see the embargo take its place as an artifact of the Cold War. Convincing an ordinary American that the embargo is bad for the United States is not a difficult sell. Republicans, in particular, tend to dislike the embargo and are in a position to end it. The only Republicans that still support the embargo against Cuba are the Republicans in the Bush White House.

Why, oh why, would that be?

Florida was the pivotal state that put W in the White House. Brother Jeb spent most of his professional life as a real-estate developer in Miami for a firm called Codina Bush Klein. Deep roots in Miami put him in the Florida governorship. Brother Jeb, in sharp contrast to W., won his election legitimately.

George W. Bush needed to pull every single play he could out of Florida to become president of the United States. Miami’s most notorious election tactics involve granting suffrage to people who ordinarily would not be able to vote anywhere else in the U.S. like illegal immigrants, foreign nationals, tourists, fictional characters, dead people and domesticated animals. No doubt, Mr. Bush has serious political debt outstanding in return for delivering Florida.

There is no other way that an unpopular president would continue to support an even more unpopular policy like the embargo against Cuba. To make the policy stick, the Bush White House has adopted the position that Cuba is a manufacturer of biological weapons and an exporter of terrorism. This is absolute nonsense.

Any terrorism stemming from U.S. Cuba relations has come from Miami, not Havana. More death and injury has come from right wing exiles in the ’70s and ’80s against people who criticize the embargo or sympathize with Castro than anything that Castro may have done against exiled Cubans. Brothers to the Rescue, among other organizations, has launched dozens of terror operations from South Florida despite explicit U.S. policy against such action.

Being against Castro means being against the embargo. Being against the communist regime in Cuba means doing what is best for the 11 million Cubans on the island. Engagement is the only way to remove Castro and his regime from power in Havana. Engagement is the only way to convince Cubans that democracy and freedom is in their best interest. Engagement is the only proven way to bring a better life to people outside of U.S. borders.
What Jimmy Carter has done this week is to essentially steal the thunder from the Republican Party. Given that Cuba is politically, economically, militarily, strategically and socially insignificant, it is better for the Bush Administration to come to its senses and divert the resources of the embargo watchdogs to tracking down global terrorism.

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