Signs point to conditions – and momentum – for the US to repeal the embargo against Cuba.
The Castros refer to the US embargo against Cuba as a blockade.
The US embargo started out as a trade embargo but today is actually a broad web of laws and regulations that have been expanded and reduced periodically since President Kennedy signed Proclamation 3447 “Embargo on All Trade with Cuba” on February 3, 1962.
Today, the core of the embargo resides in the rancorous Helms-Burton Act (“Act”) of 1996. It is the major legislative impediment to dismantling the various ideological ramparts designed to foment Cuba’s destabilization.
The Act extended the 1962 embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba, and penalized foreign companies trafficking in property formerly owned by U.S. citizens but confiscated by Cuba after the Cuban revolution. The Act was passed by the US Congress and is therefore not eligible for being rescinded using Presidential executive authority; only US Congress can remove most of what we call the embargo.
It is impossible to predict changes to specific pieces of legislation, but the reasons for maintaining an embargo – the only one of its kind today – against a tiny island nation struggling to feed its people is losing appeal.
Here are the most recent developments that suggest the embargo’s days are numbered:
- This week the US and Cuba reached an agreement to restore regularly-scheduled flights.
- Last week, the US and Cuba met for the first time to discuss resolving the long-standing problem of claims compensation for property and businesses seized in the wake of the 1959 Cuban revolution.
- Last week, Cuba came to terms with the some of its creditors. The Paris Club group of creditors accepted terms that are generous to Cuba. Creditors have forgiven $8.5 billion of Cuba’s $11.1 billion debt. The deal covers official debt defaulted on through 1986, plus interest, service charges and penalties. Coming to terms with the past suggests Cuba is willing to negotiate at some level.
- In one legislative development earlier this year, a republican Senate panel has already voted to lift an ban on travel to Cuba.
- In another legislative development this week, a bipartisan group of House members announced the formation of the Cuba Working Group that, “will seek to draw attention to how reforms in the U.S. and Cuba are opening new opportunities for commercial, diplomatic and people-to-people relationships.”
- A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that 72 percent of Americans support ending the embargo against Cuba, up from 66 percent in January of this year.