In another sign of shifting public opinion within the United States, one of the country’s biggest newspapers is calling for an end to the Cuba embargo.
In an October 12 editorial titled simply “Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba,” the New York Times called on the Obama administration to put an end to the five-decade embargo, saying the government has an “opportunity to end a long era of enmity and help a population that has suffered enormously since Washington ended diplomatic relations in 1961.”
Perhaps in an effort to reach many of the people most invested in the issue, the editorial was also available in Spanish.
The editorial calls the embargo “senseless” and says it has become clear to policy makers that the embargo “was an utter failure.” However, the editorial board correctly points out, lawmakers have been unable or unwilling to propose dramatic changes to the embargo for fear of angering Cuban-American voters, who hold significant sway in some strategic political areas, most notably South Florida.
The writers note, though, that most of the strongest supporters of the embargo come from the older generation that arrived in the U.S. during the first waves of immigration from Cuba — and that this group is aging and dying off, leaving a younger generation that sees the embargo as an overall negative policy.
Most young Cuban-Americans, like the general population of the U.S., are in favor of restoring diplomatic ties with the island nation.
The editorial also calls for the Obama administration to remove Cuba from its ridiculous place on the State Department’s list of nations that back terrorist organizations. It was added to the list in 1982 and has not been removed since — though it no longer has a policy of supporting denoted terrorist groups in Latin America — and now shares space on that list with such illustrious nations as Iran, Sudan and Syria.
In a Room for Debate feature, also hosted on the Times site, various writers and academics weighed in with their perspective on normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.
Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner speaks out against reestablishing diplomatic relations, saying the Cuban government continues to fund terrorist groups that undermine U.S. interests abroad. He also cites an FBI report warning that the Cuban intelligence apparatus is trying to recruit academics to act as agents of influence — however, he neglects to mention the many attempts on the part of the U.S. government to use similar tactics in Cuba, most notably the recent “Cuba Twitter” scandal, in which a social media network was discovered to be an effort to encourage anti-government public opinion within Cuba.
Meanwhile, activist Ric Herrero takes U.S. politicians to task for their outdated policies, saying that most Cuban-Americans do support greater engagement with Cuba and that “our representatives in Congress have preferred to hold on to an 18-year-old shoddy piece of legislation as a symbol of opposition to the Cuban regime.” These same politicians, he says, have “failed to present us with policies that may actually achieve our long-standing objectives of promoting democratic values and empowering the Cuban people.”
Many, especially Times employees, offered their support for the editorial position:
NYT editorial urges Obama to normalize relations with Cuba. After 50-plus years of policy failure, are we there yet? http://t.co/4io0wYodlW
— Toni Monkovic (@MonkovicNYT) October 11, 2014
— Katrina vandenHeuvel (@KatrinaNation) October 12, 2014
While others took issue with the wording:
basically agree w/ nyt edit. but its amazing the words "communism" or "socialism" are not used even once. http://t.co/tsZn8QfyZH
— David Harsanyi (@davidharsanyi) October 11, 2014
And a few simply pointed out how many times this conversation has been had in the past:
NYT editorial supporting the end of the US embargo on Cuba. Same old arguments, but interesting nevertheless http://t.co/snMPQV3v6x
— Sara Garcia (@sara0garcia) October 13, 2014
— Harambe interlude (@margarita) October 11, 2014
Apparently even Fidel Castro was in favor of the editorial:
— Stephen Wicary (@wicary) October 14, 2014
Despite the deeply-held opposition that remains in some powerful political circles, the Times editorial seems to be the latest sign that the tide of public opinion is turning against maintaining the embargo. It appears to be an issue now of when, rather than if, the U.S. will normalize diplomatic relations with its island neighbor.
However, doing so would require action on the part of Congress — and with the least productive Congress in U.S. history still firmly entrenched in Washington, it seems unlikely that this will happen anytime soon.