Congress Should Put the Brakes on 'Engaging' Cuba
U.S. exporters can sell to only one customer—the Castro government.
Ana QuintanaRandall Ramos
October 6, 2016
Will Congress lift the ban on private financing towards Cuba's
agriculture sector? Proponents of a bill to do just that claim it would
benefit American farmers as well alleviate the suffering of the Cuban
people. Unfortunately, that is not how it works.
Proponents of the bill overlook the reality of Cuba's agricultural
market: U.S. exporters can sell to only one customer—the Castro
government. Article 18 of Cuba's constitution mandates the state to
control all foreign trade and investment.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reaffirms as much, noting that "all
U.S. agricultural exports must be channeled through one Cuban government
agency." That lone agency is ALIMPORT, a subsidiary of the Cuba's
Ministry of Foreign Trade. As such, ALIMPORT conducts business based on
political considerations, rather than market conditions.
This should come as a surprise to no one. As Heritage Foundation
President Jim DeMint notes, the Castros have created "a classic
Marxist-Leninist regime intent on owning the means of production."
Cuba consistently fails to meet even the most basic of labor standards,
including denial of employment due to belief systems. In short, rather
than empower the average Cuban, increased U.S. trade and investment in
the agricultural sector would serve only to enrich the Castro machinery.
Nor is more trade with Cuba a ticket to success for American farmers.
For one thing, it's by no means a booming market. Since the Obama
Administration weakened sanctions in late 2014, agricultural exports to
Cuba have decreased. They are now at their lowest point since
agricultural trade was authorized in 2000. Arguably, it could be a means
to exert pressure on U.S. lawmakers.
Cuba has long been one of the worst credit-risk and debtor countries in
the world. It still owes Americans close to $8 billion in certified
claims. In total, the Cuban government owes roughly $75 billion to
foreign creditors. Despairing of ever getting their money back, many
countries have simply given up and forgiven Cuba's debts.
It is easy—and rational—to be cynical about who will really profit from
allowing private financing for agricultural exports. It is not a
far-fetched prediction that it would be the Castros and their cronies.
We have already seen how the regime's military moved to capitalize on
the anticipated influx of American visitors resulting from the
relaxation of travel restrictions. Gaviota, the Cuban military's very
own tourism company, quickly absorbed many tourist facilities and is
expanding at breakneck speed, crowding out the very "self-employed"
workers that the new engagement policy was supposed to "empower." The
military apparatus is almost certain to make a similar encroachment into
the agricultural sector, should opportunities for expanded U.S.
investment present themselves.
And it goes beyond agriculture and tourism. The Associated Press
recently reported how the Cuban military is expanding its control of the
economy in the midst of normalizing relations with the United States.
This has been accompanied by surging political arrests, religious
persecution, and outward migration.
Unilaterally weakening sanctions and granting concessions does nothing
to further freedom on the island or prosperity for American farmers.
Rather, it undermines Washington's ability to influence positive change
on the island. Lawmakers should put the brakes on policies that "engage"
with tyranny by appeasing it.
Ana Quintana is a foreign policy analyst specializing in relations with
for The Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign and National
Security Policy. Randall Ramos is a member of Heritage's Young Leaders
Source: Congress Should Put the Brakes on 'Engaging' Cuba | The National