The U.N. will vote tomorrow [Edit: now today] on whether to condemn the U.S. blockade of Cuba. The world anxiously awaits to see if Palau will once again join the U.S. and Israel as the only nations in the world to oppose the lifting of the blockade. While the Obama administration has lifted some restrictions on travel and sending remittances, it also has contradicted these policy improvements with a counterproductive and unfair $2.5 billion in fines against embargo violators, domestic and foreign, so that what is called a U.S. embargo may be fairly called a U.S.-forced blockade.
I strongly support ending the blockade. The blockade is truth-squandering. I read the anti-Castro commenters at the blogs like Yoani Sanchez's excellent Generation Y, English edition. They write from places outside Cuba about the blockade as being not even an embargo because of all of the supposed loopholes, but at the same time, they oppose lifting it without meaningfully justifying their position. If it truly is as toothless as they say, then by all means, let's do what the U.N. says every year by an overwhelming majority and lift the blockade.
I am a strong proponent of democracy and human rights in Cuba and around the world. I have taken grief at Daily Kos because of my strongly worded expressions of disapproval at the government of Venezuela for to some degree going in the wrong direction on human rights. Even in the aftermath of the attempted rightwing coup it was and is important for the Venezuelan government to protect the political and civil rights of the opposition. (The same goes for Cuba, but also for China, Saudi Arabia, etc., places with which we are happy to trade.) I have tried to express creatively the fact that human rights violations on the left disparage the lessons we should have learned from the past.
At the same time, I have defended Venezuela's right to determine its own course without U.S. interference. The same goes for Cuba and all of the Caribbean and Latin America. While the blockade is a Cold War relic, even more so I believe it is a neocolonial blight on the reputation of the U.S. At the behest of U.S. business interests, the Platt Amendment was forced down Cuba's throat in 1903 by the U.S., which had supposedly helped to liberate Cuba from Spain. The Helms-Burton Act, aka "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996," further made express the U.S.'s free market designs for Cuba, its intent to restore the neocolonial business and property interests of the corporations and wealthy elites who pre-Castro had their way on the island, and its refusal to allow the Cuban revolutionary leadership to have a role in any transition to democracy in the country they freed from U.S., Cuban oligarchic, and mafia control.
According to Ted Cruz, "We need 100 more like Jesse Helms" in the senate. If that does not tell you which side to be on, I don't know what more could.
And while we are ending the blockade, we should get out of Gitmo too. Not just the detention camp, where the U.S. stained its reputation with torture and other human rights abuses--we should also give the people of Cuba back their 45 square miles of land and water where the naval station is, which we took with a bogus lease that was part of the disgustingly exploitative Platt Amendment. That would really upset Cruz and a few other crazies, but it is the right thing to do. Let's do the right thing with Cuba for a change-110 years of U.S. oppression is long enough.
5:30 PM PT: Please see my response to Sky Net below regarding the important difference between ending the blockade, which I support, and what should thereafter be Cuba's trade policy with the U.S., which should be up to Cuba.
Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 9:03 AM PT: Please see the thread below with Vegas Dave and lotlizard about an idea for Cuba, on its own terms and free of U.S. meddling, to transition to constitutional democratic socialism. The blockade/Helms-Burton/U.S. meddling/democracy-lite/neoliberal or else/"market economy" or else approach has been a disaster and to continue it would be counterproductive to the true cause of democracy and human rights in Cuba and around the world.