Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Embargo

In 2005, a book by political science professors Patrick J. Haney and Walt Vanderbush was published concerning the US embargo towards Cuba. It was called "The Cuba Embargo: The Domestic Politics of an American Foreign Policy."

In my opinion, the book provides an excellent summary and analysis of the dynamic politics behind the US embargo (an interest of Haney and Vanderbush going as far back as 1999). But, I bring attention to the book now because of the authors' prescient conclusions made three years ago.

Haney and Vanderbush believed that a Democratic Presidential win in 2004 would signal the "last hurrah" for the US embargo against Cuba. While their hopes in 2004 never materialized, this year's election gives new life to their conclusions and may prove them right in the end.

I highly recommend Haney and Vanderbush's book, and you can read large excerpts at Google Books.

----- [Excerpt from pp.169-170] -----

It is at least possible that a Democratic candidate could do better in Florida by arguing for small changes to the embargo, as younger Cuban Americans are less wedded to the hard embargo, and as the state's non-Cuban Hispanic vote increases rapidly. At the very least, that would seem a more promising approach than giving the appearance of pandering to the Cuban Americans. A Democratic presidential candidate might take a more nuanced postion on the embargo - in favor of more travel, continued family remittances, and no limits on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, perhaps, while maintaining diplomatic isolation and other elements of the economic embargo, particularly prohibiting the import of Cuban goods to the United States - and find that there is a net gain in Florida, much less the rest of the country.

Finally, some have suggested that this may be the last presidential election during the era of the Cuban embargo... As we have discussed, the politics of Cuba policy, to the extent that they have a trend line, seem to us to be moving away from the embargo for a variety of economic, political, institutional, and electoral reasons. This election may be the last hurrah for embargo hard-liners as they hold out the prize of Florida's electoral votes, or the embargo may go out with a whimper at some future point. But, however it ultimately recedes, the days of the strong U.S. embargo of Cuba are numbered in large part because the political dynamics set in motion in the 1980's have come of age in ways that have undermined presidential control over the embargo, and the embargo policy itself.