Of course the embargo exists (just ask the US-Cuba Democracy PAC), but, in Miami, hard-liners towards Cuba have grown incredibly frustrated defending the policy. The easiest way out of an argument is to say: "What embargo?" And, even the most adamant defenders of the policy know they don't have much to stand on. Let's take a look.
THE EMBARGO BEGAN IN 1960
Lot of articles were written this week about the US embargo towards Cuba, and its 50th year in operation. But, the embargo actually began in 1960 under the Eisenhower administration when US exports were cut. You can see from the picture above (courtesy of The Miami News on Google Archives), the top headline is from 1960, and the bottom one is the Kennedy administration's ban on imports from Cuba in 1962 (good chronology of US sanctions on Cuba here [PDF]). This is an important distinction because the Eisenhower administration made the goals of economic sanctions against Cuba very clear. Last year, historian Robert S. McElvaine wrote this in his op-ed to the L.A. Times:
"Noting in a 1960 memorandum that 'the majority of Cubans support Castro,' Lester D. Mallory, deputy assistant secretary of State for inter-American affairs, argued that 'the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.' The objective, he wrote, was 'to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.'"And, it was throughout the 60s that the US was secretly planning a covert war against Cuba. You can check this great chronology from the National Security Archive to get an idea of how extensive American plans were to overthrow the Cuban government (also good is "The Castro Obsession" by Don Bohning).
The above context is important, especially when you hear today about how "moral" it is to keep the US embargo. While it certainly won't topple the Cuban government today, the embargo is perceived in Cuba as a policy of aggression, as it was in 1960 and 1962.
So, last Tuesday our four Cuban-American representatives in Congress came out with their defense of the US embargo. According to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, "the embargo is a moral stance against the brutal dictatorship. Over the last 50 years, the embargo has served as a constant form of solidarity with the Cuban people."
What Rep. Ros-Lehtinen really means when she says "moral stance" is to say that the embargo is a symbol of our confrontation against Cuba. A message that should be interpreted by the Cuban government as "we are enemies, not friends." (Nevermind the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights suggesting " it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations.") Also, the embargo is not a "form of solidarity" with the people of Cuba. The majority of Cubans oppose the embargo (a 1994 poll inside Cuba found widespread opposition, and a 2006 poll showed Cubans highly favoring the US as an ideal trading partner.) Anyway, our foreign policy should not ignore the majority voice of Americans that oppose the US embargo.
Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Albio Sires make similar comments defending the embargo, but Rep. David Rivera seems to describe the need for expanding sanctions on Cuba because of their "Chavista and Mullah" allies. If we follow this logic, the US should expand their embargo to the rest of the western hemisphere.
Speaking of irrationality, let's not forget the other intransigents in Miami.