JFK was wrong; it's time to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba

Nuns love John F. Kennedy. My father used to say that anyone who uttered a word against the fallen president better be prepared to have a ruler smacked upside his face. Luckily, this is a Methodist campus, so that particular measured threat (yes, I do puns) isn't much of an issue. I can safely criticize a ridiculous political move that solidified during Kennedy's time and has continued for over forty years: the Cuban Embargo.

Our embargo on Cuba truly began during the Cold War when President Fidel Castro nationalized companies in that country and developed relations with those other Commies in Europe. Years went by, Russians figured out they would rather have blue jeans then secret police, and the Cold War ended. Yet, seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Clinton and the U.S. Congress proclaimed Cuba to be so dangerous they made the embargo permanent. In 2003, the Bush Administration, without any evidence -- surprise, surprise -- argued that Cuba had biological weapons and was a threat to America. Today, talks of normalizing relations with Cuba are quashed in the Senate, yet I wonder why we hold onto this policy.

Most Americans don't see Cuba as a significant enemy and a large majority wants to restore relations, but there are two reasons we have continued this embargo. The first regards Cuba's exports of that white, powdery goodness that we all love and crave. Sorry to disappoint the campus, but I'm not talking about cocaine. Cuba is a huge producer of sugar cane. Once trade stopped, the U.S. had to find a cheap way to satiate its sweet tooth. To help the people in their hour of need, the corn industry stepped in and produced high fructose corn syrup, which now monopolizes our market. Normalizing Cuba would open a huge source of cheap sugar cane and ruin this monopoly. The corn lobby has bought congressional votes for years to keep this embargo. Money, not reason, is the deciding factor.

The second reason is that such a vote could put the presidency in jeopardy for whichever party ends this foolish policy. Florida, one of the deciding states in the past three elections, holds the largest Cuban minority of any state. It is this group that has been crucial to swinging the state to either the Republicans or Democrats. They are also members of the "We Hate Castro" club, which is completely understandable (though having to live in Miami is a pretty high membership fee). Yet, with their power and anger, this small group of people has been successful in holding the country hostage on this issue.

Sometimes I wish someone would say, "Wait, did someone remember to take Cuba out of timeout?" or "I thought Carter was going to do it." Which is, of course, ridiculous -- who would let him touch foreign affairs again? It is time to realize that it is not in the public's interest to continue this stance. Continuing the embargo ignores public opinion in order to pander for elections. It destroys a possible trade market when our economy is failing and allows the corn industry to push a product that is probably linked to the increase in American obesity. People who push such an unnecessary and ineffective policy make America look foolish. Where are those nuns and their rulers when you need them?

Phil Cardarella is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a liberal columnist for The Eagle. You can reach him at edpage@theeagleonline.com.

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