report. The Cuba section, perhaps striving for succinctness, appears superficial. The
authors present views as self-evident truths without explaining how they know what is
claimed to be known.
Its first recommendation, "Lift all restrictions on travel to Cuba by Americans," is
followed by a single sentence truth-claim that, "The ability of Americans to travel to Cuba
would allow for better understanding, promote small businesses, and provide
information to the Cuban people." It is not explained how travel by American tourists
would differ from that of millions of tourists from Canada and elsewhere who have
visited Cuba for decades without advancing a transition to openness. How do the
authors reach this conclusion on the impact of American tourism?
Other recommendations also fail to explain their underlying logic. One argues that
liberalizing the sale of communications equipment, including computers, "would
encourage the transfer of information and free flow of ideas." But what is so magical
about American branded computers for this free flow of ideas that is not available in
computers from other countries readily available to Cuba? It also goes un noted that the
Cuban government allows less than 2 percent of Cubans (mostly government officials)
access to the Internet.
Another recommendation seeks to "Remove caps and targeting restrictions on
remittances." It then offers a one sentence rationalization: "These financial measures
would help get resources directly into the hands of ordinary Cubans, empowering them,
improving their standard of living and reducing their dependence on the state." One can
advocate ending restrictions on remittances on humanitarian grounds. However, a
thoughtful analysis needs to note that this will deliver hard currency resources to the
Cuban regime. While
www.ambiente.us JANUARY | ENERO 2009
OPEd | Cuban-Americans and the “Anti-Embargo” Poll**
As the new administration takes form, a plethora of think-tank recommendation papers
are available to justify practically any policy initiative. Unfortunately, the rush for the
president-elect's ear does not always result in rigorous analysis.
For example, a recent poll conducted in Miami among Cuban-Americans purports to
show that a majority favor ending the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. This poll is now
incorrectly cited as clear evidence of a shift in attitude among Cuban-Americans. But
that conclusion does not follow from the survey question: "Do you favor or oppose
continuing the U.S. embargo of Cuba?”
Opponents of the embargo interpret it as a desire for an unconditional, unilateral, end to
the embargo without concessions from the Cuban government. That conclusion cannot
be legitimately inferred from the question asked. A different survey question-for
example: "Do you favor a unilateral, unconditional lifting of the embargo, or do you favor
a process of negotiations that would lead to concessions from the Cuban government?"
-would yield different results.
Another example is a 2½-page section on Cuba, which is part of a broader
this may be a policy cost worth incurring, the rationalization above suggests that the
state is circumvented. In Cuba's economic system-where the state controls almost all
production-the purchasing power provided by these remittances flows to the state.
Another problem is a failure to differentiate between "knowing that" and "knowing how."
Often reports begin with a repudiation of U.S. policy on Cuba noting that it has failed to
change the Cuban regime. This is a valid "knowing that" claim. It does not follow,
however, that an alternative policy embodies "know-how" to change the Cuban regime;
labeling one approach a failure does not provide an automatic truth-claim for an
This is not to argue for a status quo approach to U.S. policy on Cuba. Rethinking a
strategy is not synonymous with apostasy. However, it is troubling to read Cuba policy
recommendation reports that are silent on political prisoners, civil liberties or political
rights. One is left to wonder if the authors understand the nature of the Cuban
government and ignore it, relying on some unexplained change theory, or whether they
opt for a Faustian bargain.
*José Azel is a senior research associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-
American Studies, University of Miami. Dr. Azel was an adjunct professor of international
business at the School of Business Administration, University of Miami. He holds
undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration and a Ph. D. in
international affairs from the University of Miami.
**Previously published in the Miami Herald on December 19, 2008.
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