United States eases trade restrictions with Cuba

Daily News Article - January 29, 2016


1. If most U.S. trade with Cuba remains banned under the economic embargo, how has the Obama administration lifted some trade restrictions?

2. List three exchanges the new measures will now permit.

3. Why has President Obama used executive action to work toward his goal of ending the embargo with Cuba?

4. What is the key difference between President Obama’s latest action on Cuba and his efforts to ease trade with Cuba last year?

5. The website pro-con explains one reason for continuing the embargo:

Since there is virtually no private sector in Cuba, opening trade would only help the government, not regular Cuban citizens. The 90% state-owned economy ensures that the Cuban government and military would reap the gains of open trade with the United States, not private citizens.

Foreign companies operating in Cuba are required to hire workers through the state; wages are converted into local currency and devalued at a ratio of 24:1, so a $500 wage becomes a $21 paycheck. A Cuban worker was quoted as having said, "In Cuba, it's a great myth that we live off the state. In fact, it's the state that lives off of us."

How does this contradict U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s defense of the easing of export restrictions?

The U.S. embargo on Cuba began over 50 years ago under President John F. Kennedy. Cuba has been led by communist dictator Fidel Castro and in the last several years by his brother Raul Castro. They deny the Cuban people basic human rights/freedom. Find information under “Background” and “Resources” below the questions.

This BBC News article makes no mention of public and congressional opposition to this latest plan but there are many who do. There are also many like President Obama who believe they can help the Cuban people more by lifting the embargo even before all of the political prisoners are released - that it will influence Castro to change.

In 2008, Cuba signed the U.N.’s Declaration on Human Rights. Consider Articles 5, 9, 13 and 19 of this document – Article 19 states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The Cuban government denies its citizens this freedom. (Read the entire Universal Declaration of Human Rights at un.org/Overview/rights.html.)

What do you think? Is lifting the embargo and restoring normal diplomatic relations with Cuba’s communist dictator the best way to help the Cuban people gain freedom and economic prosperity? Explain your answer.

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