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Rob Horowitz: It’s Time to End the Cuban Trade Embargo

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Years have passed and tensions between the US and Cuba have eased; it may finally be time to lift the country's trade embargo.

Spending last week in Cuba (along with 17 other people—mainly Rhode Islanders) on an interesting, fun and thought provoking trip put together by URI Political Science Professor and public radio and television regular Maureen Moakley, leaves me more convinced then ever that it is long past time to end our ill-advised trade embargo with Cuba and normalize diplomatic relations.

Our policy towards Cuba is a vestige of the Cold War, stemming from when Fidel Castro originally took power and began to move Cuba towards a one-party Communist form of government more than 50 years ago. The United States first put in place the trade embargo in 1960 and broke off diplomatic relations a year later.

The changing of times

While we have expanded trade and normalized diplomatic relations with other Communist nations including China and Vietnam, not to mention most authoritarian regimes around the world, our Cuba policy remains fundamentally unchanged due to the intense feelings and political power of the first generation of Cuban Americans who fled Cuba in the wake of the revolution and settled in large numbers in South Florida.

Fiercely anti-Castro, strategically located in an important swing state, historically overwhelmingly Republican in voting preference and always willing to contribute in large amounts to favored candidates and causes—this resourceful, entrepreneurial, and successful generation of Cuban immigrants have amassed political power far exceeding their small share of the overall US population.

However, as a second generation of Cubans mainly born in the United States comes of age and mortality takes its inevitable toll on the founding generation, attitudes in the Cuban community are shifting markedly. For example, in the 2012 election, Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential candidate, narrowly defeated Mitt Romney among Floridians of Cuban descent, according to an exit poll conducted for NBC News. Obama is the first Democratic Presidential candidate to win in this sub-group in memory. As recently as 1988, the Democratic Presidential candidate, Mike Dukakis only garnered 15% of the Cuban American vote in Florida.

And support for the trade embargo in the South Florida Cuban community has already significantly eroded. A 2011, Florida International University Poll recorded only a slight majority of Cuban Americans in the region in favor of continuing the embargo. Among younger South Florida Cuban Americans between ages 18 and 44, the same poll showed a majority for ending it (the University is conducting a new poll of Cubans Americans this year and I expect there will now be an overall majority in favor of opening up trade with Cuba and ending the embargo). Perhaps most telling, more than 8-in-10 South Florida Cuban Americans say that the embargo is working “not well or not at all”.

What's to be gained

Recently, both the United States and Cuba have opened up travel restrictions between the nations, and despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties, there have been productive discussions on taking other constructive steps forward. Also, Cuba is slowly creating some space for a private sector with the recent ability for people to own their own businesses in certain parts of the economy, including the tourism industry. Since the end of the Cold War and the withdrawal of a large amount of economic support from the Soviet Union, the Cuban economy has really struggled and the overwhelming majority of the Cuban people—while having access to good health care and enough to eat—are relatively poor. There is a broad recognition that in order to bring about more prosperity, private enterprise most be expanded.

Ending the embargo would have a significantly positive impact on the process now underway, speeding the development of a thriving private sector where individual initiative and hard work is rewarded. United States trade and investment could also facilitate a better and more open flow of information by helping to bring about the development of broadband capacity and spreading the use of the internet and social media throughout Cuba. Cuba has a literate and educated population that can readily take advantage of new technology as well as make it profitable for American technology companies and investors. Finally, opening up trade with Cuba eliminates an all-purpose excuse that the Cuban government has been able to use for their inability to deliver real economic growth.

It is in both Cuba's and the United States' interest to end the trade embargo and normalize relations. In other words, in today’s parlance, it is win-win. Given that this view is becoming the majority view of even Cuban-Americans, the group most responsible for the embargo’s continued existence, the political moment for a fundamental change in our failed policy towards Cuba may be arriving fairly soon. At least, I sure hope so.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s Most and Least Popular Politicians

The statewide poll conducted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in October 2013 is the latest public opinion survey by the Ivy League institution.  

See how elected officials fared in Brown polls in years past BELOW.  

Prev Next

Mayor Angel Taveras


October 2013: 63.9%

October 2012: 65.6%

December 2011: 51.7%

Prev Next

Treasurer Gina Raimondo


October 2013: 54.2%

October 2012: 58.7%

December 2011: 52%

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Senator Jack Reed


October 2013: 51.6%

October 2012: 58.5%

December 2011: 46.4%

July 2010: 55.6%

December 2009: 56.3%

September 2008: 68%

September 2007: 61%

September 2006: 70%

September 2005: 65%

June 2004: 63%

September 2003: 62%

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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse


October 2013: 39.4%

October 2012: 45.4%

December 2011: 33.6%

July 2010: 42.8%

December 2009: 43.7%

September 2008: 46.2%

September 2007: 41%

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Rep. Jim Langevin


October 2013: 38.7%

October 2012: 41%

December 2011: 41.9%

July 2010: 54.6%

December 2009: 46%

September 2008: 51.2%

September 2007: 55%

September 2006: 56%

September 2005: 62%

June 2004: 56%

September 2003: 56%

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AG Peter Kilmartin



October 2013: 35.6%

October 2012: 35.8%

December 2011: 34.5%

July 2010: 20.2%

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Sec. of State Mollis


October 2013: 35.6%

October 2012: 28.6%

December 2011: 25.6%

July 2010: 32.6%

December 2009: 22.6%

September 2008: 24.1%

September 2007: 23%

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Lt. Governor Roberts


October 2013: 32.9%

October 2012: 37.5%

December 2011: 32.8%

July 2010: 33.5%

December 2009: 22.4%

September 2008: 24%

September 2007: 37%

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Rep. David Cicilline


October 2013: 26.6%

October 2012: 29.7%

December 2011: 24.3%

*July 2010: 40.3%

*December 2009: 40.8%

*September 2008: 46%

*September 2007: 64%

*September 2006: 58%

*September 2005: 60%

*June 2004: 61%

*September 2003: 67%

* As Mayor of Providence

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Sen. President Paiva-Weed

October 2013: 23.5%

October 2012: 26.2%

December 2011: 24.1%

July 2010: 21.4%

December 2009: 19%


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Governor Lincoln Chafee

October 2013: 23%

October 2012: 28.5%

December 2011: 27.4%

*September 2006: 51%

*September 2005: 54%

*June 2004: 56%

*September 2003: 50%

* As U.S. Senator

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Speaker Fox


October 2013: 20.5%

October 2012: 18.3%

December 2011: 25.9%

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Related Articles


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Hey Robbie,

Wearing your Che Guevara T-shirt while you typed this?

Spend a few days in south Florida and see what the Cuban immigrants feel about your column.


Remember the biggest LIE from 2013:

"If you like your healthcare, you can keep it. PERIOD"

B. Hussein Obama

Comment #1 by Killary Klinton on 2014 01 21

Che's been dead for nearly 50 years. Mr. Horowitz is seldom right, but this is simple. The embargo doesn't work and punishes everyday Cubans.

Comment #2 by Redd Ratt on 2014 01 21

Communism punishes everyday Cubans.If communism is so successful (according to the people robbie runs with) why does the embargo hurt Cuba?

Did you seriously blame the Republicans Robbie? Your boy JFK initiated it, so it must be sound foreign policy.

This article, like all your others, proves why Rhode Islanders are so incredibly behind. I pity every student who has the dishonor to be "taught" by you.

Comment #3 by Silence Dogood on 2014 01 21

Great article. Don't worry you will always get a gutter response from the right wingers in Miami. They may even send you death threats for writing this. Old school Miami Cubans love Communist tactics. Luckily their kids disagree with them on the Cuba issue.

Comment #4 by George Costanza on 2014 01 21

I rarely agree with Rob Horowitz, but I think this is a reasonable article with a reasonable proposition. Here's why:

Free market capitalism that engenders prosperity, quality of life and a broad middle class is what kills communism. The underground market economy in the old Soviet Union was a huge factor in the fall of communism there. "Communism" was largely a joke in practical terms for the average Soviet citizen. In China, too, communism may slowly die as new generations experience capitalist-fueled prosperity and up their quality of life.

I'm the last one to support communism in any way, but I don't think enabling free enterprise to take hold in Cuba would strengthen the Castro regime; I think it would lead to its irrelevance more effectively than anything else -- because people would begin to experience freedom and see the tangible results of their own labor.

Ironically, the larger concern is the systematic attempt by Obama, Holder and friends to turn OUR country into another centrally planned and regulated system -- another Cuba. So if Cuba does become free and prosperous, maybe they can then help us out.

Comment #5 by Art West on 2014 01 21

Perhaps the "most transparent administration ever" could articulate their well considered reasons for continuing the policy. Are the considerations political? It IS time for the rulig Spanish elite communists to return the country to the native population.

Comment #6 by G Godot on 2014 01 21

SD, communism is a failed form of government. Reforms in Cuba are happening. Believing in an end to the embargo is no endorsement of communism. Its time to ignore the American Cuban's that want to see regime change. It isn't going to happen. If President Obama was smart he would get on the right side of history.

Comment #7 by Redd Ratt on 2014 01 21

No reforms are happening. This is an old and very bad joke played by castro on naïve Americans.

The embargo does not hurt Cubans, castro hurts Cubans. Lift the embargo, and the castro crime syndicate will continue to prosper while Cubans continue to suffer.

You took the stooge tour, conducted by castro's disinformation agents, and you bought the whole pile of commie bull. Good for you.

America is already Cuba's second largest trading partner. America ships plenty of food to Cuba, more than any other nation.

Ironic, isn't it, that the former breadbasket of the Caribbean prior to psycho-butcher castro now cannot feed itself?

Ironic moresoe, given Cuba's near-perfect growing climate. Sun but no droughts. Rain but no floods. Fertile valleys in which anything grows.

But Cuba's farming methods regressed solidly to the 19th century not due to the embargo, but thanks to the castro crime syndicate's idiocy.

Guevara was a gutless murderer who wrote his own father that he 'truly loved killing'. His favorite trick was to agree to spare the lives of fourteen year old boys, then shoot their skulls to pieces in front of their horrified mothers. A real nice guy, a communist pedophile killer.

This is such an old an castroite trick. Take the yanquitos around by the nose for the stooge tour of Cuba. Introduce them to some 'happy Cubans', castroite agents all of them. Send them home filled with visions of things not real. Walter Duranty would love it.

Though castro ceded power to his completely psychopathic half-brother, raul, the castro crime syndicate and its lickspittle politburo maintain an iron grip on the island and its long suffering people.

Liberals in America who stupidly backed these killers bear much of the blame.

Cuba will never be free so long as there exist naïve Americans who'll buy any sob story told by psychotic killers with a gift for persuasion.

Ramiro 'el Ramirito Valdez' is castro's minister of technology and disinformation. Nice to see his handiwork played to good effect.

"War with America is my destiny." - fidel castro-ruz.

"Yanqui businessmen are fools, adventurers, and piratical idiots. Of course we shall welcome trade with them. Then take what is theirs. And kill them." - 'Dr.' Fidel Castro-Ruz, ca. 1995

Comment #8 by paul zecchino on 2014 01 22

Yeah. We should trade with Cuba. Tell that to the hundreds of Cubans who run miles every day, in secret, to train for their clandestine escape from this man-caused hellhole. They spend years quietly assembling rafts, even boats powered by old cars. Many simply ride the currents on inner tubes, braving sun, dehydration, high seas, and sharks, all to escape this rotten seven-hundred mile gulag.

They're not rafting from Boca Raton to Havana, nor does any resident of Boynton Beach raft down to Matanzas. You won't even find any Sarasotans inner-tubing it from Siesta Key down to Pinar del Rio or Punta Jutias.

Nope, the exodus flows one way, from castro's hell to America.

And we should reward that with trade, why?

We trade with chicoms. What's it done besides empower them, bankrupt us, and decimate the world's population of Manta Rays so that chicom billionaires can ingest powdered Manta Ray in vain hope of growing their members larger.

You play with communists, you lose. You want to lose? Good. Lose.

Leave us out of it.

Comment #9 by paul zecchino on 2014 01 22

Roughly seventy other prosperous modern nations trade freely with Cuba, in addition to America which sends plenty of food to a nation which pre-castro fed itself.

Were free trade the answer, then surely those seventy nations with whom Cuba trades would have brought tremendous prosperity to the island.

But they haven't. Cuba continues to slide lower and lower, despite bullshxx claims of 'reforms' - that's an old lie that the castro's have burped forever.

When the soviet union collapsed in 1991, its military and commercial presence in and thus support of Cuba ended. Absent the soviet union to leech off, castrogonia almost imploded. But wily fido suckered the Canadians and some European countries into trading with him. Then he stiffed them, in keeping with communist tradition.

You'd think that would have made Cubans prosperous, but here again it is not the embargo which hurts Cubans, it's the castro crime syndicate.

You'd think, given its extensive contacts on the island borne of its Cold War presence that modern free Russia and former soviets such as Ukraine, Belarus, and East Boogaloostan would be actively trading with Cuba for mutual enrichment. But they're not. The sovs walked out in '91 and never looked back, tired of getting ripped blind by fido & pals.

The soviets pulled their equipment from the massive communications intel station at Lourdes, southwest of Habana. They didn't want fido getting his hands on the stuff.

So, fido convinced the chicoms to build new electronic spook sites at Bejucal and Wayala. A few years ago one such site was caught issuing fake, misleading, and dangerous instructions to commercial aircraft in effort to create yet another international incident.

To show its true colors, and by way of a little FU to the spineless, fake, phony 'tough guy' JFK regime, immediately subsequent to JFK's supposed staring down of Kruschev, Fido planned a little surprise.

J. Edgar Hoover's FBI ruined the surprise, castro & Guevara's plot to bomb Macy's and Gimbels in Manhattan on Black Friday, 1962. While the world was bluffed into regarding JFK as the big hero of the Missile Crisis, castro plotted to humiliate him with a massive bombing - more than five hundred pounds of nitroglycerin - of both stores. Why Black Friday? Because as che so charmingly expressed it, 'we wanted to kill as many Americans as we could, to strike at the heart of America'.

The soviets actually began to back slowly and carefully away from castro immediately following the October '62 missile crisis, due to castro's demonstration of his true and quite insane colors. Castro demanded that some missiles remain in Cuba and in fact some did. Castro also urged the sovs to launch a preemptive attack on America, to 'strike at the heart of America and kill as many Americans as possible.' Sound familiar?

The horrified sovs pointed out to castro that the American counterstrike would be horrific, reducing his island to a seven hundred mile long cinder. Castro, unfazed, stated, 'millions of atomic deaths are worth it if socialism prevails.'

The same regime is today in power. What's changed? Nothing.

Comment #10 by paul zecchino on 2014 01 22

The embargo is indeed a foreign policy failure and mutually assured economic destruction between our country and Cuba. It is also one of the most hypocritical foreign policy stances we have maintain. Democracy and freedom are not reaped from such a stupid policy. Unfortunately the calls to end the embargo are hollow. To end the embargo and lift the travel restrictions will require an Act of Congress to sunset or repeal the Cuban Democracy Act and the Helms Burton Act. Where are the Congressmen and Senators who are committed to vote to do so? On the contrary, there are Congressmen and Senators committed to keeping the embargo and restrictions in place, with no real opposition.

What you can do Rob is to organize your fellow Rhode Islanders to raise money, support and vote for congressional candidates in your state who will fight to end the embargo and lift the travel restrictions and stand down on the hardliners from Florida and New Jersey in the halls and floor of Congress. Make a commitment to get your entire state Congressional delegation to be committed to end the embargo and be willing to debate these stupid policies openly in Congress. Everyone on Capitol Hill knows these policies are stupid, but supporting the embargo will get you a campaign check and the perception you are actually supporting freedom and democracy. Its all BS. Everything else is just talk. And there has been a lot of talking for many years. May you raise your voice into a commitment...

Comment #11 by usambcuba - on 2014 01 22

"Mutually assured destruction of our economy"? Nice slogan. Where'd you find it? The Slogan Store? Don't tell me I missed their annual winter sale!

Our economy hasn't suffered one bit from the embargo. But it did suffer when castro and his communist thugs stole American businesses located in Cuba, seized all their assets, and put the Cubans who worked at them out of jobs.

How's the weather down there at the old Lourdes soviet intel site? The accomodations for el Ramirito's new Propaganda Ministry to your liking? A bit cool here today, but we are about two-hundred-sixty-five miles due north of your location, aren't we?

My, how this article must have hit a nerve.

Your stilted sentence constructs in and of themselves give you away.

Say hi to Raul.

Comment #12 by paul zecchino on 2014 01 22

The Stooge tour of Cuba is no different than the Potemkin Villange tour given NYSLIMES reporter Walter Duranty during the 1920s and '30s. Communist aparats show the gullible visitors exactly what they want them to see in order that the visitors will form the opinions the communists want them to form. They do not show them what they absolutely dread they might see, for fear it will burst the illusion and result in unflattering albeit truthful published opinions about the communist 'experiment'.

Similarly, they introduce you to the people they want you to meet, some castroite operatives, the rest coerced citizens promised an extra scrap of green meat for going along with the gag. And promised something far more interesting if they don't.

As to the Miami exile community being divided, babalublog dot com along with many other sites amply reported on all this. Quite simply third generation Cuban-Americans who've known nothing but peace and prosperity cannot conceive of the evil of what castro did to Cuba. And as is typical of youth, they're sentiments are to the Left. As Churchill said, and given that they're all whip-smart, by the time they hit forty, they'll see things differently. Most everyone holds opinions and does things in youth which they regret in later life, when gifted with the knowledge of experience and history.

And history cruelly mocks those who place false hopes in mr. marx's genocidal little 'ideology'.

Comment #13 by paul zecchino on 2014 01 22

PS -

Ask the average Cuban if they can mingle with foreign reporters on the Stooge tour. Oh, that's right. Sorry. If they're even seen mingling with you, let alone conversing, it's off to the Combinado del Este Prison they go. Or perhaps to the dread dungeons on the Isle of Pines, in sunny Nueva Gerona.

Our nation if finished, precisely because of those who think petting rattlesnakes makes them nice, and who champion the nefarious as victims, while the nefarious craft their doom and smile, salivating as patiently they wait.

Comment #14 by paul zecchino on 2014 01 22


Paul - do you always curse and defame people who disagree with you? You ought to go to Cuba and check it out yourself and see how both the embargo and an authoritarian regime serve each other.
When was the last time you visited Cuba by the way?

Respectfully, the embargo also represents billions lost to the U.S. economy over fifty years and mostly to Florida. How many people live in poverty in Florida? How many people are unemployed in Florida? How many people do not have health insurance in Florida? What is the average wage in Florida? No embargo will improve each one of those statistics. I'll bet you a dinner at Versailles on Calle Ocho...

My best to you -

Comment #15 by usambcuba - on 2014 01 22

usambcuba, Don't let PZ get to you. He is a consistent source of entertainment. I do worry about him, as he seems to be very stressed.

Comment #16 by Redd Ratt on 2014 01 24

Like others I can't understand why there's still an embargo. We could travel to the U.S.S.R. and China, but we can't go to an island 100 miles south of us, that has a U.S. base on it. There is no better way to spread Freedom than to show it to the people that don't have it.

Comment #17 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 01 28

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