The Helms-Burton Act: Necessary Law Or Dysfunctional Policy?

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The Helms-Burton Act: Necessary Law or Dysfunctional Policy? U.S. policy toward Cuba, centered as it is on the embargo, is both obsolete and counterproductive. There is a near-total disjuncture between our stated objectives and the means chosen to achieve them. Not only do the means not serve the ends, it seems the US designed to work against them. With the Cold War over, Cuba is of little importance to the United States. Yet, under the Helms-Burton Act, the United States appears willing to jeopardize its vital relationships with Canada, Europe, and Mexico all in an effort to force their compliance with its Cuba policy. To place at risk that which is of major importance on behalf of that which is of little importance would certainly seem irrational. This goes far to explain why no other government supports the embargo.

History of the Original Embargo Initially, the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba made sense.

Imposed after Castro had nationalized all American properties without compensation, vowed to spread his revolution to the rest of Latin America, and edged toward alliance with the Soviet Union . The embargo was designed to punish Cuba for the expropriations and to raise the cost to the Soviet Union of maintaining its new relationship with Cuba. It was also meant to raise the cost of Cuban promiscuity in the rest of the hemisphere, and thus expressed a containment strategy. At first there was even some expectation that it might prove so damaging as to bring about the collapse of the Castro regime. By the end of the 1962 missile crisis, that hope was gone. Nevertheless, given the potential threat to U.S. security arising from Cuba's military alliance with the Soviet Union, the imperatives for maintaining the embargo were strong.

In these early years, moreover, the...