Free Cuba - and my cigars

By Mike Morefield
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 2, 2005

There is a country with an illustrious history and rich culture but a marred past that has fascinated generations of people. This is the land where the drinks are cool and refreshing, like the Mojito and the worldly popular Cuba Libre (rum and Coke). This tropical land of beaches and spicy food, of plentiful cigars and strong drinks, is the island of Cuba, and as Americans we will never enjoy its charms.

In a time when the Venezuelan president is criticizing the United States while he rules his country with an iron fist, the past seems more relevant now more than ever. Such a situation of arrogant boasting arose more than 40 years ago, and it is still far from resolved.

Since the rise of Fidel Castro in 1960, Americans have been denied trade, investment, and travel to Cuba because of its role as a communist foothold in the Western Hemisphere. The former Soviet Union funded the country and helped build it as a nation in exchange for using it as a platform for strikes against the United States.

This exchange landed the world closer than ever to nuclear war. At the time, the embargo with Cuba was necessary for national security and for the fight against the swiftly expanding communist movement.

Forty-five years later the country that we once confronted in a bitter political struggle has fallen into disrepair, its military expired. Apparently, the embargo has lived past its usefulness and needs to be lifted to help the Cuban people and create a more democratized world.

Cases have been made, with weak evidence and flimsy reasoning, that the embargo will help the Cuban people realize that the current regime needs to be removed and that by not giving in to the communist dictatorship, we are creating an environment ready for a democratic change.

This is asinine at best, considering history has shown that opening countries with strong dictatorships or communist regimes allows a society to be introduced to more democratic ideas, like free speech and democracy.

Our trade with China, which helped foster slow but growing adoption of democratic ideals, fully validate this theory and only push the embargo further into the realms of antiquated brash foreign policy. The United States cannot even support its embargo by standing by its age-old policy of not trading with those who are working against the betterment of the world, like countries that have shown aggression or intolerance of others.

This stance is destroyed by its own creators, who have traded with nations like Syria, that have been known to fund terrorists. The case for why the embargo still stands is a very simple one: The United States entered into a chauvinistic cowboy standoff with the Cubans and lost.

When the United States imposed a full embargo on Cuba, Cuba stood strong. When Cuba foiled an invasion funded and run by the United States, not a task many countries can claim, Cuba denounced the United States and relied on other allies. Even after the Soviet Union fell and Cuba began to deteriorate, they bit their thumb at the U.S. and buckled in for hard times.

These acts of defiance struck a nerve in a government whose bully tactics have never failed it. The United States will not give up the embargo because it was engaged in a stalemate with an "enemy" and lost, and the United States is not known for licking its wounds and rolling over.

Granted, I have a slight stake in the embargo being lifted because there's nothing I enjoy more than relaxing on a beach with a Cuban cigar and good cocktail, watching fully restored '57 Chevys cruising the streets. The embargo has given me sympathy for Cuba - it has allowed me to cut through the embedded anti-Cuban policies and see that change is needed and past due.

The Cuban people have suffered through the economic hardship placed on them because of the embargo, while Fidel Castro and his hard-line followers have insulated themselves and lead quite an enjoyable lifestyle.

The one group that we created the embargo for has been the least affected and should be shown that open trading of goods, with which democratic ideas will stealthily hide within, is the true way to bring down this dictatorship.

Mike Morefield is a political science senior. He can be reached at