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A Cuban thaw? Ending embargo would speed liberalization.

COLUMN: IN OUR OPINION

Cuba remains politically unfree, but the hints of economic liberalization under President Raul Castro could be the beginning of an awakening of that island nation from its long communist nightmare.

To Americans, word that computers and cell phones are now available to ordinary Cubans may seem like no big deal. But economic liberalization often leads to political liberalization. The United States can help accelerate the process by ending its embargo on trade and travel with Cuba.

The embargo was imposed in February 1962, after the Bay of Pigs debacle. In a world polarized between the U.S. and Soviet Union, cutting off trade with Cuba may have held some reasonable hope for influencing the policies of the Castro regime. Cuban expatriates harbor justifiable anger toward the Castro regime for its human rights violations.

But it is folly to continue a policy that has failed to work for nearly a half-century. In fact, the embargo has provided the Cuban government with an all-purpose excuse for the country's economic woes and a handy pretext for suppression of free speech, the press and other civil rights Americans too often take for granted.

Moreover, the embargo of 2008 bears only faint resemblance to its Cold War ancestor. So many agricultural exemptions have been passed that the U.S. is today Cuba's sixth-largest international trading partner, and the largest supplier of food to the island.

The Cuban people, a Soviet client state no more, must realize that a U.S. that feeds them is not their enemy. Their growing demands for economic and political reforms show they are eager for contact, trade and information from abroad. Ending the embargo now could do more to support ordinary Cubans than many years of political posturing.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 12, 2008
Words:292
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