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Three Cuba books worth checking out this holiday season.


For five decades now, the United States has maintained a comprehensive economic embargo against Cuba. U.S.-based travel to the island is severely restricted, and most financial and commercial transactions with Cuba are illegal for U.S. citizens.

In the 1990s, Washington tightened the embargo further, seeking to promote change in Cuba by depriving the Castro government of hard-currency revenues. And yet the stalemate remains.

How effective has the embargo been in achieving its main goal?


"Not very," replies Paolo Spadoni, whose book, "Failed Sanctions: Why the US Embargo against Cuba Could Never Work" has just been issued by University Press of Florida (ISBN 978-0-8130-3515-4, price $34.95).

By extending his analysis to non-state sectors (including multinational corporations, migrants, foreign travelers, indirect investors and food exporters), Spadoni--a post-doctoral research fellow at Tulane University's Center for Inter-American Policy & Research--demonstrates that the United States has not only been unable to stifle the flow of foreign investment into Cuba, but has actually contributed to the recovery of the Cuban economy --especially from the deep recession it entered after the demise of the Soviet Union.

The 224-page "Failed Sanctions" is a must-read book for those who closely follow U.S.-Cuba relations and for anyone interested in the efficacy of economic sanctions as a foreign-policy tool.

Peter Schwab of SUNY-Purchase has warm words of praise for Spadoni's book.

He calls it "an excellent study indicating how transnational players, particularly corporations, nation-states (including Cuba) and individual tourists (particularly Cuban-Americans) were able purposefully or inadvertently to undermine the U.S. embargo on Cuba so that from its earliest stage in 1960, it was doomed to failure."

Details: Stephanie Williams, Publicity and Promotions Manager, University Press of Florida, 15 NW 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 326031933. Tel: (800) 226-3822. Fax: (352) 392-0590. Email: URL:


There was a time when it seemed impossible to go through a week without news coverage of the men, women and children escaping Cuba and being pulled off makeshift rafts in the middle of the Florida Straits. One out of four did not survive the dangerous journey; the others barely hung on with little food and water.

Most of the lucky ones were saved by a group of volunteers who called themselves Brothers to the Rescue.

Seagull One (ISBN 978-0-8130-3490-4, price $24.95) is the never-before-told story of the men and women representing 19 nationalities who came together to fly in rickety Cessnas over the Florida Straits to search for rafters fleeing communist Cuba.

This 336-page book, with 41 black-and-white photos, is a fascinating account of how Jose Basulto, a Cuban exile and Bay of Pigs veteran, founded Brothers to the Rescue with the humanitarian mission of saving the lives of the desperate souls willing to brave the ocean in pursuit of freedom.


Written by Miami author Lily Prezello, Seagull One "is the stirring account of an heroic group of pilots who risked their lives on a daily basis on behalf of the endless stream of Cuban rafters seeking freedom in the U.S.," said Les Sandiford, author of Last Train to Paradise. "Lily prellezo's debut is a wonderful testament to courage and compassion."

Seagull One was Basulto's radio call sign. The group's tactics were sometimes controversial, including protests against both the U.S. and Cuba, yet it saved over 4,200 people its members would seldom, if ever, meet.

Victor A. Triay, author of Fleeing Castro, says "the true story of Brothers to the Rescue is finally told in a compelling, riveting narrative that brings the reader inside the founding, growth and tragic end of one of Florida's most important Cuban exile organizations."

Details: Stephanie Williams, Publicity and Promotions Manager, University Press of Florida, 15 NW 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 326031933. Tel: (800) 226-3822. Fax: (352) 392-0590. Email: URL:


"She found freedom in the strangest of places," says the book jacket. "Frantic to escape a soul-deadening position and the drone of middle age, psychologist Jeanne Lemkau was flailing in turbulent waters when she grabbed the raft of sabbatical leave and sailed for Cuban shores."

Her official mission was "to conduct research on Cuban health care and the effects of the U.S. embargo," but when her best efforts collided with the realities of communist Cuba, a more personal agenda emerged--to belatedly claim her right to solo adventure and to figure out how to construct a more joyful life."


"Lost and Found in Cuba: A Tale of Midlife Rebellion" is "not only a great read, but Jeanne is donating proceeds to the LAWG Education Fund," says Mavis Anderson of Latin America Working Group, noting that "Jeanne's story of angst and adventure offers an intimate exposure to Cuban culture and the lives of Cubans struggling with the fallout of the U.S. embargo."

She adds: "'Lost and Found' is both personal and political, in a non-wonky sort of way. Those who know Cuba (or midlife crisis) will find much to recognize in Jeanne's narrative."

Wayne Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, calls Lemkau's book "a most enjoyable read."

"This is escapist literature, yes," he said, "but who else works out her midlife malaise in a Cuban leprosy sanitorium among nuns?"

The book costs $14.95 from However, LAWG urges readers to "please buy from the author if you can; Amazon keeps 55% of the book price, thereby reducing proceeds available to support the Cuba work of Latin America Working Group Education Fund."

Details: LAWG, 424 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: (202) 546-7010. Email: URL:, or Jeanne Lemkau, 320 Orton Road, Yellow Springs, OH 45387. URL:
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Title Annotation:Failed Sanctions: Why the US Embargo against Cuba Could Never Work; Seagull One; Lost and Found in Cuba: A Tale of Midlife Rebellion
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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