Study Recommends Lifting U.S. Embargo against Cuba

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - The Cato Institute, a Washington-based Libertarian think tank, Thursday released a study saying that U.S. interests would be better served if the United States went a few steps further in lifting its trade embargo against Cuba.

Congress passed legislation last month allowing food and medicine exports to the communist nation, but since the bill prohibits Cuba from obtaining U.S. funding to buy U.S. food and medicine, the Castro government calls the deal a "sham."

Philip Peters, a former State Department official in the Reagan and Bush administrations did the study for the Cato Institute. He believes Cuba has collapsed as a U.S. security threat, and thus Washington should reconsider its economic embargo.

"U.S. policies designed to bring Fidel Castro down have backfired. Those policies place him in the world political limelight, renew his claim to victimhood, reinforce many of his favorite nationalist arguments, and miss opportunities to influence Cuba's future by blocking free interaction with American society," Peters writes.

Peters admits socialism persists in Cuba but he argues that limited change is taking place.

"Some private enterprise has been allowed, and many Cubans are learning firsthand the advantages of a capitalist system. But while trade, travel and investment from other countries are improving Cubans' living standards and exposing them to capitalism, an end to the U.S. embargo would have the same effects but on a greater scale because of our nation's size and proximity," Peters writes.

Peters says American engagement would expand Cuba's incipient private sector and add to its growth.

Peters disagrees with the provisions in the legislation that would not allow Americans to travel to Cuba, saying such "sanctions violate the rights of the American people to trade and travel." He would like to see the U.S. travel embargo on Cuba lifted.

In another unrelated development, reports out of Cuba indicate that long-standing, chronic electricity outages appear to be ending. A Cuban radio station is reporting that "Cuba's powe-generating capacity is above national demand, aided by the modernization of our power plants and the country's energy conservation program."

A Cuban government spokesman noted the progress but added that top government officials remain "cautious" about the power supply. The "modernization" does not mean that power cuts might not take place in some areas because of technical difficulties and other unexpected developments, according to the spokesman.

Last Monday, Cuban Leader Fidel Castro signed a deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to provide the communist nation with up to 53,000 barrels per day of crude oil. Cuba will be paying for it through long-term credits.

Cuba has been starving for oil since being cut off from oil exports after the former Soviet Union collapsed during the 1990s.