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Globalization - Countries - Cuba

Libertarians say continuing embargo on Cuba does more harm to American freedom than to Castro
provided by http://www.LP.org

WASHINGTON, DC -- By continuing to support the U.S. embargo on Cuba, President Bush is undermining the freedom of the American people, Libertarians say.

"The U.S. government has no business ordering Americans not to trade with or travel to Cuba or any other nation," said LP Executive Director Steve Dasbach. "By stubbornly refusing to repeal this failed, 40-year-old law, Bush is punishing the American people for the crimes of Fidel Castro."

In an appearance in Miami's "Little Havana" on Monday, Bush called for democratic reforms in Cuba and reaffirmed U.S. support for the trade embargo imposed on dictator Fidel Castro in 1962.

But by focusing on removing Castro from power, Bush has ignored the  fact that the embargo is undermining two fundamental American freedoms, Libertarians say: the freedom to trade and the freedom to travel.

Federal law imposing sanctions on Cuba makes it illegal for U.S. firms to trade directly with that nation, and travel restrictions created in 1963 impose fines of up to $50,000 on Americans who are caught  traveling there.

"The trade ban violates the economic freedom of every American,"   Dasbach said. "Individuals and businesses in a free country should be able to buy and sell goods freely to whomever they like, without getting government approval.

"According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, U.S. firms lose between $600 million and $1.2 billion worth of business per year by not being able to trade with Cuba. Why should American businesses and consumers be punished because Cuba is a communist state?

"And why should American workers be deprived of jobs simply because their government has singled out one particular tyrant for punishment? After all, the United States trades with or gives foreign aid to other dictatorial states like Jordan, Egypt, and China.

"The Cuban embargo has, in effect, created a list of 'government-approved dictators,' like those in Jordan, Egypt, and China, and 'unapproved dictators' like Fidel Castro," he said. "U.S. politicians  should abolish this arbitrary list and let American people and businesses decide for themselves which governments should be punished with a trade cutoff.

"The travel ban is reminiscent of authoritarian regimes like the former Soviet Union, East Germany, and yes, Cuba," Dasbach said. "The freedom to come and go as you please is a fundamental human right. Politicians have no business ordering Americans not to visit 'unapproved' countries, then fining and interrogating them when they return."

And the travel ban is enforced, Dasbach noted. The Treasury Department estimates that 50,000 Americans visit Cuba illegally every year, and an estimated 800 are prosecuted.One example: Two years ago, Marilyn Meister, a retired, 73-year-old Wisconsin school teacher, went on a Canadian-organized bicycle trip to Cuba. When she returned, she told The Washington Post, she was confronted by a U.S. Customs agent who "flew into a rage and made me feel like the most horrible of criminals." Meister was charged with violating the travel ban and ordered to pay a $7,500 fine.

"What kind of government feels threatened by a 73-year-old school teacher riding a bicycle in Cuba?" Dasbach asked. "Ours does. But when government bureaucrats have the power to berate ordinary Americans for going on vacation - then extort an exorbitant fine - it's time to repeal that law."

That's why the U.S. embargo on Cuba must be eliminated, Dasbach said. "If Bush really wants to send a pro-liberty message to Fidel Castro, he can do it by ending the embargo on American freedom."


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