Categorized | International, News

US embargo on common sense still haunts

By JOE O’NEILL
This week marked another inglorious milestone for the United States at the United Nations.

It was the 20th time the U.N. General Assembly has considered a resolution condemning the “economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” And the 20th time it has passed overwhelmingly. This time it was 186-2, with the U.S. and Israel as the minority tandem of ignominy.

And about 1,500 miles to the south, plans were officially announced for upcoming exploratory oil drilling in the Florida Straits.

The events are very much related.

That’s because the drilling will actually be done in Cuban waters — fewer than 100 miles from the Florida coastline. Ironically, a 125-mile buffer zone remains in place in U.S. waters off of most of Florida’s coast. And in the wake of last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there is obvious environmental and economic concern, if not worst-case paranoia. As has been well noted: Spilled oil doesn’t recognize political boundaries — or embargoes.

But even though there was dereliction of duty aplenty from BP to governmental-oversight entities, there remain U.S. laws and regulations in force as well as upgraded monitoring wherewithal and chain-of-command responsibility. Not so, when it’s another sovereign. Dramatically not so, when that sovereign is Cuba, with whom we don’t even have normal diplomatic relations.

Thus, when it comes to drilling south of Key West, we are leverage-challenged and largely at the mercy of foreign entities — notably Spain’s Repsol and Malaysia’s Petronas. Their prime allegiance is to the one who let the drilling and extracting contracts: Cuba.

Were we to have normal relations with Cuba, we could be on the case with additional environmental expertise, equipment and monitoring and all that falls under mutual self-interest cooperation. We could also be competing for the business. Since it’s going to happen anyhow, why not get a piece of the action while adding additional measures of safety?

Instead, we feel additional ripples from the counterproductive Cold War-era relationship that passes for contemporary Cuban-American foreign policy.

Which brings us back to the U.N. resolution vote.

The half-century-old embargo still makes the U.S. look stupid — as well as like a geopolitical bully and hypocrite. No wonder the rest of the world has a problem with American “exceptionalism.”

They see the embargo for what it is: a pandering, political grandstand that appeases the Cuban-exile base that still wields a vendetta veto over normalized Cuban-American relations.

And, yes, it is a copout for the Obama administration to claim it inherited this failed policy from predecessors. It’s also disingenuous to recycle Bush-era rhetoric about needing to see Cuba clean up its human-rights act before we can even consider lifting the embargo and permitting unfettered American travel to that island nation. Would that we were so pristinely principled with China, Saudi Arabia or any of our other human rights-challenged global trading and security partners.

The Cuban embargo, as reflected in those U.N. votes that include our neighbors, allies and “friends,” erodes American standing in Latin America, harms our image around the world, is humanely indefensible and even costs American jobs during an intractable recession.

The Obama administration knows better, and it should be ashamed.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By JOE O’NEILL
This week marked another inglorious milestone for the United States at the United Nations.

It was the 20th time the U.N. General Assembly has considered a resolution condemning the “economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” And the 20th time it has passed overwhelmingly. This time it was 186-2, with the U.S. and Israel as the minority tandem of ignominy.

And about 1,500 miles to the south, plans were officially announced for upcoming exploratory oil drilling in the Florida Straits.

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The events are very much related.

That’s because the drilling will actually be done in Cuban waters — fewer than 100 miles from the Florida coastline. Ironically, a 125-mile buffer zone remains in place in U.S. waters off of most of Florida’s coast. And in the wake of last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there is obvious environmental and economic concern, if not worst-case paranoia. As has been well noted: Spilled oil doesn’t recognize political boundaries — or embargoes.

But even though there was dereliction of duty aplenty from BP to governmental-oversight entities, there remain U.S. laws and regulations in force as well as upgraded monitoring wherewithal and chain-of-command responsibility. Not so, when it’s another sovereign. Dramatically not so, when that sovereign is Cuba, with whom we don’t even have normal diplomatic relations.

Thus, when it comes to drilling south of Key West, we are leverage-challenged and largely at the mercy of foreign entities — notably Spain’s Repsol and Malaysia’s Petronas. Their prime allegiance is to the one who let the drilling and extracting contracts: Cuba.

Were we to have normal relations with Cuba, we could be on the case with additional environmental expertise, equipment and monitoring and all that falls under mutual self-interest cooperation. We could also be competing for the business. Since it’s going to happen anyhow, why not get a piece of the action while adding additional measures of safety?

Instead, we feel additional ripples from the counterproductive Cold War-era relationship that passes for contemporary Cuban-American foreign policy.

Which brings us back to the U.N. resolution vote.

The half-century-old embargo still makes the U.S. look stupid — as well as like a geopolitical bully and hypocrite. No wonder the rest of the world has a problem with American “exceptionalism.”

They see the embargo for what it is: a pandering, political grandstand that appeases the Cuban-exile base that still wields a vendetta veto over normalized Cuban-American relations.

And, yes, it is a copout for the Obama administration to claim it inherited this failed policy from predecessors. It’s also disingenuous to recycle Bush-era rhetoric about needing to see Cuba clean up its human-rights act before we can even consider lifting the embargo and permitting unfettered American travel to that island nation. Would that we were so pristinely principled with China, Saudi Arabia or any of our other human rights-challenged global trading and security partners.

The Cuban embargo, as reflected in those U.N. votes that include our neighbors, allies and “friends,” erodes American standing in Latin America, harms our image around the world, is humanely indefensible and even costs American jobs during an intractable recession.

The Obama administration knows better, and it should be ashamed.