The Cuban Embargo – An Ineffective Tool

The Cuban embargo began as retaliation against Fidel Castro’s expropriation of around $1.6 billion worth of American property in the early 1960s.[1] The embargo functioned as a way to pressure Cuba to sever its ties to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.[2] After the fall of the Soviet Union, American administrations have supported the embargo as a tool to pressure the Cuban government towards respecting its citizens’ human rights and democratic ideals.[3]

In theory, the embargo should have compelled Cuba into becoming a democratic state, but in reality, the fifty-year-old-embargo has both failed to protect Cuban citizens’ human rights[4] and failed to further democratic ideals.[5] The embargo demonizes The United States to Cubans because the Cuban government’s propagandists are able to portray The United States as an enemy to prosperity.[6]

Since 1992, a majority of The United Nations has continuously voted to repeal the embargo and members have even gone as far as deeming it a “violation of international law.”[7] Additionally, former Presidential candidate, George McGovern, spoke against the embargo explaining that, “…[w]e seem to think it’s safe to open the door to a billion communists in China but for some reason, we’re scared to death of the Cubans.”[8]

President Obama’s recent announcement that The United States would be easing its diplomatic relations with Cuba does not mean that The United States is normalizing relations with Cuba. But rather, the easing of diplomatic relations is a step in the right direction, for all parties involved, towards a less expensive and more effective way to reach The United States’ humanitarian and democratic goals.

Jose Figueroa is a 2L and a Resident Student Blogger with the Journal of Law and International Affairs at the Penn State University-Dickinson School of Law


[1]      Alberto R. Coll, Harming Human Rights in the Name of Promoting Them: The Case of the Cuban Embargo, 12 UCLA J. Int’l L. & For. Aff. 199, 201 (2007) available on LexisNexis.

[2]      Id.

[3]      Id.

[4]      Id. at 235

[5]      Id. at 273

[6]      Cuba Embargo: Congressional and Presidential Changes to US Policy, 1990s to 2000s,

[7]      United Nations: Meetings Coverage and Press Releases,

[8]      Steven Walker, Cuba and the Miami Five Injustice, Morning Star (Feb. 1, 2015, 2:50 PM),

Leave a Reply