Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the United States' ban on trade with Cuba, a policy that has endured through 10 presidential administrations and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Critics say the embargo should be repealed, noting that is has caused economic hardship for the Cuban people without ever dislodging the Fidel Castro or his brother Raul. In announcing the ban, President John F. Kennedy said it would undermine an alliance betwen Cuba and the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet communism -- the Soviet Union has since crumbled and China has embraced an economic model of state capitalism.
Proponents counter that the Cuban regime should be punished for continuing to oppress its people. A group of Cuban-American members of Congress released a press statement praising America's unwavering solidarity with the Cuban people.
Embargo: A Moral Stance
In addition to imposing economic pressure on the Castro regime and holding it accountable for actions against U.S. interests, the embargo is a moral stance against the brutal dictatorship, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said, going on to predict a Cuban Spring and adding that the embargo will remain in place until free, fair and transparent elections are scheduled, political prisoners are released, and freedom of expression and the press are established.
President Barack Obama has made halting progress towards easing the blockade. Early on in his term he jettisoned restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting or sending money to family members still in Cuba, and he later went further by relaxing some travel restrictions. But he has also renewed the trade embargo every year while saying Cuba has done too little to enact political reforms or free political prisoners.
The trade ban remains sacrosanct in part because of the issue's importance to Cuban-American voters, a key voting bloc in the perennial swing state of Florida. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney both aggressively courted Cuban-Americans in the days leading up to the Florida Primary, with Romney characterizing the Castro regime as fundamentally evil and Gingrich releasing a Spanish language ad that compared Obama's policies to Cuba's.
My family came to this country looking for liberty and a dream, a Cuban-American in the ad says. But now the United States is resembling the government they fled. Socialized medicine, taxes that paralyze businesses. But Newt Gingrich wants to rebuild the United States that we so love.