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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Cuba: Is it time to lift the embargo?
In an unprecedented televised address to the Cuban nation, former US President Jimmy Carter has called for the American trade embargo against Cuba to be lifted.

He also praised an initiative of Cuban dissidents who seek a referendum on political and economic reforms.

Jimmy Carter's visit to Cuba is scheduled to last until Friday. This is the first time an American president has visited the island in more than 40 years.

Mr Carter said that the importance of the visit was to establish a dialogue between the two countries.

Is it time to ease relations between the US and Cuba? Should the US embargo be lifted?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It is a small island with limited natural resources

Arri London, EU/US
Lifting the US embargo would only subject Cuba to a different sort of totalitarianism. It is a small island with limited natural resources. Allowing the American 'free' market system in there would only damage the economy. Cubans would be expected to take American imports (often made overseas by sweated labour) and would find their own products banned for spurious reasons. Cuba has not the slightest need for overpriced American products and decidedly unfree market practices.
Arri London, EU/US

Open relations and communication between the USA and Cuba are long overdue.
Paula, USA

Lift the sanctions. Flood the country with McDonald's, Walmart, American beer, Hollywood movies and TV sitcoms. The Castro regime will collapse in no time!
Mirek Kondracki, USA

I'm not sure that lifting the embargo is going to helpful to the Cubans in the long run. The majority of adults in Cuba have grown up within the Castro regime and know nothing else. Can you imagine the culture shock if the embargo was lifted? US corporations would flood into the country and very likely ruin it as they tried to run it. We should ask ourselves not whether the embargo should be lifted, but rather: does Cuba actually need the USA? I don't think she does. Besides, we have to have one place in the world where we can go on holiday and the Americans can't!
Jo, England

Castro has imposed a totalitarian dictatorship since 1959; there has never been a free election (if Castro thought he would win, believe me he would have held one); there is no freedom of speech (even possessing a fax or copy machine is a serious crime in Cuba); all Media is state controlled, no freedom to migrate, no real freedom of religion; no right to form a labour union or a political party. However, all the above is excused because the left and the ignorant believe Castro's claims of great healthcare delivery (actually most clinics lack even basic medicines).

All Cubans know that the regime is obsolete and an abject failure. That is why most Cubans love America because it is the only country to stand up for them and not give comfort to the apologists of this monstrous regime. Dropping the embargo would have no effect because Cuba has no real money to trade with; Cuba can buy all it needs from the EU or the rest of the world right now. Why don't they? That is the big question I ask for all you Castro apologists, Why don't they?
Ed Engels, New York, USA

For the US to be rattled in the first place, about a tiny island nation running a system of government that the US doesn't like, just shows how insecure America really is. There should never have been an embargo, but if the US wants to cut off its nose to spite its face then I, for one, would rather they didn't lift the sanctions.
Paul R, UK

Why aren't they listening to the majority of voters in this so-called democracy who say they want the embargo lifted?

A.A., US
For the US government to use "democracy" as an excuse for keeping the embargo in place, I have one question: Why aren't they listening to the majority of voters in this so-called democracy who say they want the embargo lifted? As usual, special interest groups take priority over the American public. Maybe someone should start a rumour that they discovered oil reserves off the coast of Cuba. I bet Bush would leave skid marks reversing his policy.
A.A., US

The reasons and the need for the embargo died a long time ago. It's time to bury the dead and concentrate on the living. I commend former President Carter for his insight, compassion and realism in calling for an end to a situation that has long outlived any useful or productive purpose. The Cuban people have suffered long enough for the sake of politics. Our good neighbour and sister nation, Canada, has wanted this embargo lifted for a long time. It has caused problems for the Canadians and that alone, without any other considerations, should be more than sufficient reason for the US to end the embargo. Couple that concern with the needs of the Cuban people and it becomes imperative that this political standoff be abandoned. In a world gone mad with hate, I think lifting the embargo would be viewed as a small ray of hope that we can return to something akin to normalcy.
Mary, USA

The overwhelming feeling in America is that the embargo on Cuba is absolutely ridiculous. Where is democracy here? Why isn't our people's will enacted? It's stuck in the political rhetoric of a corporate controlled government that knows that it cannot control Castro, nor is there a viable market in Cuban for economic and cultural imperialism. I would never defend Castro, but if we want to continue this absurd train of thought that an American embargo will oust a communist regime, then let's start an embargo against China. Obviously, the tactic hasn't worked and the cold war is over (as recently pointed out by President Bush, although he seems to think this is a recent event and not know this occurred a decade ago).

It is like some archaic, punitive punishment to the Cuban people for Castro successfully thumbing his nose at the US some 40-odd years ago. Honestly, it is beyond my comprehension why we, as free Americans, cannot travel to a country that the rest of the free world has access to. Don't give me pandering human rights violation nonsense. America has always willingly dealt with and supported human rights violators who have done much, much worse to their constituents than Castro has.
David, USA

In all fairness Cuba is not a terrorist state. It cannot be denied that Castro has made great steps in Cuba. The facts speak for themselves, despite the embargo, Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US. Cuba also has the same life expectancy. The average education level of a Cuban person is ninth grade, greater than any other Latin American Country. Yet Castro is seen to be a terrorist. People are far too narrow-minded about one party governments. The reforms carried out by Castro could NEVER have taken place in a democracy such as Britain. In Cuba's time of need Castro has been their saving grace. Quite frankly it is appalling that although for ten years in a row the UN has voted on an end to the sanctions, the US still imposes it.
Keiran Allan, Scotland

Father Time will move Fidel Castro before Uncle Sam's embargo does

Brian Charlton, Canada
Father Time will move Fidel Castro before Uncle Sam's embargo does. Besides winning domestic political points with Cuban exiles in the U.S., the only thing the U.S. embargo accomplishes is to sustain a siege mentality in Cuba that plays directly into Castro's hands. Every dictator needs an outside scapegoat -- the embargo fills the bill for Castro. And it gives the aging dictator an "out" on his two most significant policy failings, a backward Cuban economy and a dismal human rights record. Lifting the embargo would help take Cubans' focus off U.S. policy and put it back on Cuba; while giving a boost to Cuba's emerging free market sector. Carter is right - the U.S. should take the lead and drop its ban on trade and travel.
Brian Charlton, Canada

The Cuban community in the US doesn't want the embargo lifted since this will legitimise Castro's possession of the estates and property he seized. The Cubans who fled to the US are still hopeful that they will one day return to their properties, this is the primary motivation for them wanting to retain the embargo not concern for the population they left behind.
Leigh, USA

For this American, it seems rather pathetic that the so-called greatest nation in the world has to maintain an embargo against a small island nation. Opening trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba would likely have a more positive effect for bringing about meaningful change than maintaining an embargo. My biggest fear is that the right-wing Cuban-American community undo the social, educational, health and other gains of the last 40 years and bring back a Batista-like dictatorship controlled by US corporate interests. Unfortunately Little Havana (Miami Cubans) control American foreign policy in regards to Cuba. It's time for them to grow up and move on.
Kenneth Paulsen, USA

I am ashamed to be an American when I see yet another example of US foreign policy hypocrisy. The embargo against Cuba should be dropped. I have just returned from Cuba three weeks ago and have seen firsthand the repercussions from the embargo. I believe the Cuban people are the only ones who truly suffer from the embargo, not Castro, and the US government is punishing them for something they cannot help. Why should the US refuse to trade with a country that has less human rights violations than half of the US's trading partners? If the reason is just to aid in George W. Bush's/Jeb Bush's re-election chances in Florida, then I am even more ashamed.
Susana Maldonado, UK/America

The embargo should have been lifted long ago. The 40-yr trade embargo and subsequent US legislation has failed to dislodge Castro, indeed strengthened his position in Cuba. The embargo has seriously hurt the Cuban people instead and now stands in the way of US trade interests (hence the push for change!). Castro's real crime is not his "communist" regime but that he had the audacity and strength to defy US diktats.
Cecil, USA

Lift the embargo. The only people who want it to stay in place are business people who lost their property there in the 50's. They wouldn't have lost it to Castro's cause had they treated the Cubans with some respect in the first place. We should just apologize for our wrongs, hope the Cubans apologize for theirs, and still forgive them if they don't.
Frank Mimbs, USA

It was with tremendous pride that I watched a former American President actually speaking to a nation in their own language! What he had to say was right on the target. But it will not change the Bush Bunch who look to the Cuban exiles in Florida for votes and to the rest of the misguided right wing who live in the past in more ways than imagined. The US badly needs the intelligence of Carter to help set foreign policy not only in Cuba but also in the Middle East. The present administration can only see more violence and war to settle all disputes. Being from Texas which is the leading state in capital punishment, especially under Bush as governor, that is the mind-set of our President today. Sad to say.
Wanda Seglund, US

Communist Cuba, with a poor but hardly "hellish" human rights record gets the embargo treatment. Communist China, with a much worse, savage human rights record gets most favoured nation status. The only consistency in these flatly opposing policies can be found, not in US attitudes to human rights, but rather to the Dollar. Kicking Cuba doesn't hurt too many business interests, but China is quite different. Is there anything for sale in a big American chain store - the biggest store on earth - not made in China? The embargo is like the action of a petulant teenage bully who holds hard to his grudges. Designed by the Kennedys at their most vindictive, the embargo at this stages serves to prop up Castro, and only hurts the poor people, a few of whom I know as friends. The embargo is a disgrace, and must end. Well done Jimmy, even though you should have done this 25 years ago!
Rob Gillies, usa

All I can say is that Fidel Castro has most likely never missed a meal in his life while my cousins scrounge for basic necessities that are completely taken for granted in this country. For me the name Castro has the same significance as the name Stalin does for Russians. However, I believe that the embargo is a farce, a purely symbolic gesture meant to appease the far-right exiled Cuban community in Miami. I would like to see President Carter's mission to Cuba be a success, meaning an end to political persecution, free speech, free elections, and an end to the embargo.
Maggie, USA

The U.S. policy towards Cuba must change, it is an embarrassing sign of hypocrisy. Our government officials claim to keep the outdated, useless and ineffective embargo in place because of past human rights violations! Yet we have long since reacquainted ourselves with China, who has had one of the largest lists of human rights violations in the world. Why not end this illogical grudge we have with Cuba, when the continuance of the embargo will solve absolutely nothing.

Communism in Cuba will not last because it is a poor government tool, not because we continue to block it with our embargo. When the politicians in my country realize that, Cubans will be able to see that it is not America's fault their country is impoverished but because of their own tyrant.
Katie Jimenez, USA

Whatever happens I hope Cuba will always have their 100% literacy which is higher than the USA. And keep their National Health Service. People seem to think that capitalism is the only answer. I am not saying the system works there at present, but countries like Cuba some options like the USA model may not be the best option. The poor will be bled dry by big business. The USA will bleed the country dry if they have any power.
Pete, UK

Hmm? Is now the time to lift the Cuban trade embargo? Well, the US economy is in somewhat of a nasty depression - opening up a new area of trade would help the situation. Cuba is a country which would be an entirely new market for a whole generation of American industry? Hmm? What a really difficult question!
Susan, UK/USA

If Cuba had the perceived economic clout of China or Russia, the embargo would have ended long ago.

Ade Daramy, UK/Sierra Leone
In truth, the continued embargo belittles America, whilst giving Cuba an 'heroic' status it no longer deserves. Probably only Queen Victoria 'reigned' longer than Castro has. The continued embargo is a nonsense and those advocating that it should stay, should be embarrassed. Using the excuse that Castro once allowed his country to be a base for Soviet missiles as the basis for the continuance, is highly hypocritical as America now does a huge volume business with the inheritors of those Soviet missiles, the Russians, and millions of dollars of business with another alleged enemy, the Chinese. If Cuba had the perceived economic clout of China or Russia, the embargo would have ended long ago.
Ade Daramy, UK/Sierra Leone

One thing is clear, in the USA the opinions are divided over this. Some would like to lift the embargo as Jimmy Carter demonstrated. After all nobody wins by having such conditions in existence against Cuba. Also another important matter can be observed - Fidel Castro is not against all Americans. A winning relationship can be agreed upon by these two neighbouring countries. It could be great to see reconciliation at last!
Octavio Bustamante, Tijuana, Mexico

As someone who voted for Carter, I am shocked that he would grandstand again and take public positions against US policy. He should stick to building homes for the poor. For a former president to act in such a publicity-seeking way is in direct violation of the traditional behaviour of members of this select club. His input into this policy should take place in private meetings with the current administration and the appropriate members of the Senate. I understand that he is trying to improve on his tarnished presidential legacy, but this is neither the appropriate nor effective way to accomplish this goal.
Frederick Jorden, USA

Seems to me that one of the few reasons that Castro has survived is the continuing sanctions from the US. Of course they should be lifted, the west traded with the former Soviet Block before its demise, why not Cuba?
Graham, UK

I can't understand why human beings just choose to see negative side in this world. Yes, Castro is no Saint, but so are leaders from China, USA, Russia, Malaysia, Singapore and the list will goes on... The point is, why do we have to see the suggestion to lift the embargo on Cuba as something only to do with Fidel Castro? Who cares about him? Think about the implications the disappearance of the embargo will bring to the wonderful people of Cuba!
Krish Virdee, England, UK

To Adam, London, UK: I suppose America is the only country whose foreign policy is rooted in self-interest.
Rob, US

Any change in policy towards another country should be treated with suspicion

Adam, London, UK
I'm not sure who would benefit from dropping the sanctions. America's foreign policy is determined to serve its own interests. So any change in policy towards another country should be treated with suspicion.
Adam, London, UK

Some of the people commenting seem to have not noticed that the Cold War has been over for more than 10 years now. What is so special about Cuba that it is treated that differently from countries like China and Vietnam? The big question is will the people of Cuba benefit from lifting the sanctions? My answer is YES. That should be the most important question and not the future of Mr Castro.
Jan Scheinberger, Germany

I think it's well time for the embargo to be lifted as it can only add hatred. If it has not worked for up to 40 years now, why not look for other methods!!!
Gislin, Cameroon

Cuba is still paying the price for America's love affair with JFK. Because JFK never came to peace with Cuba, America hasn't been able to do it either. It's time to let it go.
Graeme Colquhoun, Scotland

Cuba is relatively harmless these days

Richard N, UK
The only reason the embargo would not be lifted is because of political inertia. The question should be asked - if there was no embargo would the US government now impose one? I don't think they would - Cuba is relatively harmless these days.
Richard N, UK

People in the West praise Cuba's achievements in healthcare and education but it's a package deal: free elections and freedom of speech and assembly are still denied to 11 million Cubans. I suspect that real democratic reform in Cuba will have to wait until after Castro's death. The embargo will have to stay until the post-Castro era.
Tony Martin, UK

Of course they should drop the's bad for US trade. Once the Cubans have had a taste of consumerism they will drop Castro and Communism. Let them eat McDonald's!
Carl, UK

Stop the blockade on Cuba? Perhaps. The repercussions for the well-being of the Cuban people would be far from positive. Start a global blockade on the USA and their lackeys? Certainly!
Duroyan Fertl, Australia

Cuba continues to be a totalitarian hell for those that have to live there

AGMendive, USA
For years everyone has been trading with Cuba (UK, Canada, Italy, Japan, Spain among others), and travelling there for tourism, and still, Cuba continues to be a totalitarian hell for those that have to live there; why? Thousands of Cubans have lost their lives trying to escape the Island, the ninety miles that separate the US from Cuba is known as the "cemetery without crosses." Why? Cuba has been involved in terrorism to the extent of training the IRA, the Front for the Liberation of Quebec, and every conceivable terrorist or communist guerrilla organization that existed or exists now in Latin America. Cuba also sent troops to Angola where according to reports it used "yellow rain" as a weapon, it has been involved in Sudan, Palestine, Vietnam, it assists the ETA in Spain and serves as sanctuary for members of these organizations. Why? Why would anyone want to lift the Embargo?
AGMendive, USA

I'm an American though and through and a Republican to boot. However, I do not understand our fixation on democracy. As long as a government isn't killing thousands of innocent dissidents, I don't see that whether or not they have free elections is any business of ours. Democracy isn't perfect either.
Brenda Tipton, USA

I have always thought that it would make more sense to be friendly towards a nation even if its ideals are different from your own. If your ways are different and better then eventually they will see the errors of their ways. Just because they have different points of view doesn't mean that you can't still be friendly towards each other.
PhilT, Cornishman in Oman

The embargo is obsolete, ineffective and cruel. It is an embarrassment to my country and has absolutely failed to create freedom or any sort of progress in Cuba.
Aleks Hindin, USA

The embargo should not be loosened, it should be tightened and the US government should punish every other country that violates it with punitive economic sanctions

Mark, USA
There are many people in this debate who don't know or have forgotten that Castro allowed his country to be a nuclear missile launching platform and by his own admission urged the Soviet Union to launch a nuclear first strike against the United States even though he knew it would cause a third world war that would destroy the entire human race and that his own island and people would have been incinerated almost immediately. He also tried to extend the cold war to Latin America and the Caribbean by his military incursions into Venezuela and Granada to overthrow those governments and establish communist beachheads. He tried the same thing in Africa in Angola. The bearded tyrant is his own people's worst enemy surprising every conceivable freedom and turning an island paradise into pure hell. The embargo should not be loosened, it should be tightened and the US government should punish every other country that violates it with punitive economic sanctions.
Mark, USA

Never. It is a Socialist/Communist regime and we should never deal with it. A bit like some other governments closer to home I won't mention!
Mr Harry Wentworth, Torquay, Devonshire, England

Margaret, American in Cuba I seem to remember that it is America who stopping the people leaving Cuba. In 81/82, correct me on the date please! Fidel said that any Cuban who wanted to leave, could leave. They did, in hordes; It was America who said stop. The queues outside the embassy in Jamaica, Haiti are not moving any faster.
Steve Kniste, Bristol, UK

I am an American working at the American Consulate in Cuba and my duty ends this summer. To the folks that state that Cubans love Fidel Castro, please tell that to the hundreds of Cubans who stand outside our Consulate on a daily basis begging to leave Cuba. The Cuban government denies all requests. And to the other folks that say there is no homelessness or poverty, please tell that to the majority of young girls who are forced to sell their bodies at the age of nine. Do I think relations should be eased? Absolutely. But you are only fooling yourself if you think Fidel Castro is a great leader and things will improve once the embargo is lifted. Do you realize that a Cuban resident is not even allowed to go to the beautiful beaches? Only tourists. They are not allowed to even eat the fish that come out of the ocean. People who are talking about Cuba are only those who come as don't live here. And one more thing...waiting for Fidel to die is another "dream" can only imagine who is next in line. He makes Fidel look like a Saint.
Margaret, American in Cuba

Although the initial implementation of the embargo may have been important given the world political and economic situation at the time, today such a policy is outdated. The United Nations and many other independent countries have expressed a concern for the human rights abuses in Cuba while simultaneously calling for an end to the long-standing embargo. In our relations with China we have committed to economic engagement rather than isolation. As U.S. Ambassador James R. Sasser said with regard to U.S.-China relations, "there is no good alternative to the policy of engagement. We tried isolation in the past. It did not work" (4/25/97). We need to begin taking our cues from our European allies and from our own foreign policy in China where Cuba is concerned. "It did not work," so let's try engagement instead.
Rachel Edsall, WA, USA

Castro's regime is tyrannical. There is no freedom and Castro has made sure the economic opportunity is effectively zero. The goal of America's policy on Cuba is, and ought to remain, clear: the elimination of Castro and his communist regime.
Daniel Rego, USA

It certainly is time to improve the relationships between these to nations in order to release the pressure from third parties. I particularly mean Mexico, which is the only Latin American country that never broke relationships with Cuba after the communist revolution and whose international policy of supporting Cuba and at the same time trying to get closer to the US doesn't make much sense to many Mexicans. Let's these two guys discuss their differences face to face without having to rely on embarrassing diplomatic USA-Mexico-Cuba triangles.
Humberto Gumeta, UK

Castro has continually used the sanctions to deflect the short-comings of his own corrupt regime.

Tyler, USA
The best way to help end the reign of Castro is to get rid of the sanctions. Castro has continually used the sanctions to deflect the short-comings of his own corrupt regime. Without them he would no longer be able to blame his country's ills on the embargo. Unfortunately, as long as the extremely vocal and politically active Cuban community in Miami refuses to accept this logic we will see no end to the embargo.
Tyler, Washington, DC, USA

I live in Miami, and have many Cuban friends, but I have to disagree with the emotional mindset of the exile community. For the simple fact that they seem to only be hurting themselves. The so-called embargo that they so vehemently support is constantly violated by them because they need to supply their own families in Cuba with the dollars and other necessities that are so hard to come by. The Cuban regime will fall no matter what, it is simply too close to the US. In the meantime they are only depriving themselves of the right to visit their country and their families, as well as the golden opportunity for increased exposure to American products and influence. US policy supported by most Cuban-Americans seems to be to wait until Castro dies. Sadly, many of the older Cubans who left their country will never get to see it again. What will the embargo have accomplished for them?
Alex, Miami, USA

At a presidential inauguration in Bolivia, Fidel Castro received greater applause than the elected president. The then Bolivian president commented: "You'd think that Castro was just elected, and not me." The Americans continue the trade embargo because they do not want other Latin American countries to dare get the idea that they would be allowed to create an economic system that is not tethered to U.S. control and restrictions.
Mark Cramer, USA/France/Bolivia

I think that Cuba has no choice but to liberalise

John Lovedale, Wales
There is one basic problem about Cuba. Its inhabitants can't leave the country. And you can understand why - the state puts considerable resources into educating its workforce, and they don't want them leaving for somewhere else so as to earn more money. And that will happen. Look at teachers in South Africa, who are getting poached by UK Education Authorities. Obviously it would be fine if the whole world was one Communist Utopia, where plastic surgeons were paid the same as nurses, where people did a job because of satisfaction rather than money. However we're living in the real world, and it would seem that the inevitable victory of Communism is several centuries off.

So, what about the short-term solution? Well, I think that Cuba has no choice but to liberalise, though it doesn't want to become a pawn of American imperialism. So perhaps it should look to Europe rather than America. Why can't Cuba become a member of the EU? After all it used to be a Spanish colony. It's a small enough economy for the EU to integrate, much less of a problem than places like Poland or Slovakia. And with its educated workforce it would be a real credit to the EU.
John Lovedale, Wales

I grew up in the States during the 70s and 80s, and I think many younger US citizens of my generation think the US governments strained relations of Cuba are the archaic products of old men on both sides who can't forget the Cold War. So what if Castro is some kind of communist? Old-style communism is drifting away, and it would be nice just to get on with friendly relations between people in "Los Estados" and people in Cuba.
Carl, England

No, relations between Cuba and the US should not thaw. Cuba is a beautiful country with wonderful people. I don't want to see the kind of coca-cola-isation of Cuba as seen elsewhere in Latin America. Keep the US out of Cuba and let's have somewhere where US multi-nationals don't dominate economic and social life.
Daniel Brett, Kolkata, India

Having spent numerous holidays in Cuba and after meeting people far from the normal tourist route I am convinced that were genuine democratic elections held, Castro's Socialists would win by a landslide. The question is would they be allowed a level playing field by the Mafia and even if they won would it be accepted?
Graham Bates, England

It is purely for outdated ideological reasons that such an embargo still exists.

Simon Smith, England
Definitely ease relations. The cold war is over, Cuba does not pose any threat at all to the US regardless of what the state department say about the island's terrorist threat. It is purely for outdated ideological reasons that such an embargo still exists. I myself am very pro American, but do not see the logic in the continuing the embargo.
Simon Smith, England

From visiting Cuba I can confirm for George W Bush that it is a paradise. It is not wealthy but so what? The people are very happy, healthy, employed, can read and have an excellent state of education. Castro may not be elected but he is applauded by his people for freeing the country of American influence and providing them with a future. Maybe it would be a bad idea to lift the embargo as it would lead to a flood of McDonalds, GAP, Starbucks, Texaco, American Express, Coca-cola, etc. European nations support Cuba and we all enjoy holidaying there and buying Cuban products. Cuba is one of the only places in the world free from American dominance and that's why it's great. Cuba doesn't leave its poor to die when they can't afford health care, it doesn't spend stupid money on a war when its people are hungry and it doesn't kill criminals, unlike it's 'civilised' northern neighbour.
Tom Swade, UK

Oh please... "I visited Cuba and everyone is happy and content and there's free health care and no Starbucks". Gimme a break! I am sure tourists said the same thing visiting Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. All those happy, young, eager faces. Cheap too. All that Cuban sun. How many tourists get to visit Cuba's political prisoners? Maybe have a coffee with the comrade-teachers who brainwash Cuban children to spy on their neighbours and family? Maybe you might visit the Mexican Embassy and chat with the thousands of Cubans desparate to flee this demi paradise? Interesting how the the left wing have no problem with dictators like Castro whose own daughter fled this Communist Eden disguised as... of course... a tourist! If you Brits, Canadians and Europeans fancy a cheap winter hol, fine... just don't confuse lazing on the beach with what really goes on behind the sunny veneer of an imprisoned island and people.
Peter C. Kohler, USA

To Peter C. Kohler, USA, Please, look outside of your own "Gated communities" and see the abject poverty in your own country, 2+ million without heath insurance, more homeless people than you can count. As for spying on your neighbours, what about all the signs on the freeways urging people to "Be a hero" and report violators. If anyone is guilty of believing their own propaganda, the USA takes gold every time, a true "World Champion"
Tony Sorace, Grenada, (dual UK/US )

Until Carter's visit, the debate over Cuba has been unfortunately hijacked by the right and the left; those reactionaries who still fear the shadow of the Cold War "Black Witch" conjured by their imagination; and those Che Guevara T-shirt (Made in China) wearing bourgeois-radicals who blindly chant the virtues of Cuba as the Socialist paradise. Carter, as a politician of above-median intelligence, has fortuitously picked the right moment to shine some intelligent discussion onto US policy before George Bush, fils, has had a chance to crucify another backward nation in the name of Anti-Terrorism. Castro is no gentleman, but neither is Ariel Sharon. Castro is no democrat, but neither is Jiang Zemin. If those phantoms that prevent intelligent discussion could be sufficiently exorcised, perhaps I too would be able to take a low-cost island vacation like my European friends. Besides, isn't American interests defined by the all-mighty dollar?
Edward Cheng, U.S

Of course American policy should be changed. It seems now to be motivated as much by wounded pride as by economic or ideological reasons. Castro's revolution has survived against enormous odds. American attempts to unseat him, from the Bay of Pigs on, have come to nothing. They should accept the reality - and enjoy the music.
Guy, New Zealand

There is absolutely no reason to not normalize relations with Cuba

Larry Uloth, USA
There is absolutely no reason (other than political votes) to not normalize relations with Cuba. There are absolutely hundreds of reasons to do so. Foremost among these is that sooner or later Mr. Castro will pass and if we are not in the position of being a country that has and is ready to help them form a democratic government, we will have missed the one opportunity of the last 40 some years. We have not been able to influence either the Cuban government or its human rights policies from afar. It is time to put aside petty things and provide the leadership that will be needed in the future. As the saying goes President Bush you can either lead, follow or get out of the way.
Larry Uloth, USA

Thank goodness for Jimmy Carter. He is one of the few men who has been president and open-minded about relations with Cuba. Hopefully, he will have some kind of influence on US foreign policy.
Fahema Rahman, USA

The US made Cuba what it became. The 1959 revolution upset a lot of American citizens with the political clout to get the embargo started. Castro was not a communist and only turned to communism after the USSR, seeing an opportunity, stepped in to "assist" the island. The whole Bays of Pigs, the embargo, etc. are all the results of the stupid and dangerous foreign policy of the US. To the US: grow up and stop sulking...
Helen, Asia

The US foreign policy is as firm as the shifting sands in the desert. The US Government hears what it wants to hear. It does not place its ears to the ground to hear what is being said. Bless Carter for the audacity to present the actual picture to the Americans. Wake up, Americans.
Hanyt, Malaysia

The United States government should very definitely lift the embargo on Cuba

Charlton Harrison, Texas, USA
The United States government should very definitely lift the embargo on Cuba, but they will no doubt wait until Castro dies because as soon as they lift the embargo Cubans will thrive and the standard of living will rise dramatically, and the United States wants to tie the perception of the current economic hardship to Castro. If they lift the trade restrictions before Castro dies it will be more obvious that it is solely the United States' policy that has been punishing the Cuban people all along.
Charlton Harrison, Texas, USA

When Castro goes the way of Ceausescu (it won't be long), and Canadians in Havana are hounded by angry mobs for their collaboration with tyranny, then, and only then will the USA come to pick up the pieces of yet another failed Socialist experiment.
John, USA

If the US lifted its embargo Cuba would become a mess. As for "human rights" in Cuba they are normally the property of the person who can afford a lawyer!
James Squire, Canada

Castro did something Batista and Machado dared not do, rule Cuba as a Cuban. The casinos, whorehouses and dope dens patronized by tourists from the North were closed. The Cuban people got up off all fours and learned how to stand on their hind legs. The two countries can now start serious talks as equals, not as one dominate and the other dependent.
Edward Vargo, USA

It is way past time but it is not going to happen on Shrub's watch. Not with all the right wing extremists around him in firm control.
William Smith, USA

It is long past time to end the embargo. The best way to do that is to have a major league baseball team from Havana competing against the US teams. I suspect they would do quite well.
Glen Kendall, France

After America finishes with Hussein, she should take care of Castro

Nate, USA
After America finishes with Hussein, she should take care of Castro. That being said, I also think the embargo should be lifted. It would be good for the poor people of Cuba, as well as Americans. But it is foolish to equate helping the Cuban people with thinking that Castro is a benevolent leader. Castro is yet another scumbag leader who holds his people back. Lift the sanctions, take out the leadership. Good for Iraq, good for Cuba. Of course, since America executes child murderers, we should be shunned and ignored, and great nations like Iraq and Cuba should become the world leaders.
Nate, USA

Fidel Castro was a stubborn young man who built hospitals and schools in Cuba where none existed before. Fidel Castro is now a stubborn old man who clings to old ideals for his people - and most of his people know this and therefore they love the old fart!
Chris Grant, USA

I am a patriot and love my country. However, many aspects of our government need a serious overhaul, including the War on Drugs and our ridiculous embargo of Cuba. If China is good enough, then Cuba certainly is as well. This issue is not about the US' "domination through capitalism" or our "barbaric death penalty", it's about being too damned stubborn for our own good sometimes.
Sean Greig, USA

Ease relations? The US should have done that in the 1970's, during the period of detente, but that's Cold War paranoia for you. Jimmy Carter would have been the ideal president to do it, but he had the Iran hostage crisis and the Camp David talks as other priorities. He is the ideal American statesman/peacemaker to pave the way towards full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Castro has been in power for 43 years and is still going strong. Good for him!
Daniel J. Hamlow, USA

It's good to read that the general consensus on this board favours an end to the embargo, normalized relations, and increased tourism. I feel the same way. I wanted to point out to Linda from Canada, however, that the Miami Cuban community does indeed have an enormous influence over US Cuban policy, as evidenced by the Elian Gonzales affair. However, they are very anti-Castro and do not like to see the US do anything to accommodate or accept his regime. They are an obstacle to a thawing of US-Cuban relations.
Mike, USA

I think it's high time we ended this embargo and normalized relations with Cuba. We could help the people of Cuba with more aid and increase tourism and other ties between the two nations. It time we buried the hatchet and made up.
Amit Tonse, USA

Take away US sanctions and now who can Castro blame but himself?

Anthony, USA
Castro is in a comfortable position as long as he can blame the US for Cuba's shortfalls. Take away US sanctions and now who can Castro blame but himself? What's the purpose of the US sanctions again? I think the US decision to continue sanctions against Cuba is anachronistic. I think it is time to admit that Castro is, like it or not, in charge of Cuba. Let the anti-Castro lobby in south Florida worry about their own pride.
Anthony, USA

It's been time for normalized relations with Cuba since the Eisenhower administration. The embargo is cruel and not working. US foreign policy is hypocritical. Cuba has been "punished" for daring to carry out an experiment right under the nose of the US and for daring to follow an independent path, however flawed. Castro is no saint, but we have supported countless right wing dictators in Latin America whose human rights abuses have been far greater.
Matthew Tabaka, USA

The USA government is afraid of upsetting the group of Cubans in Miami. I have been to Cuba for business and have seen wonderful people that suffer not because of the regime but because of the embargo. It would however be a great shame to see American fast food joints in the streets of Havana, Cuba can survive with European support, but USA, don't expect others to follow this failed policy.
Melvin, Brit in USA

It's past time to end this relic of the cold war. Cuba is not a threat to the US and would be immediately a prime holiday venue if the current policies were scrapped. Just allow Castro to save some face and the opening would be easy and quick.
Samuel List, USA

The US must wake up from deep slumber. It is time to shun emotional stress, to look forward and to open a clean and a new chapter between the two nations. I hope the American nation applauds the steps taken by the former President of US - Jimmy Carter.
Khalid Rahim, Canada

The hypocritical view of the US towards Cuba is a century old history of attempted domination

Diego, USA (Guatemala)
The hypocritical view of the US towards Cuba is a century old history of attempted domination. The US desire to dominate Cuba goes back to de days of John Quincy Adams and became a reality only after the end of the US-Spain war at the end of the 19th century. The interest that the US has in Cuba has nothing to do with human rights but with capitalism.... the capitalism that brought the Mafia to Cuba to open casinos an virtually prostituted the island transforming it into a paradise for gamblers and mobsters.
Diego, USA (Guatemala)

There are no homeless children in Cuba and what little the government has in terms of medicine is shared with the children and the aged. What's wrong with that? The fact is, even Fidel must realize by now that communism is not the answer nor a solution to all it's problem. The sad fact about the embargo and the reason why Castro is still in power is because of the Cuban exiled community in Miami. That a powerful U.S. government pays lip service to this exiled community is beyond belief! Is it any wonder why Carter is the only one that has the courage to address Cuba and it's problems?
Fermin F. Torres, New Mexico USA

I feel that US foreign policy is based on hypocrisy. It scorns Cuba because it isn't a big economic player while other commie nations like China is given first class treatment. How can it not be obvious the double standards practised by this selfish monolithic government? It has been proven over the years that US foreign policy is strongly based on capitalism and self interest to the detriment of others. And now you ask why events like September 11 occur.
Vijey, Rochester, USA

The US policy appears complicated by public opinion polls that favour a major change in policy whereas the Miami Cubans who helped Mr. Bush win a close election in Florida are steadfastly opposed to any change.
Lance Lazo, USA

The continued trade embargo is ridiculous

Oliver Richardson, UK
The US government certainly seems paranoid about Cuba's military and terrorist capabilities. The continued trade embargo is ridiculous and only results in smuggling. I've never had too much trouble getting Cuban cigars in the US.
Oliver Richardson, UK

Castro has outlived them all and is still sitting in Havana smoking cigars. It is time a 40 year old policy that has obviously been a failure ended. We made a choice to engage China rather then try to isolate it and we should do the same with Cuba.
Chris, USA

Perhaps there's good soil for growing peanuts in Cuba.
Chris B, England

The worst thing that could happen to the "Communist Paradise" would be to be exposed to the full glare of American capitalism. And besides, is America so insecure of its ideology that it has to protect its citizens from communist ideology? I doubt.
Garth, Zimbabwe

The irony is that once relations are "normalised" US interests will be at the front of the queue to take advantage (those that haven't been doing so all along). The same is currently beginning to happen in Vietnam.
Norm, Canada

Americans have never stopped enjoying fine Havana cigars; they simply route the order through Canada

Linda WS, Canada
Carter was the only brave American who graciously shook Castro's hands while attending the funeral of Pierre Elliot Trudeau (September 2000) in Montréal. Currently a Canadian is in jail in the USA, nabbed for doing business with USA's enemy Cuba. The hypocritical American foreign policy only a month ago sent this man to prison for trading with Cuba while multi million dollar industries distribute their product for profit in that country with impunity. Americans have never stopped enjoying fine Havana cigars; they simply route the order through Canada. When is enough, enough? The anti Cuba hysteria is so intellectually offensive. Surely now in the 21st century the block of Miami Cubans can have little weight when it comes to this issue today.
Linda WS, Canada

I went on holiday to Cuba last summer and got the opportunity to meet with lots of locals. I have to say that the view of Cuba promoted by the States is very different to the one that I witnessed when I was there. OK, so no one is living in luxurious condos, but everyone has a job and a home, their education and health systems are excellent (with much lower rates of illiteracy than most Western nations) and all the children are fat and happy.
Josie, Canada / UK

The time has not only come, it is in danger of passing if we do not act

Robert E. Conner, USA
The time is long overdue. More can be accomplished to the benefit of both countries by normalizing the future than by perpetuating the past. Domestic political opposition in the US from entrenched Cuban anti-Castro groups, primarily in Florida, must be accepted or overcome, but not allowed to distort what is in the clear national interest of both countries. It is a move that would come naturally once Fidel Castro is gone, but there is neither a need nor a justification to await that eventuality. The time has not only come, it is in danger of passing if we do not act.
Robert E. Conner, USA

It is time that the US makes move to help those in need of help in Cuba. Forget who runs the country, and think only of those in need of help.
Scott Hamernik, U.S.A

I can't see that the US has any justification for continuing the embargo if it's simply because Cuba embraces communism. China is communist and the US is very happy to trade with them. The embargo is a relic of the cold war and needs to be dismantled.
Phil George, UK

This issue is not as black and white as Europeans tend to make it. If you ask 10 Cuban-Americans whether they think that lifting the embargo will help the average Cuban citizen (as opposed to lining the pockets of Castro and the military), you will get 10 different opinions. The Miami set, particularly, have repeated the mantra that the Cuban people will get nothing.

However, these are the same people who have often made money off their country's plight by going on talk shows; taking interviews, etc. (Don't get me started on the Elian Gonzalez debacle.) I tend to believe the "other" Cuban-Americans, most of whom want the embargo lifted. Castro takes a utilitarian view of crime and punishment, much like the Saudis and the Chinese: better to risk imprisoning five innocent people, they figure, than to let 25 criminals go free.

A law-abiding Cuban will tell you they have free education and little crime. My opinion? You should try to get along with your neighbours. There is no harm in talking. If anyone can set this on the right path it is Jimmy Carter. This is the man who got Sadat and Begin to shake hands. This is the man who got Sharon, an Israeli defence minister, to dismantle the settlements in the Sinai. If anyone can do it, he can. He nearly got the job done 20 years's time to give it a go.
Jennifer Ethington, NJ, USA

The rest of the world can help Cuban development through trade and tourism

James, UK
I hope relations between the US and Cuba stay as they are. Cuba may be poor but unlike its neighbours, it is proud to be independent and free of US political and economic domination. Let the US keep their dogmatic sanctions in place. The rest of the world can help Cuban development through trade and tourism.
James, UK

I commend Carter for looking beyond the hate-filled lies and propaganda of the US and for taking the first step towards easing the sanctions. Carter realizes what very few in the US administration do - the trade embargo does not affect Castro at all; the only ones that suffer are the Cuban people.
Anand Gopal, USA

Castro has proven beyond a doubt that sanctions alone are not enough to influence a leader, or country sufficiently bull-headed to do what they want to do, in spite of what the USA want them to do. Perhaps it's time to try dangling a carrot rather than continuing to flog the horse.
Richard, USA

Absolutely. The U.S. embargo on Cuba is ridiculous. Fidel Castro is not going anywhere, and has sat off the coast of Florida for the last 40 years, laughing at every incoming and outgoing American administration since 1959. In that time, the United States has normalized relations with nearly every other communist nation on the planet, including former enemies Vietnam, Russia, and China. If China, with its brutal dictatorship and harsh corporal punishments, is good enough to be a trade partner, why isn't Cuba, which is like Club Med compared to China? It's a ridiculous double-standard perpetuated by anti-Castro Cubans, who were kicked off of their pedestal by the revolution in 1959 and have not gotten over it since. It's interesting to note that since the U.S. continues to maintain an embargo against Cuba, they're giving Castro the perfect excuse to explain away his nation's woes: Blame it on the U.S. Remove the embargo and take away his excuse.
Stacey Turner, American in the UK

Absolutely not. Cuba should join with all other civilised countries of the world in breaking links with the US until they give up their barbaric death penalty.
Adam, UK

Foreign Policy decisions are based on many different variables and with Cuba I believe it is emotional, we tend to despise Castro and will most likely ignore Cuba until he is dead. Not necessarily the best reason but no one said that humanity was particularly logical.
Kat, USA

Castro is no saint but he is no Pinochet either

Brian Clowes, Wales
I am generally pro-American. I have some great American friends but I tell them bluntly that American foreign policy is hypocritical. The US is soft on some regimes and very hard on others. It was soft on Chile and South Africa in the past. It is soft on Communist China and hard on Socialist Cuba. It couldn't be that China is a huge potential market for US companies could it? Castro is no saint but he is no Pinochet either. I have friends who lived under the Pinochet regime, and they are quite bitter towards the USA. Amnesty International do have concerns about Cuba but they have far greater concerns about many regimes which get US backing. It is good to see Jimmy Carter in Cuba speaking Spanish. Viva la paz!
Brian Clowes, Wales

Cuba is one of the last bastions of the bankrupt shell of communism; now is the time to increase the pressure on them, and hasten the inevitable, rather than pull back and let the comatose vestiges of a failed ideology continue for years more.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

See also:

13 May 02 | Americas
09 May 02 | Americas
05 May 02 | Americas
25 Apr 02 | Country profiles
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