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Readers weigh in on U.S.-Cuba relations

Three out of four respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll approve of President Barack Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. And nearly as many also favor ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

More than a half-century after the United States severed ties with Cuba, the two nations restored full diplomatic relations on Monday. The restoration came seven months after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced an agreement to normalize relations.

In January, the U.S. government put in place new travel and trade regulations that, among other things, allow banks to facilitate authorized transactions and U.S. companies to invest in some small Cuban firms.

However, the 53-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba remains in place (though many agricultural products are exempt). To lift it, congressional action is required.

Obama and others have urged Congress to end the embargo, saying it has failed to achieve its goal—to topple the Castro regime and bring about free and fair elections—and harms both the Cuban people and U.S. economy. In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo led a state trade delegation on a trip to Havana.

Foes of lifting the embargo argue, however, that maintaining sanctions enables the U.S. government to continue to apply pressure on Cuba to improve its human rights record and enact private-sector reforms.

Six hundred readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted July 20 and 21.

Do you approve or disapprove of President Barack Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba?
Approve: 75%
Disapprove: 25%

Do you favor or oppose ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba?
Favor: 72%
Oppose: 28%

COMMENTS:
Cuba is a vibrant and entrepreneurial society. We should definitely lift the trade embargo for the benefit of both countries. I spent two weeks in Cuba in February 2014 on a People-to-People trip. We traveled from the southeast city of Santiago de Cuba all across the island to Havana, through cattle country, villages and farms. The arts are thriving, local farmers are producing all kinds of organic veggies for the local restaurants owned by Cubans, called paladars. Bed and breakfasts are growing, also run by individual Cubans. So much benefit for both countries to lift the embargo. Am very happy to have traveled there before it becomes spoiled and touristy!
—Mary Lynn Vickers

After 50 years, the world moves on and so should we. If we can trade with China and Vietnam (both of which we fought major wars with), we certainly can trade with Cuba!
—Paul E. Haney

The initiative is in the right direction. But the problem is how Obama goes about “negotiating.” Don’t send him out to buy a car for you; he will pay for a Cadillac and bring home a Pinto. I was born and raised in Cuba. My aunt and uncle were rebels with Castro, until he showed his Communist fangs. We need a leader at the White House, not a pacifier to Iran and Castro Communists. Obama should demand a lot more from the Castro brothers in exchange for lifting the embargo and reestablishing diplomatic relations. But he’s not interested in the greater good (Cubans rotting in jails for merely expressing themselves, and American criminals hiding in Cuba). He’s only interested in spending his last two years in office fulfilling his egotistical goals of leaving a “legacy.”
—Luis A. Martinez, Pittsford

This change is long overdue. Common sense dictates that we restore normal trade relations with Cuba. By doing so we will help to break down decades of animosity between our two countries. We’ve seen this several times with other Communist countries. The younger generations of Cubans don’t seem to have a problem with the concept. The time is right.
—Peter Bonenfant

This is a holdover from the Cold War. We have diplomatic and trade negotiations with many countries that have repressive regimes and horrible human rights records throughout the world—think Middle Eastern and African countries, even China and Russia. It’s time to bring Cuba back into our sphere of influence.
—Steve Heveron-Smith

Historically, we tend to not go to war with good trading partners. We do huge amounts of business with China and Saudi Arabia, neither of which are democracies and neither of which have much in the way of human rights.
—Carlos Mercado

There is no improvement of relations between Cuba and U.S. as demonstrated by the new Cuban demands. Not to mention the lack of cooperation from the inception. Their flag went up immediately here and our U.S. flag will wait. It would be natural to think that Secretary of State John Kerry would be equally excited to get the U.S. flag flying over Havana as soon as possible, but no. He’ll get around to that sometime in August. No date has been set.
—Greg Clyde

A normal relationship with Cuba needs to be established. But with 5,000 corporate claims, multitudes of privately owned companies as well as individual claims lost to socialism, and the Castro brothers still in place, meeting any of the conditions of the original embargo act will be difficult. This project will take decades.
—Linda Hunt, retired

Just remember that thousands of Cubans languish in prisons for such offenses such as going to church or marching peacefully against their government. Trading with Cuba will only benefit the Cuban military and the Castros because they control all economic activity. And spies from Cuba are all over the world trying to destabilize democratically elected governments. Cuba is a brutally repressive country.
—Dave Iadanza, Farmington

Since diplomatic relations are restored, the trade should follow. If the U.S. is not engaged in trade with a country that is 90 miles away, they will be engaging in full trade with someone. We have discovered that the “someone” is probably not U.S.-friendly. If we engage in full trade and travel, then the economic power of the U.S. will move a nation toward friendly behavior.
—David Muench, Pittsford

I have no problem restoring relations with Cuba, since we have relations with China, Russia and other brutal regimes around the world. The problem is that Obama got nothing in return, so once again on these trade deals, it’s our workers who will lose and the foreigners who win. It would be nice if we had a president who put American jobs first and stopped making (British Conservative politician) Neville Chamberlain look like a tough negotiator.
—Bob Sarbane

Cuba used to have mobsters and now they have Communist dictators to keep their people down and extort their people’s earnings. The only products Cuba has that we might want is their sugar and their cigars. The embargo should be lifted gradually to assure greater freedoms for the Cuban people.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.

U.S. trade policy has been a failure since Kennedy’s standoff with Khrushchev ended. Even though Communist, they have never been an economic or military threat to us or anyone else. Ideology has its place, but only when it’s important!
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport

We trade with China and Russia, so why not Cuba? Communism is dying anyway. Now this deal with Iran that removes sanctions, that is a different story and a truly foolish move!
—George Thomas, Ogden

Foreign policy wise, the Cuba policy is one of the only good things that the president has done while in office—unless we can include the Stealth Nobel Prize. We were there a few years ago on a humanitarian mission. It was the embargo that kept the Castros in power by giving the people a choice between no life and the life given to them by the Castros. Time to do something different. After 50 years, the two Commies are going to die of old age while in power.
—Jay Birnbaum

Seriously, what type of threat does Cuba pose to the U.S.A.? There are more economic opportunity and goodwill benefits to our commerce by engaging the Cuban economy.
—Garry Geer, Geer Photography

You can’t be “half pregnant”! Either we establish diplomatic relations and improve both economies, or we do not. As for how the Cuban government treats their people, it is none of our business, and we should stop trying to police the world!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

There will not be any positive benefits to the United States. Once the “doors are open” and the stories of oppression and “human suffering” are “discovered,” millions of our tax dollars will be provided as aid (also known as welfare). There won’t be an accounting of it—mind you—but the bleeding hearts will rejoice. This will make Cubans “like us.” Then Social Security and welfare benefits will be the norm, just like in Puerto Rico (and all the benefits that we as a country derive from that). Meanwhile, Russia laughs while we fund their Communist satellite. Stay tuned for more of “The Follies of Obama,” also known as the current U.S. foreign policy.
—Lou Romano

7/24/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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