Yesterday Florida Republican Marco Rubio took to the floor of the Senate to lambaste a group of Senators, led by Tom Harkin of Iowa and including North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkmap, who visited Cuba and delivered a glowing report from that country back here in America.
Rubio, rightly I think, read his colleagues the riot act for allowing Cuba’s dictatorship to pull the wool over their eyes on issues like health care, education and free speech. He also pointed out Cuba’s involvement in Venezuela’s violent, oppressive regime (formerly headed by Hugo Chavez who, embarrassingly, was considered a friend by many on the left).
But here’s what I don’t understand about Rubio’s stance on his family’s ancestral home: Why would we keep in place an embargo against Cuba, when we trade freely with countries like China and Vietnam?
Rubio says that Cuba is in the grips of a communist dictatorship with an atrocious track record on civil rights issues. He says that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism, and exports political violence and repression to other countries (notably, Venezuela). And while all those things are true, aren’t they also largely true of China? And Vietnam?
When Senator Heidi Heitkamp visited Cuba, I praised her for working to restore normal relations with the island nation. Rubio is right to say that we should never shy away from our criticism of regimes like the one in Cuba, I don’t see how an embargo is helping the situation there.
Short of war, and regime change, it seems to me that the best way to undermine totalitarian regimes is to expose them as thoroughly as possible to freedom and free market capitalism. While the situations in nations like Vietnam and China are far from ideal, they’ve been improved greatly by years of trade with the United States.
Rubio is right when he talks about the atrocities the Cuban government is responsible for, and he’s right to call out his colleagues who have been far too friendly with dictators like the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez, but he’s wrong to argue that the Cuban embargo is sound foreign policy.
Something all the more clear when you consider that we don’t embargo relations with China, etc.