With the stroke of a pen, the United States could dramatically change the livelihoods of every inhabitant on the island of Cuba. By lifting a trade embargo that has been in effect since the 1960s, Washington could unleash a tidal wave of visitors to this exotic island only 90 miles from the coast of Florida. This tidal wave would provide a hard currency influx that could stimulate wide-ranging economic development.
America is alone in the enforcement of this embargo. Europe, Canada and Japan already have normalized commercial relations with Cuba, allowing their citizens the ability to freely visit the island. American travelers, on the other hand, are restricted from visiting and are forced to consume Cuban rum and cigars purchased from a thriving black market whose regulation and enforcement siphons off massive amounts of taxpayer dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.
According to the US Department of Commerce, sanctions on Cuba cost the American economy US$1.2 to US$3.6 billion dollars annually. This is particularly relevant in the state of Florida, where unemployment stands at 7.1%.
According to a recent article in Skift, the Cuban government is rolling back its role in 20 state-run restaurants as part of its broader experiment in free-market reforms. If reform is the litmus test for whether or not sanctions should be lifted, then Washington’s recent embrace of Myanmar’s reforms should translate into an embrace of Cuban reforms and a rollback of the embargo. It makes sense for the broader Caribbean economy, and it makes sense for American travelers hungry to see an island where time stopped over 50 years ago.