Posts tagged ‘Trade Embargo’

12/17/2014

Cuba: End of U.S. Trade Embargo

The U.S. has had a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962 and it is time to end it. After 52 years, it has no purpose and most people now have no idea why it was imposed in the first place.

The story begins with Gen. Batista, who came to power in a coup backed by the U.S. (1952). He ran a dictatorship that censored the press and suspended constitutional rights (1953). Fidel Castro, a lawyer, led the overthrow of Batista’s regime in the Cuban Revolution (1953-59). While Castro’s dictatorship had some of the same faults as Batista’s, most Cuban people accepted Fidel, because at least he eliminated illiteracy and provided health care.

Anger at Cuba from abroad was not because Batista was removed, but instead due to Fidel’s subsequent confiscation of land from foreigners and the nationalization of U.S.-owned oil refineries, sugar mills, casinos and utilities. What Castro did was not however unique. Scores of nations that declared independence at that time also nationalized their natural resources and industries.

In any event, diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed. When President Kennedy took office, anti-Castro exiles unsuccessfully staged a military invasion at the Bay of Pigs (1961). Once the U.S. banned trade with Cuba (1962), Castro turned to Moscow for help. The Soviets said Cuba had a right to be free of foreign interference and supplied Cuba with weapons for their defense. This is when U.S. reconnaissance observed nuclear weapon sites in Cuba, triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). Although the weapons were removed when the U.S. Navy blockaded the island, the friction between the U.S. and Cuba continued.

The U.S. now trades with the People’s Rep. of China, Vietnam, and other communist countries. There is no logical reason not to trade with Cuba. Fidel Castro recently turned the presidency over to his brother Raul (2008), and soon both of them will be gone.

Today, the streets of Havana still show the effects of 1962 embargo. Most cars pre-date the 1959 revolution and there are no recreational boats in the harbor. Opening trade would not only benefit the Cuban people, it would create jobs for many U.S. businesses and their employees.

06/23/2011

South Africa: The Obamas Meet Mandela

As I watched the news of Michelle Obama and her daughters visiting Nelson Mandela in South Africa, it occurred to me Michele was born in 1964, the same year Mandela went to prison, and her children, ages 10 and 12, were not even alive in 1990, when he was released. Since the South African story is no longer new, and young people may not know it, it is time for a review.

When the all-white Nationalist Party won the 1948 South African elections, they ushered in a new era of racial prejudice, known as apartheid, which divided South Africa into black and white districts, under a Group Areas Act (1950). Separate residential areas were mandated based on race, as blacks were evicted from their homes, and forced to relocate. Blacks were not allowed to hold certain jobs, or receive equal pay for equal work. They could not use white buses, trains, restaurants, restrooms, theatres, or beaches. They were not allowed to vote, or permitted to protest.

When unarmed blacks, inspired by independence in other parts of Africa, protested an ID papers law, they were shot and killed by the police, in the Sharpsville Massacre (1960). The UN called the event a danger to peace, and asked South Africa “to abandon their policies of apartheid and racial discrimination.”

The white South Africans instead conducted searches without warrants, and authorized 90-day detentions, without trial (1961). Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid African National Congress leader, was sentenced to life in prison, for allegedly plotting sabotage (1964). A UN admonition to release political prisoners, and an end arbitrary trials and executions, was ignored.

Another 600 blacks were later slain, as 10,000 marched through the Southwest Township (SOWETO), near Johannesburg (1976).

Hope spread when the all-white government in neighboring South Rhodesia abdicated (1980). Anticipating change, the UN warned South Africa not to carry out death sentences against African National Congress inmates, and asked them to drop treason charges against political prisoners, like Nelson Mandela (1980).

As forced relocations continued in the townships, blacks were killed near Johannesburg and Cape Town, and a state of emergency was declared. The nation came close to civil war (1985). 25 million South African blacks were no longer willing to be governed by 5 million whites. They kept up the pressure by torching the cars and houses of collaborators, as the government detained hundreds without trial, accused them of treason, and denied them due process. Many black activists were hung (1986).

Democrats in the U.S. House voted to impose sanctions, as the UN urged members to suspend investment, discontinue using the South African currency, and embargo military equipment (1985). American corporations, who controlled 125,000 jobs in the oil, auto, and computer industries, withdrew from the country (1986).

The final push for freedom began when President F. W. de Klerk replaced Prime Minister Botha (1989). Beaches were opened for blacks and they were no longer barred from four communities, exclusively white for 39 years (1989). De Klerk lifted the ban on Mandela’s African National Congress and started talks.

On Feb. 12, 1990, after 27 years in prison, Mandela was released, in an act praised around the globe. He flew to the U.S., appeared before Congress, and requested American support (1990-91). After the Parliament repealed racist legislation (1991), De Klerk announced the end of apartheid, as some whites left the country (1992). A National Peace Accord was signed (1992), and De Klerk and Mandela received Nobel Peace Prizes (1993).

Once the blacks of South Africa gained majority rule, they elected Nelson Mandela president (1994-99). Mandela, a man of peace and great patience, set retribution aside, and instead created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which held hearings on what happened during the apartheid era (1996). The recent Obama audience with Mandela gave us the opportunity to reflect upon the South African struggle, and their first black president, a man of great conviction, who spent over a quarter of a century in prison.

03/17/2011

Cuba: End the U.S. Trade Embargo

The U.S. has had a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962 and it is time to end it. After 49 years, it has no purpose and most people now have no idea why it was imposed in the first place.

The story begins with Gen. Batista, who came to power in a coup backed by the U.S. (1952). He ran a dictatorship that censored the press and suspended constitutional rights (1953). Fidel Castro, a lawyer, led the overthrow of Batista’s regime in the Cuban Revolution (1953-59). While Castro’s dictatorship had some of the same faults as Batista’s, most Cuban people accepted Fidel, because at least he eliminated illiteracy and provided health care.

Anger at Cuba from abroad was not because Batista was removed, but instead due to Fidel’s subsequent confiscation of land from foreigners and the nationalization of U.S.-owned oil refineries, sugar mills, casinos and utilities. What Castro did was not however unique. Scores of nations that declared independence at that time also nationalized their natural resources and industries.

In any event, diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed. When President Kennedy took office, anti-Castro exiles unsuccessfully staged a military invasion at the Bay of Pigs (1961). Once the U.S. banned trade with Cuba (1962), Castro turned to Moscow for help. The Soviets said Cuba had a right to be free of foreign interference and supplied Cuba with weapons for their defense. This is when U.S. reconnaissance observed nuclear weapon sites in Cuba, triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). Although the weapons were removed when the U.S. Navy blockaded the island, the friction between the U.S. and Cuba continued.

The U.S. now trades with the People’s Rep. of China, Vietnam, and other communist countries. There is no logical reason not to trade with Cuba. Fidel Castro recently turned the presidency over to his brother Raul (2008), and soon both of them will be gone.

Today, the streets of Havana still show the effects of 1962 embargo. Most cars pre-date the 1959 revolution and there are no recreational boats in the harbor. Opening trade would not only benefit the Cuban people, it would create jobs for many U.S. businesses and their employees, particularly here in Florida.

03/16/2011

Japan: A Power Without Nuclear Power?

Since the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, their nuclear power plants are at risk of a meltdown. The question now is whether Japan will continue nuclear power or seek alternatives.

Japan has an industrial economy based on the consumption of energy. Their need for coal explains why they seized some of Korea from China (1895), part of Manchuria from Russia (1905), the remainder of Korea (1910), and the rest of Manchuria (1931).

Japan also has a need for oil. When Japan annexed East China (1941), President Franklin Roosevelt subjected them to a complete oil embargo (July 1941). The Japanese interpreted it as a declaration of war, since 100% of their oil was imported. Japan felt their only option was to seize the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), controlled by the Netherlands. Once the Dutch surrendered to Germany, Japan made plans to take the Dutch oil. Their only obstacle was the U.S., which explains why they attacked the U.S. Navy in the Philippines and at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. As American forces closed in on Japan in WWII, incendiary devices were dropped on 66 cities, but it was not until atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the war ended.

In the postwar, without natural sources of coal or oil, Japan turned to nuclear energy. This was ironic since their first exposure to the unleashing of atoms was so destructive. Japan rebuilt their economy and by 1968 emerged as the second largest auto producer. It was not until this year that China replaced them as the second largest global economy. Even so, Japan remains a major trading partner and what happens to them may affect us all.

It appears Japan will probably return to nuclear energy, since they have no domestic oil or coal. On the other hand, this is the type of crisis that may finally push scientists into developing a currently unknown energy alternative.