This week, we commemorate the twenty-eighth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For decades, the wall divided Germans from friends and family. During that time, many Eastern Europeans seeking freedom from Soviet repression were killed trying to get past that wall into West Germany.
As they reflect on that seminal moment in our history, it would behoove U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others in the Trump Administration talking tough about sanctioning Cuba to remember the Caribbean Island does not have a Berlin Wall.
Cuba doesn’t have good fortune, as a handful of Eastern Bloc countries did, to share a border with a democracy. The United States mainland may be ninety miles away, but that’s certainly not comparable.
For decades, Cubans desperate to escape the economic, artistic and personal repression of the Cuban government have tried their luck at sea- many unsuccessfully- in hopes of reaching the United States. They have no wall they can tear down or climb over, no Checkpoint Charlie they may be able to get through in a secret compartment of a car.
Mnuchin and others who support the embargo and tougher policies apparently have not been to Cuba.
Or if they have, they apparently have not had the conversations we had with small-business owners who are hurting in part because U.S. tourism has slowed since this summer, when President Trump first tightened the screws on travel to the Caribbean Island.
According to an Associated Press story, Mnuchin said of the new sanctions:
“We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people.”
These restrictions will do little to persuade the Cuban government into giving more freedom to entrepreneurs. In fact, successful businesses that compete against government-owned enterprises that may not be as lucrative are shut down.
The ineffective policies they’re supporting will do more harm than good to the Cuban people.