HAVANA - The figures are staggering. Even a minor easing of the US blockade against Cuba would create tens of thousands new jobs in the US. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) and Wyoming Senator Mike Enza (R) have introduced just such a minimal bill. A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson (D). The Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act would make very nominal reforms in the two areas mentioned in the bill's name.
First it would ease some restrictions on Cuba's ability to buy US agricultural products. Now Cuba must pay for any food imports in cash before the products reach Cuba and the transactions must be made through third country banks. The bill would normalize these transactions and allow US exporters to use US banks to make the deals. According to US International Trade Commission estimates, the Act would increase export food and agricultural sales to Cuba by roughly $500 million a year. That would mean new jobs in export and agriculture related industries. Both the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau have testified in favor of the bill.
Secondly the Act would end travel restrictions on US citizens visiting Cuba. Cuba is the only country where US citizens are forbidden to travel to by law. According to another study, allowing US travel to Cuba would greatly increase tourism to the tune of between $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion a year. Estimates are the increase would create over 23,000 jobs in the US tourist industry alone. Farm organizations have pointed out that such a surge in tourism would increase Cuba's ability to buy even more US exports of food and hotel related products, creating even more jobs.
Again these are really only very minor reforms in the overall blockade policy of the US government. President Obama used his executive powers to ease restrictions on family travel and cash remittances last year. Still the blockade policies and laws remain extensive and very harmful to the people of Cuba.
The blockade is not only a failed policy in that it has not succeeded in overthrowing the legitimate government of Cuba. It is just plain wrong and harmful to the real interests of American working people in many ways. The US blockade policy is rejected by nations around the world, friend and foe of US foreign policy alike. It isolates the US and weakens any possible efforts to promote peace or better foreign relations.
I know of no studies. But based on the projections mentioned here for jobs with very limited reforms, think of how many jobs could be created with a complete end to the blockade and fully normal relations with our neighbor only 90 miles away. Passage of the Klobuchar-Enza Act would be an important first step in that direction. And as the Republican Enza pointed out speaking for the bill, "...Cubans and Americans will be able to engage in open communication, an important step towards improving relations between our two nations."
Photo: Scott Marshall