Editorial: Abbott’s Cuba trip challenges conservatives to rethink embargo

header-hoover-institution-fellows1-1Dallas Morning News

We’re pleased to see Gov. Greg Abbott heading a Texas trade delegation to Cuba this week. He’s taking good advantage of President Barack Obama’s efforts to restore diplomatic and limited trade ties to the island nation after a more than five-decade freeze.

Trade and tourism opportunities abound in Cuba, largely because a unilateral U.S. trade embargo has effectively starved the island nation of U.S. goods since 1962. Congress must repeal the embargo before full commercial relations can resume, so Obama’s executive action is so far limited mainly to tourism- and agriculture-related commerce.

This newspaper has long favored ending the embargo as the best way to bring down Cuba’s antiquated Communist system. The embargo has failed to dislodge the dictatorship of Fidel and Raul Castro. A new strategy is long overdue, and Abbott’s trip acknowledges the growing awareness of American businesspeople that we’re leaving money on the table by not engaging Cuba economically.

Generations of Cubans have grown up accustomed to government-controlled media and the lack of unrestricted Internet communications. They adapted long ago with shortages of basic food and consumer goods. They have limited perspective on what they’ve been missing.

cuban+ties+updatedImagine the transformative effect if thousands of American tourists and businesspeople, loaded with dollars, began flooding into Cuba and U.S. products suddenly became widely available. The Cuban commercial market would explode with pent-up demand. That’ll be the moment when Cubans start asking themselves why they tolerated the Castro dictatorship for as long as they have. The embargo only helps prolong their deprivation.

Congress for too long has allowed its better judgment to be clouded by a small group of Cold War stalwarts, including Cuban-American conservative Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, both of whom are GOP presidential hopefuls. They are among the loudest critics of Obama’s actions on Cuba. To his credit, Abbott is clearly putting distance between himself and the Cruz-Rubio faction with this high-profile trip to Havana.

From a conservative perspective, Abbott is absolutely right with his approach because it’s consistent with a belief in the free-market system as the best antidote for the heavy-handed, centrally planned system that the Castro regime champions. It makes no sense from a conservative perspective to continue embracing U.S. government interference in the free flow of trade and visitation between the two countries.

Abbott’s trip, the third by a U.S. governor, is a good step toward eliminating the embargo altogether. It’s time to end this relic of the Cold War and bring Cuba into global economic fold.

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