By Sarah Blanchard, Public Diplomacy student, Syracuse University
Recently, American singers Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. This tropical nation full of white sand beaches and clear water from
the Caribbean Sea attracts tourists from all over the world. The trip by the couple made the United States remember that Cuba is important, and used to be extremely important in recent history. It also sparked controversy about a policy implemented over 50 years ago, intended to drive the Castro regime out of power, of which has had many negative unintended consequences, including the continued existence of the communist Castro government. Hence, the mayhem, as the musicians seemed to be acting as “tourists” in Cuba, which is not one of the 12 legal reasons that Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba. (They actually traveled to Cuba in the name of cultural exchange and education.)
The controversy surrounding the trip has sparked calls for an update to the US foreign policy concerning Cuba. However, as journalist Sandra Guzmán has pointed out, engaging in dialogue is difficult, as “the few but very influential pro-embargo lobby have put a stranglehold on a lucid discussion surrounding Cuba.”
There are strong criticisms of the Cuban-American interest groups that have upheld a failed policy for multiple decades. In order to be successful, in this instance and in US foreign policy in general, politicians need to realize that there are adults who did not live in a time where communism was a serious threat. There are those who have only experienced the Cold War and its tension through the history textbooks. High school graduates in the US this year were born in 1995, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Those that want to continue support the embargo and travel restrictions to Cuba need to change the rhetoric to reflect this change in the realities of many young Americans, Cuban and non-Cuban.
Those that want to support the embargo need to demonstrate a serious effort for change in Cuba. Maintaining the status quo is easy, even if ineffective in this case. It is hard to support an embargo that restricts travel but hasn’t produced much change and doesn’t generate any new ideas on alternative options for inducing change. To convince new generations of Americans who were born after the end of the Cold War to support an embargo, it requires a shift in the dialogue, away from the tired, estranged buzzwords of communism, Cold War, and communist. Most importantly, it should include alternative proposals for regime change in Cuba and the accompanying incentive for politicians to react.