U.S. embargo on Cuba firmly in place

Detractors say it’s time to end trade ban after 50 years; backers say it still serves a purpose

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The issue is seen as a political nonstarter in the United States, where every four years, presidential candidates take turns courting the Cuban-American vote in Florida, a key swing state.

President Obama has said Raul Castro’s economic openings are insufficient. He is unlikely do anything in an election year to risk losing support in Florida, which he won in 2008.

Even if he wanted to lift the embargo, the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 stipulates that Congress would have to approve any end to the trade ban.

Backers of the sanctions say it is as important as ever to maintain what they call the moral high ground, saying islanders will be grateful whenever change does come.

Critics cite the annual U.N. votes to argue that times have changed and the embargo is a Cold War relic that ought to be thrown onto the scrap heap.

“It’s no longer a matter of the United States leading a movement to isolate Cuba in the hemisphere,” said Mr. Smith, a staunch opponent of the embargo.

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