- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2000

The debate over Cuban sanctions continues

In his letter opposing columnist Donald Lambro's call for a more effective Cuba policy, Stephen Johnson of the Heritage Foundation argues that if Americans were given freedom to travel and trade with Cuba, this "may make life worse in the barrios" of Cuba ("Lifting sanctions in Cuba too easy on Castro," June 19).

Cubans seem to disagree. In one "barrio" in Havana, a parish priest told me that the U.S. embargo "hurts the people governments always find a way to survive." In eastern Cuba, an entrepreneur exhorted me to invest in a small business for him to operate and was incredulous that American law prevented our collaboration. Elizardo Sanchez, Cuba's best-known dissident, says it is "an odd way to demonstrate support for human rights." Cuba's Christian Liberation movement says the embargo, "in all its expressions, goes against the will and the needs of Cubans."

Why the difference? Like most people living under communism, Cubans value unfettered contact with Americans. According to one independent journalist, Manuel David Orrio, "If we have a million Americans walking the streets of Havana, you will have something like the Pope's visit multiplied by ten."

Contrary to Mr. Johnson's account, tourist visas are issued routinely at Cuban airports, even to Americans, and tourists are not confined to self-contained resorts. Many roam Havana and the countryside. Their spending has a predictable multiplier effect: Dollars left as tips or spent in private restaurants, taxis or artists' stands become revenues for neighborhood entrepreneurs repairmen, tutors, seamstresses and are spent at farmers markets, increasing the demand for private farmers' produce. Tourism fuels an emerging private sector within the socialist economy.

In joint ventures with foreign investors, the Cuban government heavily taxes wage payments, leaving workers with average wages paid in pesos. However, interviews across Cuba show that foreign investors make additional direct payments, often in dollars, lifting workers' earnings far above the norm. For example, an office-supply manager for a Canadian company earns more than five times a physician's salary.

Joint ventures are also teaching market mechanisms and capitalist practices from the hotel manager who learns customer service to the foreman who cares about his crew's productivity and the world price of nickel because these factors determine his monthly production bonus.

If trade were permitted, the results would depend in part on Cuba's purchasing decisions and in part, as Mr. Johnson points out, on "credit or the availability of hard currency" a condition that is less problematic in Cuba as tourism, family remittances, telecommunications, improving nickel prices and other sources of hard currency grow. American farmers, with competitive prices and low shipping costs, seem sure to beat out Asian, European and South American suppliers in a nearly $1 billion market.

Like the current embargo policy, a shift to engagement will not change Cuba's political system. However, it would heed Cuban calls to end a policy that Cuba's Catholic bishops bluntly call "cruel." It also would place American confidence in the idea that a free flow of people, commerce and ideas, unfiltered by federal bureaucrats and licensing requirements, is the right way to advance American interests and values in Cuba.


Vice president

Lexington Institute



Like many other supporters of the status-quo U.S. policy toward Cuba, Stephen Johnson misses the point. It should be obvious to any informed business owner that the profit potential associated with lifting sanctions on Cuba is highly uncertain. But it does not follow that the government must "protect" U.S. businesses from poor Cuba-related business decisions.

American businesses are quite capable of determining their own interests. Unlike governments, to survive they must pay constant attention to bottom-line issues such as assessing the risks in a hostile business environment.

The embargo has failed for almost 40 years to bring freedom and prosperity to Cuba. Nine U.S. presidents have occupied the Oval Office since Fidel Castro seized power three of them since Mr. Castro's main benefactor, the Soviet Union, ceased to exist. There is no evidence our embargo has imposed any meaningful accountability on Mr. Castro.

To make matters worse, the unilateral embargo has placed U.S. interests at odds with those of virtually all of our major trading partners many of whom are themselves subject to potential U.S. sanctions because of their relations with Cuba.

It is time to wake up and face reality. U.S. policy-makers' first obligation is to consider the consequences of their policies on U.S. interests. When our policy harms those we want to help, strengthens rather than weakens our adversaries and estranges rather than unites us with our allies, U.S. interests suffer, and the policy should be abandoned and replaced.


Director, policy and programs

U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Bravo to The Times for addressing dress-down policies

Your article on dress-down policies at formerly button-down law firms struck the right note ("Informal trend in business attire does not suit all," Culture et cetera, June 21).

The Washington Times, however, didn't mention how casual dress may adversely affect the image of female lawyers. I have observed that the female lawyers in my now-casual New York law firm have suffered a greater loss of professional image than their male counterparts.

The women have lost gravitas and authority, while they have gained femininity. One might be as serious a professional in a flowing floral skirt and knit sweater as one was in a navy suit, but a woman certainly looks a lot more attractive in feminine clothing.

Dress-down everyday makes it all the more difficult for a professional woman to convey a serious image and maintain an air of authority in the workplace.


New York


Thanks to The Washington Times for a thoroughly thought-provoking article regarding the increasing practice of informal dress for business. It simply stands to reason that sloppy dress leads to sloppy work. In an ever more competitive world economy, we need to take more pride in our work and dress not less.


Silver Spring

Teeing off on etiquette of world's best golfer

I think your headline "Tiger terrific" (Sports, June 19) should have read "Tiger horrific." It is quite ironic that in one of the most prominent golf tournaments, the U.S. Open, and at one of the most popular golf holes in the world, the 18th at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1 player, proved emphatically that he is not greater than the game, as we have been led to believe by the media.

Tiger's vile verbal outburst on Saturday after hooking his tee shot into the Pacific Ocean before a live audience reaching millions of fans throughout the world was an affront to those of us who regard golf in a more virtuous manner. Having grown up playing on a public course in the District, I was taught by my older and wiser peers that before I could expect to pick up a club to hit a ball on the first lesson, I had to learn respect for the game. After all, golf was a gentleman's game. The final score was merely a byproduct of a person's integrity and honor that he brought to the game.

Today, however, with the prominent television culture of an in-your-face and fist-clinching uppercut approach to the game, the very essence and demeanor of the game has been diminished. Style and image have replaced integrity and honor.

Someone once said that golf is the only game that has a moral purpose and is tinged with a touch of the spiritual, exposing the inner sanctum of one's emotions. Thus, a great golfing performance and feat was overshadowed by a dismal display of immature anger before a world audience of young and impressionable individuals.

There are many successful moneymakers and achievers in all walks of life who are miserable failures as human beings. What counts most about success is how a man achieves it.


Upper Marlboro

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