Leaving Jose Marti International Airport in this capital city, a billboard reminds vividly of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. It shows a noose with the phrase, “Blockade: The Longest Genocide in History.”
The embargo, partially imposed in 1960 and fully in place two years later, is not a blockade. That’s clear by the abundance of foreign goods and investment in Cuba.
It is a blockade, however, in the sense that U.S. companies are blocked from doing business in Cuba. That hasn’t stopped their international competitors from Canada, Mexico, Brazil and even China from setting up shop.
It’s striking when visiting the island just how much the rest of world now trades with, invests in and sends tourists to Cuba.
In 2008, the U.S. exported $710 million in farm goods to Cuba, a figure that fell to $347 million in 2011, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a New York-based group that favors an end to the embargo.
Into the gap came Brazilian farmers, whose government provided looser terms and took much of the business.
Advocates of lifting the embargo say international companies have partnered with Cuba on a wide range of products, including Cuban cigars, rum, bottled water, fruit juices, port development, ice cream and cosmetics.
“Not to mention oil, which is the 800-pound gorilla that’s about to walk into the room,” said Kirby Jones, whose company, Alamar Associates, has been consulting and leading U.S. trade missions to Cuba since 1974. “Here’s China, drilling for oil in Cuba.”