With little fanfare, President Obama has renewed his authority under the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act to extend the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, according to a statement from the White House press office. "I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States," Obama declared in a memorandum to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury. In a post last year, The Havana Note explained that Cuba is the only country whose trade with the U.S. is restricted under the act (North Korea escaped its fetters in 2008) and that "for close to 3 decades now, the embargo remains in place because of a yearly presidential determination that it ought to."
There are other reasons why Obama's move isn't surprising beyond the fact that the embargo has been extended every year for three decades. The President had harsh words for Cuba's economic reforms this week in an interview with Spanish-language correspondents in Washington."They certainly have not been aggressive enough when it comes to liberating political prisoners and giving people the opportunity to speak their minds", he said. In the age of the Arab Spring, he added, "here you have this small island that is a throwback to the 60s." But not everyone agrees with Obama's stance on the embargo. A Los Angeles Times op-ed this week made the case for lifting the restrictions:
Who wants the embargo? Practically no one beyond a small number of Cuban Americans in the Miami area. It exists today only because Florida is the largest swing state and Republicans believe, probably correctly, that they are unlikely to win its 29 electoral votes without strong support from this special-interest group.
Lifting the embargo would not turn the U.S. economy around. But it would be of marginal assistance to the overall economy and could be of substantial help to businesses and employment in industries that would have significant exports to the island.