FACT-SHEET: U.S. government agency reports show Cuba policy harms American interests

Friday, 22 February 2008

1. Focusing on Cuba strains our ability to keep out terrorists: In December 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report, “Economic Sanctions: Agencies Face Competing Priorities in Enforcing the U.S. Embargo on Cuba,” which concludes that the U.S. focus on Cuba has “strained [Customs and Border Protection’s] capacity to carry out its primary mission of keeping terrorists, criminals, and inadmissable aliens from entering the country at Miami International Airport.” The report also notes that the U.S. Treasury Department is investigating more cases related to Cuba than all of the other sanctions programs it administers combined. [See USA*Engage statement on GAO report.]

2. U.S. agriculture sales would grow “significantly” absent trade and travel restrictions: U.S. agriculture sales to Cuba were approximately $440 million in 2007, according to USDA figures.  Sales could increase by $300 million (over 2006 levels) according to a 2007 ITC Report. The ITC indicates that the U.S. could provide nearly 70 percent of Cuba’s total agriculture imports if U.S. trade and travel restrictions to Cuba were lifted. 

3. Up to 1.1 million U.S. citizens would visit Cuba annually: The same 2007 ITC Report (see page 3-14) estimates between 550,000 and 1.1 million U.S. citizens would visit Cuba annually if travel restrictions were lifted.  The U.S. Government does not restrict travel to Iran or North Korea, but prohibits or limits students, educators, tourists and family members from traveling to Cuba.  As U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern noted in a recent media call, “the two words in the English language that the Cuban government fears the most are "spring break."

4. American businesses could gain up to $1.2 million per year from trade with Cuba: In 2001, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated that the Cuba embargo costs American exporters up to $1.2 billion annually in lost sales. 

5. GAO Report finds waste and abuse in USAID Cuba program: In November 2006, the GAO released a report, “U.S. Democracy Assistance for Cuba Needs Better Management and Oversight,” which highlighted waste and abuse of USAID’s Cuba democracy funding, including at least one instance where a group had bought Sony Playstations and cashmere sweaters.  The report concluded that, “USAID's internal controls over the awarding of Cuba program grants and the oversight of grantees do not provide adequate assurance that the grant funds are being used properly or that grantees are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.”