A Lesson From U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue's Last Cuba Trip

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
When U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue concluded his last trip to Cuba in 1999, he sold us the following bill-of-goods, via The Cato Institute:

"One thing Cuba must do is allow its private sector to grow. This would help open Cuban society and help the Cuban economy. We want to be the catalyst for this change. For that reason, we hope Congress will give us a hand and support legislation to exempt food and medical sales from unilateral sanctions as soon as possible."

First, we commend Donohue for (at least) having correctly lobbied Congress to change the codified policy, as opposed to asking the Clinton Administration (at the time) to circumvent the law.

(A lesson the Council of the Americas hasn't learned.)

Donohue got his way and Congress authorized the sale of food, medicine and medical products to Cuba.

Since then, over 250 privately-owned U.S. companies have sold over $4 billion in mostly food-products to Cuba.

- So, in over a decade, how many Cuban companies have purchased these U.S. products?

One -- Castro's import monopoly, Alimport.

- How many "independent companies" or "private entrepreneurs" purchased these U.S. products (Note: such purchases are not prohibited by sanctions)?

None.

- What did these sales do for the so-called Cuban "private sector"?

Nothing.

- Why?

Because Cuban law only permits Castro's monopolies to engage in foreign trade.

That's not called trade -- it's called mercantilism.