For a U.S. leftist who has long called for an end to the embargo against Cuba, a recent visit to the island raised some probing questions for me. Conversations with many Cubans forced me to reassess my instinctual opposition to U.S. policy. Leading Cuban philosopher Juan Antonio Blanco, for example, made the surprising assertion that if Cuba is to retain its sovereignty along with certain key elements of its socialist system, it would be to the island's advantage if the U.S. embargo were to last another five years. Reasoning that "for the first time in its history, Cuba is independent," Blanco argued that Cuba needs at least that much time to get on its feet economically after the loss of Soviet aid and the collapse of COMECON. Without such a respite the island would be unable to withstand the onslaught of U.S. economic, cultural, and political power that would accompany any relaxation or "normalization" of relations between Cuba and the United States. Blanco claimed that a sudden offer by the Clinton administration of an "aid" package with the usual strings would pose a greater threat to the revolution than the embargo itself.
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