Burma sanctions should be model for Cuba embargo
The byzantine Cuba embargo in many ways ties the US's hands, says guest blogger Anya Landau French, so maybe it’s time to apply the Burma sanctions model – defend it or lose it – to Cuba.
In surprise landslide, Jamaican opposition wins back power
Parading back to Rio de Janeiro: the bookish and brainy
After dramatic 2011 in Cuba, will US-Cuban policy shift in 2012?
Boom goes the churro: Chilean court upholds damages for exploding sweets
Why did Hugo Chavez spam Venezuelans on Christmas?
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
That’s because I used to work for Senator Max Baucus, who in 2003, working with Senators Mitch McConnell, Dianne Feinstein, and Chuck Grassley, helped pass smart sanctions against the Burmese Regime. At the time, Congressional supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi wanted to punish the regime for its crackdown on Suu Kyi and her supporters, but Mr. Baucus and Mr. Grassley made sure that the sanctions would not be open-ended. With this new sanctions model, Congress would continue to exercise real oversight over the impact of the sanctions and of the Executive’s efforts to bring other nations on board. (Here's what Baucus had to say when the sanctions were renewed in 2007.)
IN PICTURES: Cuba's economy
With the news that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be making an historic trip to Burma, now might be an interesting time for Burma experts to debate whether it was US sanctions, or Chinese influence (too much of it), or any other combination of factors that have led to Burma’s leaders to take steps that have registered as "flickers of progress" with President Obama of late. But more importantly, over at The Atlantic, Joshua Kurlantzick has offered up “5 Ways to Tell if Burma's Reforms Are Really Working,” which could be helpful to the Obama administration in determining how far to engage the Burmese government. After all, if the reforms continue and the administration wants to support them – and the leaders behind them – the president may wish to urge Congress to let the sanctions expire when they come up for renewal next summer. And if not, he can urge their renewal.
Unlike the maze of Congressionally-mandated sanctions against Cuba enacted over the last several decades, the Burma sanctions were designed to expire unless proponents make a compelling case to renew them. The sanctions only last a year, unless Congress passes a joint resolution to renew them another year. Imminent expiration of the sanctions means that Congress actually monitors and evaluates the effectiveness of its policy toward Burma every year, instead of leaving the sanctions in place indefinitely at the whim of the single most interested member or members of Congress, as in the case of the Cuba embargo. With US sanctions always just a vote away from expiration, the Burmese government has a clear picture of the levers at work in the US government and a real incentive to take steps that would encourage US policymakers to scrap them.
But because the Cuba sanctions are open-ended and lack meaningful oversight, Cuban officials insist they can have little confidence that the US will actually take significant steps to improve the relationship even if Cuba does.