The Cuban government has implemented new laws Monday that strengthen the embargo between itself and the United States–not limiting tourism from the West into the country, but limiting the transport of necessary goods like underwear and soap from Cuban families in the United States to their relatives on the island.
The new law, Fox News reports, significantly reduces the amount of goods Cuban Americans can bring in their luggage and ship via boat from the United States. It also affects Westerners in other countries with strong Cuban populations, such as Spain, but experts believe it will not affect tourists who have no family on the island; they will be able to continue to pack their luggage freely.
While the United States bans tourism to the island, Cuban Americans with relatives on the island are legally allowed to bypass the embargo and visit the island, particularly because they are unlikely to spend money on tourism and support the regime. They, instead, spend their money on helping Cubans with no connections to the government who cannot leave the island.
Fox News reports that nearly $2 billion a year is spent on goods in the United States that Cuban Americans take home to their families. These goods include anything from underwear and shampoo to car tires–items necessary to live in Cuba that are very difficult to come by without having connections in the Castro government. “All the clothes and shoes that I have come from my granddaughters in Spain or my siblings in the U.S,” one 75-year-old Cuban woman tells the Associated Press. She is worried she will run out of clothes due to Cuba’s newly imposed embargo.
Opponents of the United States embargo on the Cuban communist regime, which bans Americans from spending money on tourism that supports the terrorist government, often claim that the United States does more harm than good to impoverished Cubans in maintaining the policy. Rarely does one hear the same critics raise their voices when the Castro government imposes its own restrictions, which only limit the influx of goods that keep many lives afloat on the island, rather than feeding directly into the government’s coffers.
In addition to limiting the amount of goods going to average Cubans, the Associated Press notes that reducing the number of items allowed into the country forces Cubans abroad to send money via wire transfers that would have otherwise been spent directly on goods. While the Cuban government can do little to steal a cut of the price of one pair of underwear, it easily imposes high duties on money coming in from abroad, funding the lavish lifestyles of the Castro elite.
Cuban Americans, according to a poll released in June by Florida International University, strongly support ending the trade embargo on Cuba, but not reducing pressure on the communist government to change. Given the trade embargo’s decades-long legacy of not toppling the Castro regime, Cuban Americans surveyed appear to support diversifying attempts to weaken and destroy the communist enterprise, including keeping Cuba on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism. The last time the question was asked in 2007, 71% of Cuban Americans supported “exile military attacks” on Cuba.