Despite the renewal of diplomatic relations between the governments of the US and Cuba, there remains an embargo on, among other things, books and educational materials. There is now a call to lift those specific aspects of the embargo. Nearly 50 CEOs and top executives from the publishing industry submitted a petition on behalf of the publishing industry urging President Obama to “lift the economic embargo against Cuba as it pertains to books and educational materials.” After submitting the industry petition, a second public petition was posted on the White House website.
Publishers Weekly reports, the “call is consistent with the will of the American people, who, according to 2015 Gallup and Pew polls, overwhelmingly support the elimination of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.” The 2015 polls from Gallup and Pew also revealed overwhelming support for re-establishing diplomatic ties, and the Gallup poll found nearly 6 in 10 Americans support ending the restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba.
Publishers Weekly added, a delegation of approximately 40 American publishing industry representatives traveled to Havana in February to meet with their publishing counterparts in Cuba. The two days of meetings were meant “to build bridges of understanding and explore opportunities for greater cultural and economic collaboration.”
A post on the blog of publishing company Smashwords reads, “Due to the US embargo, it’s extraordinarily expensive and difficult for Cuban publishers to gain access to even the simplest raw materials of bookmaking, such as paper and ink. And for self-published authors, even if they had access to self-publishing services or book printers, the set-up fees of such print services would be prohibitively expensive.” Adding that all 45 publishers in Cuba are “state sponsored and cash-starved – they don’t have access to US markets, or to the services and expertise of the American publishing community.”
It’s not just book publishers and authors who are seeking an end to the embargo against Cuba. In October 2015 the UN General Assembly voted 191-2 to condemn the commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba. After the vote The Associated Press reported, “Only Israel joined the United States in opposing the resolution, and when the vote lit up on the screen many diplomats jumped to their feet in a standing ovation.”
Even though UN General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding and unenforceable, the AP adds, the vote “has given Cuba a global stage to demonstrate America’s isolation on the embargo and its Cuba policy.” That vote came nearly a year after the announcement by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro that the governments of the two nations would be restoring diplomatic ties. So it should not be surprising that President Obama is scheduled to become the first sitting US President to visit Cuba since 1928 when he visits the island nation March 21-22, and is expected to announce plans to ease travel and trade restrictions on Cuba on March 17.
The Smashwords blog adds, “We want President Obama to address the book embargo in his March 17 announcement. With your help, this might be possible.”
While I believe all sanctions and embargoes should be lifted, I also support any action that removes any portion of said sanction or embargo with the ultimate goal of unrestricted trade, travel, and immigration.