The 1996 Helms-Burton Act specifies the conditions under which the embargo can be ended, including free elections in Cuba, the legalization of multiple political parties, the release of all political prisoners, and respect for human rights, the expert pointed out.
The main obstacles to lifting the embargo are political, Duany said.
He pointed to “the staunch opposition by many Republican members and some Democratic members of Congress, especially those of Cuban origin such as [Republican presidential candidate and Senator] Marco Rubio, [Congresswoman] Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and [Senator] Bob Menandez.”
The Cuban government estimates the cost of the trade embargo over the past 54 years at $1.1 trillion, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar since 1962, Duany noted.
“In turn, the US government claims that Cuba owes US companies and citizens between $6 billion and $8 billion in compensation for properties confiscated at the beginning of the Cuban Revolution,” he added.
Many US corporations stand to gain from the opening of the Cuban market after the end of the embargo, especially in agriculture, transportation, communications, finance, and manufacturing, the expert noted.
“US agricultural interests have argued that expanded trade with Cuba will expand the labor market in the United States, particularly in the Midwest and South of the country,” he said.
The most immediate effect of ending the trade embargo would be a decrease in the cost of shipping and warehousing of many essential items, such as foodstuffs and machinery, the professor continued.
And the freedom of US citizens to travel to Cuba would provide a great boom to the Island’s tourist market, he added.
Once that happened, Washington might find it much easier to move ahead with eventually returning the entire Guantanamo base to Cuba, Duany observed.
The prison facility “is one of the main reasons the [US] armed forces want to keep the naval base there,” he remarked.
Without that prison facility, the main rationale for the base is to maintain a US naval presence in the Caribbean and to process undocumented immigrants from the region, he said.
“The US government may consider a treaty to return the Guantanamo base to Cuba similar to the treaty it signed with Panama in 1977, but it will probably not negotiate this agreement in the immediate future, given the strong opposition of some sectors of American public opinion and particularly Congress,” Duany said.
On Monday, the United States and Cuba officially reestablished full diplomatic ties by reopening embassies.