The aim of the Cold War-era U.S. economic embargo against Cuba is to bring regime change to Cuba by inflicting death and impoverishment on the Cuban people, especially in conjunction with Cuba’s socialist economic system. The idea is that if enough Cubans are dying or languishing in poverty, they will rise up, violently revolt against Cuba’s communist regime, and replace it with a U.S.-approved dictator, like the one who was ousted from power in the Cuban revolution in 1959. 

So far, the embargo has failed to achieve its goal, notwithstanding the fact that this Cold War dinosauric relic is still in existence and still targeting the Cuban people with death and poverty.

What many Americans do not realize, however, is that the federal government’s Cuban embargo is also an attack on the fundamental rights and liberties of the American people. 

In a genuinely free society, people have the right to engage in economic transactions with others. They also have the right to travel freely wherever they want and spend their money any way they want. They also have the right to associate with whomever they want.

All these rights are fundamental, God-given rights that precede government. No government, including the U.S. government, can legitimately infringe or destroy these rights. Yet, that is precisely what the U.S. government has done — and does do — with its embargo against Cuba. 

Moreover, this is not just some esoteric point. If an American does business with Cuba or travels to Cuba and spends money there without securing official permission of the U.S. government, U.S. officials will go after him with the same vengeance that Cuban communist officials go after Cuban citizens who violate their socialist economic rules and regulations.

Let’s examine a few examples of the U.S. government’s brutality against its own people who commit the heinous crime of violating its sacred embargo against Cuba. 

In 2018, they went after a 46-year-old Texas man named Bryan Evan Singer for illegally trying to export electronics equipment to Cuba. The equipment consisted of “300 Ubiquiti Nanostation Network devices, which are designed to provide highly encrypted connections between computer networks over long distances.” 

Federal officials said that such electronics posed a threat to “national security,” which I suppose meant that there was a danger that the Cuban authorities would use it to invade the United States, conquer the nation, and take over America’s socialist educational system, where students would then be required to learn Cuban socialism rather than American socialism. 

Take a guess at the jail sentence that a federal judge meted out to Singer for his heinous crime of trying to engage in economic activity with Cuba. A six-year jail sentence! When it comes to vengeance, U.S. officials are certainly no pikers.

In 1998, American citizen Zachary Sanders went fishing in Cuba. In 2000, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sent Sanders a letter asking him questions about his trip, hoping to acquire evidence to use against him to prosecute him for violating the U.S. government’s sacred embargo. 

Sanders chose to remain silent, refusing to respond to the letter. But in 2008, a federal administrative law judge held that the right to remain silent, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, doesn’t really mean the right to remain silent. Instead, what a person must do is expressly state that he is choosing to invoke his right to remain silent. If he instead remains silent, he loses his right to remain silent. Sanders was hit with a $9,000 fine for choosing to remain silent, which stemmed from a simple fishing trip in Cuba.

According to a 2003 article on,

Over the last ninety days alone, the Treasury Department has enforced the Cuba embargo against 28 companies, with average civil fines amounting to more than $21,000 in each case. No industry has been exempt as manufacturers, retailers, banks, shipping lines, even major league sports teams (the New York Yankees) have been the target of enforcement action under the Cuba embargo. The largest fine in recent months was a $250,000 fine imposed on Zim American-Israeli Shipping Co., Inc. Similarly, over that same 90-day period, Treasury has imposed fines averaging more the $5,100 on 76 individuals for violations of the travel restrictions of the Cuba embargo program.

And then there is the vicious federal criminal case brought against Peter Goldsmith and Michele Geslin. They committed the heinous crime of organizing sailboat races from Key West to Cuba. Federal prosecutors charged them with violating their sacred embargo. They were each facing 15 years in a federal penitentiary. 

According to an article posted at it wasn’t the first time that U.S. officials had gone after Americans for fishing in Cuba. In 1988, they went after a Texas man “who touted bass fishing trips to the island, and in 1996, against a Naples travel company.” 

The article quoted U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez as saying that the federal indictment against Goldsmith and Geslin was proof the embargo has teeth. “The embargo against the Cuban regime cannot be ignored or flouted, as charged in the indictment,” Jimenez declared.

Unfortunately for Jimenez, however, he wasn’t able to get his pound of flesh out of Goldsmith and Geslin. According to an article in the Washington Post, a U.S. district judge dismissed the indictment, ruling that “the regulations in effect at the time did not bar coordinated travel by independent participants in a sailboat race.” The court also ruled that “the sailors’ registration fees were used to pay for T-shirts, trophies and a party in Key West, and did not constitute travel services.”

This article was originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished here with permission from the author.

Jacob Hornberger
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