Cuba: Postcard from the Caribbean Monestary
Cuba has been under a self-imposed vow of poverty for half a century. Fidel Castro hasn't been president for six years. His brother Raul Castro has enacted some economic reforms. These reforms legalized certain professions and allowed them to compete for business. When this was first enacted several years back, the professions included muleteers and palm frond cutters...
Read this detailed and depressing article by Michael Totten in the City Journal http://www.city-journal.org/2014/24_2_havana.html It could have been written at any time in the last twenty years. A fellow traveling professor (and former OSS officer) Maurice Halperin wrote two books about his experiences in Cuba. The second, "Return to Havana," described how little progress the revolution had made. Halperin concluded that all the achievements of the Cuban economy had been made in the 1950s. The society was just living off the forward momentum of that era. This article suggests the same thing.
The US sells about $400 million in food and medicines to Cuba a year. Certainly we'd sell a lot more if the embargo were lifted; more, that is, if the Cubans had the money to pay for it. Why do we still have an embargo? Simply because no one in Washington wants to expend the considerable political capital it would take to change the status quo. Why should anyone take a political hit over Cuba, when he stands to gain nothing for it? Cuba certainly won't democratize or improve its human rights policies, preconditions for lifting the embargo. In the short term, lifting the embargo might actually help the Cuban government. No one wants to do that either. The costs of maintain the embargo are minimal by US government standards.
Besides, our real but unstated policy toward Cuba is to maintain its stability. Lifting the embargo might put that at risk. Both sides of the aisle get that.