White House chief of staff assesses Cuba sanctions policy

In a speech to the Truman Conference 2016, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough set out the factors behind the Obama administration’s policy of rapprochement with Cuba, and highlighted some of the limitations of sanctions as a foreign policy tool.

McDonough said that the policy of isolating Cuba through sanctions for more than 50 years, in the belief that doing so “would plant the seeds of democracy and empower the Cuban people”, had the opposite of the intended effect. Echoing comments made earlier this year by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on the risks of using sanctions without international backing (see previous blog), McDonough noted that it was the US that ultimately found itself isolated, from both its regional and international partners, and that it saw its influence in the world diminish as a result. He contrasted this with the success of sanctions in changing Iran’s nuclear policy, where there was an international consensus behind the measures. The full text of the speech is here.

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About Maya Lester QC

Maya Lester QC

Maya Lester QC is a senior barrister (Queen’s Counsel) at Brick Court Chambers with a wide-ranging practice in public law, European law, competition law, international law, human rights & civil liberties. She has a particular expertise in sanctions. The legal directories say she is the...

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