What Was Missing From John Oliver's Takedown Of The Cuban Embargo

John Oliver made a big point on Sunday, and it wasn’t about women parading around in bikinis.

Almost five months after its premiere, the host of “Last Week Tonight” has perfected the art of bringing attention to issues that most Americans aren’t concerned with, but probably should be.

This Sunday was no exception as Oliver tackled the five-decade-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

“Earlier this month the president made a major decision regarding U.S. relations with Cuba,” the host said. “Although you probably didn’t hear about it unless you were watching Spanish-language television.”

President Obama quietly renewed Cuba's inclusion under the Trading with the Enemy Act in early September, like he and his predecessors have done every year since John F. Kennedy first imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1962. The trade embargo prohibits U.S. companies from conducting business with the Latin American country, though some exceptions have been allowed.

But Oliver says that after 52 years it no longer makes sense to keep it going.

“It’s been a while since Cuba was a genuine threat and by continuing the embargo we’re not just pissing them off, we’re pissing off almost the entire world,” commented the host.

The U.N. General Assembly voted against the embargo for the 22nd time in a row; while 188 countries voted to lift the embargo this time around, only two maintained that it should continue, the U.S. and Israel.

Even within the United States many have spoken out against the extreme measure. While promoting her book “Hard Choices” in June, Hillary Clinton said that “the embargo is Castro’s best friend” because it gives the Castro regime an excuse to blame all the country’s problems on the U.S., according to The New York Post.

But there was one thing missing from John Oliver’s hilarious yet informative breakdown.

Undoing the embargo is more complex than it may appear from his skit. Reinforced and expanded by federal legislation during the 1990s, the trade embargo against Cuba requires an act of Congress to change as long as the Castros remain in power and Cuba continues its one-party Communist government. It matters little, in practical terms, whether Obama signs the Trading with the Enemy Act.

U.S.-Cuban relations began to thaw during Obama's first term, with the White House lifting restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances, and opening up "people-to-people" contacts that allow more Americans the limited ability to travel to the island for cultural exchanges.

But progress toward more open relations has largely halted since the Cuban government convicted USAID subcontractor Alan Gross of attacking the island's sovereignty in 2011.

Watch john Oliver's take on the Cuban Embargo here.



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