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For over 57 years the U.S. has enforced an economic blockade of Cuba. While clearly making life hard for everyday Cubans, it has also deprived U.S. citizens of their rights as well. My story is an example.

I was in Cuba during Nov. 1-7 for a Global Studies Conference at which I presented a paper. Unfortunately, I became extremely ill with bronchitis that had been plaguing me for five weeks prior to my arrival Havana. With the help of my Cuban colleagues, I tried to come home early. I needed to return to care for myself. The blockade made it impossible.

I held a round-trip ticket with Southwest Airlines, but they do not have an on-site representative. Two trips to Cuban travel agencies, Havanatur and Cubatur, were for naught. I paid for internet access to change my reservation online, but due to the blockade, the Southwest site was blocked. Despair.

I was staying in a private home. A worker there called her brother, a medical doctor, who came to see me. He agreed I was very sick and prescribed medication, including antibiotics. The hosts went out to get them. I paid less than $1 for the medication, and nothing for the medical visit. Health care is free in Cuba. Medicines, when available, are very cheap. The doctor dropped in and checked on me every day. No cost.

Why are we still blockading Cuba? It hurts only the people of Cuba and the people of the United States. With a very small military, Cuba poses no threat whatsoever. It is a small island, 90 miles from Florida, with a vast array of heritage sites, from environmentally protected coasts to beautiful beaches, 17th century churches and other buildings, and a warm and welcoming people.

The reason for the blockade is rooted in imperial anger that a country in our backyard succeeded in throwing out U.S. corporations and U.S. government control after 1959 and the fear that Cuba would serve as an example to other Latin American nations seeking freedom from colonial and neo-liberal corporate control. It was the same domino theory that led to the Vietnam War.

The economic cost to Cuba is estimated at $822 billion, affecting medical and educational supplies, infrastructure materials and food. There is also a substantial cost to U.S. businesses. U.S. firms and their subsidiaries are prohibited from engaging in trade with Cuba.

The recent United Nations’ vote to end the economic blockade was 191-2, with only the U.S. and Israel voting against it. With close to 5 million tourists visiting Cuba this year alone, it is increasingly clear that neither U.S. citizens nor U.S. businesses support the blockade.

I was rightly furious that I could not come home early. I was overwhelmingly grateful for the medical and human care I received.

President Donald Trump just made it harder for people to visit Cuba as tourists, one of the safest, most beautiful places on earth. The politics of the blockade hurts people, including U.S. citizens. We need to end the blockade now.

Ruth Needleman is professor emerita at Indiana University Northwest. The opinions are the writer's.