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eBay and Paypal Bring our Embargo to Germany

The United States’ nearly-50-year-old embargo against Cuba is now causing a stir in Europe. According to an article on CubaHeadlines.com, in keeping with the embargo, eBay and its subsidiary, Paypal (which are U.S.-based), have blocked all transactions in Germany that involve Cuban goods. Several German merchants, notably several whose livelihoods come from sales of Cuban cigars and rum, have even had their Paypal accounts closed until they agree to stop selling Cuban goods.

Several German newspapers, including Die Welt, are calling the blockage unlawful. While U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with Cuba, “There are no such restrictions against European Union companies,” according to Die Welt. “eBay, which is based in California, has allowed Cuba-related transactions by Europeans to go through in the past.”

While it’s unfortunate that several German businesses are basically having their bank accounts taken away, I might be able to see where eBay and Paypal are coming from. I know that Paypal skims off a percentage of all payments sent through its system, so allowing transactions between Germany and Cuba to take place would mean that they’re indirectly making money off of Cuba-related transactions.

As far as I know, though, U.S. companies are allowed to sell goods to Cuba—they’re just not allowed to buy them (according to the CIA World Factbook, about 7 percent of Cuba’s imported goods come from the U.S.). So why is it a problem for Paypal to make a few extra bucks off of transactions that took place legally in a country where the embargo isn’t even effective? Is it because at some point along the line, those products were imported from Cuba, even though there are already tons and tons of obstacles in place to prevent those from ever reaching the U.S.?

I can only assume that eBay and Paypal have come under fire from the U.S. government for allowing the transactions to take place. If that is the case, then I can’t really blame eBay and Paypal. They have a huge operation going on in this country, and they have a lot to lose if the feds decided to pull the plug on them for violating the embargo.

But that would mean that the problem isn’t eBay and Paypal—it’s the embargo. Now it’s negatively affecting people overseas, in countries we currently don’t even have issues with (not that we even have issues with Cuba at the moment). This is just one more reason that this horribly-outdated embargo needs to come to an end.