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This Comment examines the legality of the comprehensive unilateral embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba within the framework of international law. It argues that, independent of its humanitarian impact or the dubious legality of its extra-jurisdictional components, the comprehensive embargo violates international law because it undermines Cuba’s right to development. International law is, and has always been, a component part of U.S. law—it is enforceable in U.S. courts, it informs judicial interpretation of U.S. statutes, and it guides legislative and executive action in matters of both foreign and domestic policy. In addition to its supplementary interpretive function in our legal system, international law is, through the Supremacy Clause, binding on the United States as a constitutional matter. Because of the role international law plays in the United States, a direct conflict between federal and international law is constitutional anathema. This Comment argues that the tension must be resolved by reference to the substance and timing of the federal enactments that violate international law. Thus, of the coordinate branches, the legislative branch is in the best position to correct the constitutional imbalance. The Comment concludes that Congress must either pass new legislation explicitly renouncing the right to development as an international legal norm, or, in light of the role of international law in our constitutional system, execute faithfully its duty to interpret and uphold the Constitution by repealing the legislation that has created the decades-old embargo.


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7 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Constitutional Law

    • International Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Third World Law Journal

  • Volume
    • 30

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Pagination
    • 417

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022