HAVANA TIMES – Cuban academics Juan Antonio Blanco and Emilio Morales, who preside over the Cuba Siglo 21 organization, criticized on Thursday the content of two letters signed by members of US congress and economists who accuse Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez of using a “false narrative” in his defense of US sanctions against the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela.
Last May, a group of congresspeople led by Democrat Veronica Escobar sent a letter to the White House demanding that the Biden Administration remove sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela under the pretext that the economic suffocation caused by this measure causes Cubans and Venezuelans to emigrate to the U.S.
Menéndez, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, responded by denying that there was a relationship between sanctions and the migratory stampede, which he attributes rather to the lack of human rights and the presence of “brutal dictatorships” that “have destroyed the economies of their countries.”
At the beginning of July, another letter criticizing Menéndez was signed by 50 economists and academics, among them the Pulitzer Prize winner Greg Grandin, repeating Escobar’s claim. In addition, it alleged that there was “no serious investigation” that supported the senator’s arguments.
Two articles published on the Cuba Siglo 21 website by Blanco and Morales have now been added to the discussion. Both academics discredit the proposal of the members of congress and economists, arguing that the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela are the “causes of the deplorable socioeconomic situation” of both countries.
“We must start by saying that Cuba and Venezuela are not, by far, the main countries that contribute migrants in this crisis that has occurred since Joe Biden entered the White House,” says Morales, who offers data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office to support his argument.
Cuba and Venezuela occupy the fourth and fifth place respectively among the countries that send migrants. Since 2020, both have contributed to the migration crisis by just 5.8% and 5.5%, while Mexico (with 2,323,278 migrants), Honduras (690,888) and Guatemala (683,031) together represent 49.5% of the migrants who reached the U.S. in the same period. However, these three countries receive funding and investments from Washington and are not subject to embargoes or sanctions, which shows that blaming the U.S. sanctions for the exodus is a fallacy.
The causes of Cubans going into exile, Morales says, must be sought in government repression. The stampede “broke out after the dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel gave the order to repress the demonstrators on July 11, 2021,” he explains. The academics ignoring, in their letter to Menéndez, the effect of surveillance, fear and police violence on the Island turns them, in the eyes of Morales, into “goodies” who comfortably ignore the reality of the country and display, at the very least, their “intellectual shallowness.”
The problem of Cuba and Venezuela does not come from US sanctions, but from the dictatorships that for decades “have internally destroyed their respective economies with the unpunished theft of state resources and policies of control that prevent their citizens from generating wealth,” Morales insists in his article.
Several examples offered by the academic refer to the Cuban economy that – even analyzing the official figures – is in the red. Morales says that it is enough to look at the income from the nine most important items of the Island’s economy – remittances, tourism, mining, medical services, tobacco, sugar, fish, seafood and agricultural products – to verify that they have been in progressive degradation since 2013.
“This decline is not due to the embargo, nor to the sanctions implemented by the Donald Trump administration against the Cuban regime, but to a regime with totalitarian political and economic institutions to which is added the ineptitude of the power elite and their government,” he summarizes.
For Morales, the $7 billion in food that Cuba imported from the U.S. between 2001 and 2023 shows that the embargo does not have much impact on the Cuban economy, but it is used by the regime to justify the shortages.
“In the case of Venezuela, something similar happens. The deterioration of the Venezuelan economy is not due to the sanctions imposed by the Donald Trump Administration, but to the embezzlement and corruption of Chavismo, which led Venezuela to financial bankruptcy,” he added.
The conclusions of Morales and Blanco are identical and defend the position of Menéndez, who insists on intensifying his position towards the island’s regime. Both ask the academics who signed the letters against the senator to demand, rather, the return of freedoms to the citizens of Cuba and Venezuela, their right to generate wealth and to express themselves freely. Otherwise, they conclude, their position makes them accomplices of two of the most criminal dictatorships on the American continent.
Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba