Should We Criticize Mandela?

Alfredo Fernández

The Ladies in White during one of their Havana marches.  Photo:
The Ladies in White during one of their Havana marches. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — A well-known episode in contemporary history is the fact that, when the government of South Africa established the apartheid regime, former South African president Nelson Mandela, then a civil rights activist, personally asked the United States to impose an economic blockade on the country in order to hasten the collapse of a government where 12.2 % of the population – the whites, or Boers, as they were also known – trampled on the most elementary rights of all other citizens with impunity.

Some days ago, we saw a heated debate about the petition that a number of renowned Cuban dissidents have made to the US government, calling for hardline measures that would bring about the economic collapse of the country and thus definitively remove the Castro brothers from power.

What supporters of the Castro government see as a blockade, detractors see as a mere embargo, for the Cuban government is able to trade with all other countries around the world and even import over a hundred products from the United States itself (provided it pay cash).

The tired debate over the lifting or preservation of the economic blockade imposed on Cuba has traditionally been the most sensitive topic handled by Cuban dissidents, where two emblematic figures – Ladies in White leader Berta Soler and blogger Yoani Sanchez – maintain diametrically opposed positions on the matter.

Soler believes the lifting the blockade would mean conceding defeat and granting an unmerited political victory to the Castro government, which would, in no way, put an end to the abuses perpetrated against the opposition.

Sanchez, on the other hand, sees the suppression of the blockade as an opportunity to deprive the Cuban government of the arguments it has long used to justify the inefficiency and dysfunctionality inherent to the system.

The repercussions that Berta Soler’s petition to the US government had in different on-line media dealing with Cuba-related issues are what have prompted me to write this post.

Soler, who asked for a “firm hand against the Castros”, met with a wide spectrum of criticisms and praise, though accusations of being an annexationist who has no political vision, is disloyal to her people and acts as a CIA agent, were the most common.

The most notable argument used against Soler is that “the Cuban people, in general, are opposed to the blockade.”

Though this point is not be taken lightly, we could say, in Soler’s defense, that the Cuban people did not think twice before supporting the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, that it was responsible for vigilante-style violence in the 80s, that it accepted the establishment of the double-currency system (Cuba’s economic apartheid), without protesting, in 1993, and that, along with members of the Cuban Writers and Artists Federation (UNEAC), it stood silent while 3 young men who attempted to hijack a ferry were executed following summary trials and 75 government opponents were jailed for their activities.

If the above does not completely deprive the Cuban people of any moral authority to opine about these matters, it does, at least, invite us to exercise prudence when lending it an ear, particularly when we recall that lucidity has not been one of the more outstanding qualities the masses have shown in the course of history.

A bird’s eye view of recent history would reveal the many opportunities the Cuban government lost to help alleviate many of the hardships endured by its population today.

Today, with or without the blockade, Cubans residing abroad could be allowed to invest in the country, a measure that would help the country’s domestic economy, employing thousands of workers in enterprises that, no doubt, would also offer better salaries than those paid by the government.

Cubans residing abroad who have publicly expressed their differences with the status quo and have been banned from the island could be allowed to return to their country of origin.

All political prisoners could be released, as they do not constitute a risk to Cuba’s national security.

Successful farmers could be given ownership over new lands and expand land leases, which thus far have not reduced food shortages in the slightest. The population could also be given free and unrestricted access to the Internet.

There is a long list of such measures that the tired US blockade does not in any way impede implementing, save, perhaps, for the Castro government’s fear of losing its power. In a post-blockade Cuba, with the doors of the world’s most powerful nation flung wide open, such measures will, in my view, prove next to impossible to hold back.

The petition to impose a blockade on South Africa’s government was seen by Mandela’s compatriots (save the Boers, of course), as the consummation of his political vision.

Today, Berta Soler, asking exactly the same for a government which, in practice, imposes a very similar destiny on those who do not belong to its political “race” (the monolithic Cuban Communist Party), has to face accusations from all sides which put the legitimacy of her struggle in question, from people who, apparently, have forgotten the difficult roads the Ladies in White have traversed since 2003.

After seeing these two human rights activists make these requests with the intention of improving their country’s lot, and incurring such different reactions, I cannot help but ask myself whether we should also reprimand Mandela for demanding such measures for his own people.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

28 thoughts on “Should We Criticize Mandela?

  • For 20 years in a row, the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn these cruel and inhumane US sanctions against every man, woman and child on the island. Not even the US regime’s closest allies can support them on this matter! Amnesty International has also repeatedly condemned these sanctions on humanitarian grounds and called for their immediate and unconditional lifting of them.

    This is completely the opposite of the case with anti-apartheid sanctions in the 1980’s, which US conservatives like Ronald Reagan as well as Margret Thatcher actually opposed. This may have something to do with the fact that Nelson Mandela and Fidel have always been the strongest of allies. At a banquet in South Africa in Fidel’s honour in 1998, Mandela said:

    “If today all South Africans enjoy the rights of democracy; if they are able at last to address the grinding poverty of a system that denied them even the most basic amenities of life, it is also because of Cuba’s selfless support for the struggle to free all of South Africa’s people and the countries of our region from the inhumane and destructive system of apartheid. For that, we thank the Cuban people from the bottom of our heart….

    “As the beneficiary of international solidarity that helped make it a member of the community of free nations, democratic South Africa is proud to be amongst the majority of nations who affirm the right of the Cuban people to determine their own destiny, and that sanctions which seek to punish them for having decided to do so are anathema to the international order to which we aspire.”

  • Moses, how can you talk about the Cuban people while continuing with your ignorance about the embargo? The illegal, unilateral blockade has had but one policy aim — and that is to make things so bad economically for the Cuban people so as to force them to overthrow their own government. anyone who says it is aimed at the Cuban government is completely ignorant about the reality of Cuba-American relations. there is tremendous amount of government statements admitting the embargo is in place to starve the cuban people, to deny them material goods, including food and medicine. all because the majority still support their government and rejected 60 years of US hegemony, which the Americans still haven’t forgiven. the excuses the pro-embargo supporters use that it is aimed at the government is demonstrably false when you look at the history, which you apparently know little about. The excuses have been many — and every time the cuban government has met those conditions (not due to american demands) the embargo has remained, and increased. That mercenary hypocrite Torricelli proclaimed he wanted ‘to wreck havoc on the island’ when his bill designed to make things worse for the cuban people was passed. to say the cuban government doesn’t want to do business with the US is also a ridiculous statement, and a lie, the government wants to, under their terms as any other country would. but the US simply wants to keep punishing the cuban people until they are able to re-establish a social/economic system aligned to US interests. THe dictatorship is in the US, where the government forbids private capitalist companies that want to do two way business with Cuba, but can’t because of the American government dictatorial decision. there are food and agricultural products being bought from the US by the Cuban side, but no US company can do it without the approval of the US government. And no Cuban goods can come into the US. Of course things would be better for the cuban people if the embargo was lifted, well duh, so if you care one iota about the cuban people you should be working towards the ending of the embargo. and your previous comment about medicines, of course the tourists and leadership do have access to more in many cases, an unfortunate reality — but is that your standard to condemn the system? if it is, then you better be consistent condemning the US — or are you unaware that all members of congress have full, free socialized medicare where the average American deals with the for-profit medical system that is a shame on the supposed best nation on earth. and while you’re at it, go visit the william soler childrens hospital. im sure you know where it is, and ask the doctors what they think about the embargo, and why this children’s hospital was declared a ‘denied’ hospital by the US government and the number of children that have died due to the inability to purchase equipment and medicines. one last thing, the above article was a joke — anyone who tries to conflate the south african santions with the embargo just reveals his bias. mandela when he was released from prison thanked Fidel first for cuba’s effort to end apartheid. and he has consistently condemned the unilateral embargo against cuba. so really, you seem to come across as some sort of expert on the cuban people — your posts simply demonstrate the exact opposite. hopefully you can respond with a little more intelligence and insight. so much more to enlighten you, but that’s enough for now. (and try to respond intelligently without calling anyone who knows more than you, a ‘castro apologist’. im far from that, but one who does know the lies and propaganda that has been levied against Cuba.

  • ‘for the sake of engaging debate’…LOL; anybody told you that you speak as if you are the ‘daddy’ of comments; we are all only expressing opinions. No I’m not Cuban, but i have been to Cuba, (I do hope you don’t now say I can’t have an opinion on Cuba because I’m not Cuban–that would just be silly). Look i’m not saying Cuba doesn’t need major eco/pol reforms; however the transformation of Cuba into primarily a US business friendly neighbor does not necessarily mean at all that it would necessarily see an improvement in the general conditions of Cubans. It absolutely, totally depends on the type of government that takes over. The most important thing is that a future government is Cuban friendly, not US business friendly; it can, to a certain degree, be both but the 2 do not necessarily go togethor. Case in point in the region; Haiti. Has a very US business friendly government but for the people this brings no particular benefits, and when they did elect Aristide (who was not particularly Anti-American) the USA conspired to get rid of him. I could give countless similar examples. Again i stress i’m not saying major changes aren’t needed; but turning Cuba into a 51st state does not necessarily mean good things for Cubans.

  • As you wish, Fidel did not honor the petition, teaching the dissident community a lasting lesson about the trustworthiness of the Cuban electoral process. BTW, the author of that petition, Osvalo Paya, despite his international fame and recognition, continued to be harassed and threatened until his suspicious and untimely ‘accident’. ‘Technically’ defeating the project through circumvention did not solve Fidel’s problems, only delayed Cuba’s inevitable march toward capitalism. By doing so, instead of addressing the problem head on, it may have bought the Castros 20 more years or so but assured that the legacy he had hoped to establish will be further tainted by his electoral magic tricks.

  • Which is exactly what I meant when I said he didn’t ignore the petition. He countered it and make sure something like that never happens again and thats precisely the opposite of ignoring it.

    What probably you intended to say is that they never honored the petition, which is true.

    And BTW, constitutional amendments have Yes/No options, for each individual proposal. If the proposal gets the numbers right (2/3 + 1 of the voters if I recall correctly) it gets approved by the parliament and added to the constitution, so technically the Varela project was defeated y the Cuban people in a democratic process, not autocratically by the government.

  • AC, Fidel ignored the petition! The 14,000 signatures (11,020 initially and 3,000+ later)
    demanded a referendum giving the people a choice of political reforms which basically asked the question “socialism or market-orientation”. What Fidel gave them was a statement “socialism forever, vote yes”. The constitution provided for this petition mechanism to simply trigger a referendum. Fearful that this would happen again and again, Fidel changed the constitution. His paranoia further resulted in the arrest and incarceration of 75 dissidents in what is known as the Black Spring. Come on AC. You know what really went on there!

  • Go ahead and keep believing in your fairy-tale ‘democracy’. And keep your arrogance of stating what is ‘real democracy’ and what is ‘phony democracy’ for yourself. Because when a leader gets elected and your country doesn’t like him, then it’s coup-time. Democracy does NOT exist. Democratic processes do. When you finally understand this, then come back and talk to me.

  • Even if what you said is true and they are being intimidated into going to the polls (they are not), that can’t stop a disgruntled Cuban from casting an invalid ballot. After all the voting itself is anonymous and the neighbors are the one doing the counting, so they can simply stay and see that no fraud is involved.

    Yet, adding invalid and blank ballots you can get at most a 10% of the electors with a turnout greater than 90%. That by itself validates the legitimacy of the government.

    As for the Varela project, they did NOT ignored the petition, quite the opposite. They made a REFERENDUM amongst the population to get rid of that rule. It was approved by the Cuban people and as result now the Varela project doesn’t have a legal footing anymore.

    I find the whole episode quite ridiculous and the response out of place because what a majority wants at a given time, a majority can override at a later time when it suits them, but thats besides the point. After the constitution changes where approved, the 11000 signatures collected became completely irrelevant.

    The irony on that is that the whole episode was a triumph of sorts for democracy, after all the collected signatures counted for the 0.001% of the population, while the referendum making the socialism in Cuba immutable was approved by an overwhelming majority of them.

  • For the sake of engaging debate, let’s take your side that the US is in it to convert Cuba into a US business-friendly neighbor. Are you Cuban? Have you spent time in Cuba? If so, can you say that a change in that direction, any change, in Cuba could result in anything but an improvement in the lives of average Cubans?

  • You may cynically wish to compare the electoral fraud perpetrated as democracy in Cuba with the admittedly flawed but functional system of the US, but few reasonable person inside or outside of Cuba would agree with your comparison. Cubans are intimidated and coerced into voting. CDRs keep records of who has voted and many Cubans, for fear of losing jobs or priviledges, vote as a rote activity, with little concern or expectation for the outcome. Luis, it is simply not reasonable to believe that for more than 50 years, an entire lifetime, that only one man was capable of being president. Who really believes that without assuming Fidel was a dictator and the fix is in? As a result, most Cubans do not see change coming to Cuba via the electoral systems. You should talk to real Cubans! The opposition dissident community knows that to pursue change in this fashion is a fool’s folly. Osvaldo Paya collected more than 14,000 signatures in total in a petition internationally known as the Varela Project. The goal was to effect change in the Cuban Constitution and required only 10,000 signatures at the time to trigger a referendum. FIDEL IGNORED THE PETITION!! Real, open, free elections do make a difference.

  • You can replace ‘Communists’ and ‘Communist Party’ with ‘Republicans and Democrats’ and ‘Corporate Power’ and we have a perfectly good definition of the ‘biggest democracy in the world’ and why the tiny parties that don’t get any attention in the medie neither are invited to debates.

    The opposition in Cuba is weak because of the reasons ac said. They tried to gain some positions in the last elections but since their main idea is to simply ‘sell-out’ the country, the Cuban people rightfully reject this idea.

    And one must be ‘either astonishingly naive or simply mendacious’ to pretend that elections can change the FORM of government. This wasn’t true even in Bolivarian Venezuela. As good ol’ Emma Goldman once said ironically, ‘if elections changed anything, they’d be illegal’.

  • I think his point, as you well know, is that America’s embargo is supposedly based on moral principles eg denial of freedoms etc but that in reality the USA has no moral right to police other people’s nations & certainly not when they support regimes even more brutal than the Cuban gvt–Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uganda, & others. Also as the USA has continuously waged war or proxy wars against any gvts or people’s it doesn’t think will act in its politico-economic interests. I don’t see the USA boycotting China or saying anything at all about its human rights record? Lets not pretend the embargo is out of a wish to help the average Cuban–it’s a tool to to get a gvt in power in Cuba that will benefit American capital.

  • Also notice that even if the opposition keep refusing to participate in the political process in the country, the rest of the Cubans can show their disapproval to the current government by not going to the polls or by casting an invalid ballot. By doing so, they will be effectively subverting the legitimacy of the government, and under those circumstances it would be ok to seek regime change, but thats not what you see in Cuba.

    As long as they keep supporting their government by participating freely in the elections without coercion or threats, said government must be considered legitimate, and as such a foreign nation looking to overthrown it is simply meddling in their internal affairs.

  • Except that the PCC is not an electoral party. You don’t need to be a member of the PCC or the UJC to be nominated and elected to any position in Cuba, the only requirement is to be a Cuban citizen in good standing and get nominated and elected by your circumscription (typically just a few blocks). Besides, their electoral laws forbid everyone (including party members) from campaigning so an hypothetical dissidence member trying to play the game will do so in a level field at the base level against a no-name random candidate from the same circumscription and has a fair chance of winning. In any case, the lack of access to the media is not going to be a disadvantage, since the opposing candidate won’t have access either.

    The trick, of course is to actually get nominated for the important positions (provincial and national assemblies). Those nominations are made by the direct vote of the delegates at the previous level and ratified by the voters, so in order to get nominated and appear in the ballot you will need a large consensus amongst your peers. And said consensus is hard to achieve unless you have a seizable portion of delegates supporting your position.

    Still, is perfectly doable under current Cuban laws, the ONLY reason why you don’t see it happening is that the so called opposition refuses to abide by the electoral laws and rather play a confrontational role that helps to attract headlines and funding from abroad but achieves almost nothing in Cuba.

    If they manage to convince their fellow citizens that their way is better and get nominated and elected they can win seats and by little climb to the provincial and national level. Once there they can make their voice listened and have an active role at the direction their country will go.

  • What opposition has a chance in elections when the only legal party are the Communists, all media is controlled by the Communist Party, the top government officials and military officers are all top Communist Party officials?

    The apparent weakness disunity of the opposition is a direct consequence of the regime oppression. Dissidents are regularly arrested, beaten and jailed. A surprising number of their top leaders wind up dead one way or another.

    One must be either astonishingly naive or simply mendacious to pretend this is not the nature of a totalitarian dictatorship.

  • Then is up to the people of Cuba to overthrown the existing government and create a new one better suited for them, but thats their own business, another country does not have any business trying to change it for them.

    Helping the internal opposition is perfectly fine and within the international laws, creating an artificial opposition is a gray zone and demanding government change without a valid reason is over the line.

    And there is no reason to demand such thing in the case of Cuba. As long as they keep going massively to the polls and voting you can’t claim they lack a democratic process and the only reason the opposition does not participate on it is because they are an insignificant, discredited minority without any chance whatsoever of secure a position from the voters.

  • Think about what you wrote….embargos prevent ‘selling to’ AND ‘buying from’. Thanks for the comment anyway.

  • Embargo against the US is impossible because it does not produce anything except printing dollar bills. Go to any country outside of the US or even in the US and try to buy any product that says made in America. You will not find any

  • ac, ….you missed the point of Mulroney’s comment.

    When Nelson Mandela came to Toronto to thank Canada for supporting the sanctions, I was in the huge crowd at Nathan Phillips Square to hear his speech and he did indeed say sanctions helped to end apartheid. I was very proud of my country that day and I was deeply impressed by Mandela’s wisdom and humility.

    My country does not support the embargo and trades freely with Cuba. Canadian tourists are by far the largest percentage of visitors to the island. The Canadian corporation Sherrit International operates a huge nickel mine in Moa, Cuba. Various Canadian aid agencies have funded numerous aid programmes in Cuba over the years. I can buy Cuban rum and cigars in Toronto.

    Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was the first Western leader to visit Havana where he met with Fidel Castro and established a friendship. When Trudeau died in September 2000, Fidel Castro attended his funeral as one of his honorary pall-bearers, (along with Jimmy Carter, Aga Khan & Leonard Cohen… wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall to listen to their chit-chat?)

    (Interesting photo of Trudeau arriving in Havana: the baby in the arms of Pierre’s wife Margaret is a very young Justin Trudeau. Justin is today a member of parliament and the leader of the federal Liberal Party, and might be elected as PM one day).

    Has this Canadian policy helped the standard of living of the average Cuban? Yes, to some degree it was. Has this helped bring about democracy, freedom and the respect for human rights in Cuba? Not one little bit.

    The current Conservative government of Canada has no intention of joining the embargo, while making only the most modest criticism of human right abuses in Cuba, which is unfortunate. They should be more outspoken, but don’t want to risk Canadian business in Cuba. That’s the double edged sword of doing business with a dictatorship.

    I agree with your point that the sanctions on South Africa were more limited in scope than those imposed on Cuba. However, over time a growing number of countries joined the boycott, as well the voluntary independent divestment campaign began to have an effect on the South African economy. In the 1980s rising inflation and capital flight were hurting the South African economy.

    The reason the sanctions helped end apartheid (and there were other factors, too) was that the white South Africans wanted a way out of their international isolation and could see clearly that to keep on as they had would bring the complete collapse of their country.

    That perception of looming national failure has never troubled the Cuban leadership, rather they embraced it. Fidel knew that by seizing US property in Cuba he would provoke sanctions. He knew this because the American government told him so. Still he went ahead and did it. Then he turned to Cuban owned corporations and seized those as well. He did this knowing that it would create an irrevocable schism between Cuba and the USA because he believed only a complete break would force the Revolution onto the Cuban people. So you can oppose the embargo today, and there are sound arguments against it. But you need to understand the role Castro had in provoking and maintaining the embargo all these years.

    You wrote,

    “Every nation has the right to select their own form of government…”

    That is precisely the problem in Cuba: the Cuban people are not allowed to chose their form of government. Fidel Castro chose it for them.

    The difference between South Africa and Cuba is that the South African leader Willem de Klerk wanted to find a way to end apartheid, and found in Nelson Mandela a strong leader who was willing to support reconciliation as a path to liberate his people. In Cuba, the regime does not want to share power. Because Cuba continues to trade with many countries, the regime survives in spite of the embargo. The Cuban regime remains willing and able to keep the Cuban people oppressed and any dissident leaders who speak out for freedom and democracy are crushed by the regime.

  • You cannot into irony.

    Because the rest of the world doesn’t act like they were its police, unlike the US.

  • Sorry, Griffin but you are simply wrong. The goal was never to bring South Africa to its knees not because they weren’t that bad (they were), but because South Africa was the tool for one of the many proxy wars between the US and the USSR.

    The sanctions didn’t worked at all, because while they were sanctioned with one hand, they keep receiving help from the west with the other, specifically from the US. How can you say that the sanctions worked when they received they even help to develop nuclear weapons in the middle of said sanctions?

    Besides, the term “sanction” is too general and doesn’t start to measure the huge abyss between the South Africa sanctions and the Cuba embargo. The ONLY sanctions applied to South Africa where about foreign corporations doing business with them ignoring the segregation laws and the ban on weapon sales. Thats it.

    The US (and most countries) NEVER banned their corporations from making business with SA, much less their subsidiaries. They never enforced a ban on import of SA exports (at best, people made some campaigns to boycott SA products but that never had official backing), much less a ban on any product produced anywhere in the world having ANY Cuban component or raw material coming from Cuba. They never forbid the export of food or medicaments to South Africa, nor block their access to international credits.

    In short, South Africa sanctions are nowhere close to the ones imposed to Cuba, even when the rationale for the sanctions is several units of magnitudes worse.

    To put it in perspective, at worst, the Cuban government is guilty from violations of some political rights that are nice to have but not fundamental, while the apartheid regime openly violated at least the following articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 1.
    “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

    Article 2.
    “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

    Article 7.
    “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”

    Article 21.
    ” (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
    (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.”

    As for your last remark, is completely out of context. Can you pinpoint exactly what are the points of the embargo that the Cuban government refuses to fix? Government change, a government they approved and the restitution of the nationalized properties whose compensation they refused to accept in 60s (and I’m fairly sure any legal claim expired long ago).

    As you see, in this regard the difference between Cuba and South Africa sanctions is the same as between day and night. In the case of SA, the whole world asked for the abolition of the segregation laws and with it the restoration of basic human rights, while what the US claims is that they don’t like the Cuban government and they are going to keep the sanctions until the Cubans pick something they like.

    One is a valid claim, the other is not. The US has no business whatsoever imposing their vision on government and prosperity to other nations. Every nation has the right to select their own form of government and condition the life of the sanctions to that is simply ridiculous.

  • Griffin, your comments regarding Castro’s initial intentions post-revolution cannot be overstated. He fully believed that the embargo would be the perfect scapegoat for the “dismantling” of capitalism in Cuba. He believed that the Soviet system would overtake the US and European economic order and lost prosperity would be restored to Cuba. Arrogance and incompetence are at the root of the differences between his vision for Cuba and that of Mandela and South Africa.

  • Embargo against the US? Good luck with that….hehehe.

  • In explaining his government’s support of the sanctions against South Africa, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said, “Our aim is not to bring South Africa to her knees, but to bring her to her senses.”

    Sanctions against South Africa worked because the South African government became diplomatically isolated, while facing growing economic pressure. WHile it is true the total dollar effect of the sanctions on Cuba were greater than the sanctions on South Africa, in the Cuban case, Castro wanted out of the Western (ie. American) economic orbit and into the Soviet sphere. He did not care what the effect on the Cuban people would be, in fact he understood that the policy would destroy Cuban wealth, but that too was part of his socialist programme. His goal was to dismantle capitalism and build socialism and the embargo was a useful tool to that end.

    The South African government wanted to resolve the problem of apartheid, which they understood was a doomed policy. The sanctions helped push them into negotiations as the alternatives were increasingly unpalatable. Mandela’s genius was in understanding the future of South Africa would not be served by vengeance.

    In the case of Cuba, the Castro’s have never wanted to resolve the problems which provoked the embargo. Indeed, they have gone out of their way to scuttle any rapprochement the US has attempted. Meanwhile, Cuba found a substitute in to US trade through the years of Soviet subsidies, and now Venezuelan support & tourism.

  • You sir, are an schizoid. Because you can take only one ‘bride’. Take Yoani or Soler, please.

    ‘maintaining the embargo against dictatorial rule and the repression of human rights is a moral imperative.’

    Then we, the ‘rest of the world’ – should impose a trade embargo the US because of all the documented tortures and bombings on innocent civilians of the ‘evil countries’. Beginning with China… ho ho ho! If the US companies cannot buy their cheap labor the entire economy is screwed.

  • Ignorance is a bliss, but in the era of information flaunting your ignorance around won’t take you far. The sanctions applied against the apartheid regime were limited to disinvestment and a weapon trade bans. Thats nowhere close to what the US embargo is trying to do in Cuba.

    Basically, the west imposed the called Sullivan principles (a set of common sense rules to prevent open discrimination amongst the workforce) to any corporation doing business in South Africa. but thats a far cry from an outright ban. Besides, the sanctions never forbid or discourage the sell of food and medicines as it happened in Cuba.

    In short, the sanctions targeted specifically the racial discrimination and punished anyone cooperating with said discrimination, never the general population, while in Cuba the sanctions are specifically targeting the population to push them to the limit so they overthrow the government.

    You can’t simply throw a blanket at the word “sanctions” and claim they are OK without stopping to consider carefully what is the EXACT extent of said sanctions, whether their target is valid and its implications on the general population.

    The US sanctions against Cuba are not only immoral, they classify as genocide under the UN definition, specifically Article 2 c) of the Convention of prevention and punishment of the Crime of Genocide:

    “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;”

    And it falls under the definition of War crime as per Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War:

    “Article 33. No persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

    That is not a matter of personal interpretation, those are verifiable facts and the main reason why the rest of the world virtually opposes the US embargo.

    Besides, as I mentioned recently. the US embargo is directly linked to at least three different epidemics that have killed or caused permanent disabilities to hundreds of Cubans, in particular the most vulnerable as well as exacerbated the lack of availability of supplies directly linked to sick people that died from septic complication or lack of medicaments.

    Supporting the embargo as a foreigner is bad enough, but it can be attributed to ignorance of the extent and side effects of it in the Cuban population, doing so as a Cuban is an act of betrayal against your own people. And sure as hell Cubans are not going to follow a lapdog of the extreme fringe in Miami asking for make their lives more miserable while living comfortably from the dissident business.

  • Yes we should.

    You’re appealing to emotion, Alfredo.

    Mandela is considered a ‘saint’ but he’s not perfect neither right all the time. The Reagan administration supported the Apartheid regime along with Maggie T, whose photo with Mandela is at least embarrassing. Alas the US considered Mandela a ‘terrorist’ for decades.

    And he’s a VERY bad example for side-by-side comparasion with these fake ‘human rights’ actvists who prefer to gather their $$$ from the USINT rather than doing something productive. To further ‘complicate’ this bad choice, we all know that Mandela is a long-time friend of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel. Unlike any measure taken by the US, Cuba has done A LOT aiding Mandela’s struggle. You said you were impressed with fast youtube access, well take a look at this –

  • Another commentor to HT once wrote, “if the embargo is Castro’s excuse for the lack of medicines, technology and other life-saving equipment in Cuba, how is it that these prohibited items are available in tourists hospitals like Ciro Garcia in Havana and to the Castro elite in the CIMEQ hospital where Chavez was treated?”. Likewise, since there is no embargo against Venezuela, why doesn’t Venezuela simply purchase these items on behalf of their Cuban masters? The answer is of course they do. The circumvention of the US embargo against Cuba is laughable. Yoani Sanchez is correct that the embargo is the best excuse the Castros could have hoped for as a rallying call to unite Cubans and their allies against foreign intervention. Nonetheless, maintaining the embargo against dictatorial rule and the repression of human rights is a moral imperative. To do any less would hand the Castros an unmerited victory. Announcing the date ending the presidency of Raul Castro is a symbolic first step towards the changes demanded by the US Congress. Other pro-democratic political reforms should at least be seriously considered by the Cuban ruling elite before the US would begin to abdicate our sovereign right to determine with whom we do business. As Mandela was wise to understand that international sanctions against the white South African apartheid regime was morally correct despite the disproportionate pain inflicted on South African blacks, Senora Soler is equally correct to ask that the embargo, with marginal impact against Cuba, be maintained.

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