Vicente Morin Aguado  (photos: Juan Suarez)

Reading the paper.

HAVANA TIMES — During an unforgettable session of the recently-concluded yearly conference of the ASCE – an organization based in the United States devoted to the study of the Cuban economy – journalist Miriam Leyva spoke about the immediate future of relations between the great, northern nation and our archipelago. The blockade or embargo was an obligatory subject. “We should begin top ut behind us this unavoidable dilemma, take other kinds of steps, move forward without this burden on our shoulders,” she said.

If I’ve misquoted her, I hope Miriam will read this post and correct me. In any event, her words have inspired some thoughts on the subject, which has been transformed by the Castro leadership into the chief problem affecting relations between the two countries since the triumph of the revolution. Miriam Leyva is the widow of Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a renowned Cuban diplomat and later dissident who became a valuable analyst of the island’s economy.

At the Miami Airport, I again saw what I perceived during my two days next to the very busy US Interests Section in Havana (USINT). The hundreds of people who gather in these two places every day confirm that relations between the two countries are beyond any attempt at a definitive rupture. Their roots reach deep into history and grow in a lush, green forest nourished by the beams of the tropical sun.

People’s luggage exceeded in weight those one comes across while boarding any other regular flight. I saw people paying the overweight to take those heavy loads to the island and asking other passengers with lighter luggage to carry some for them. The main thing, however, was and continues to be the links that exist among all Cubans, no matter where you may be. We know very well that such links exist in other places that the Cuban diaspora has reached.

The question invariably arises: why continue with the dilemma of the embargo or blockade? I don’t care one bit what they choose to call it, and less about what either part demands in this connection, if it’s more of the same political slogans.

I once again declare (and won’t be repeating this again) that I am opposed to the discriminatory punishment represented by this measure, implemented by President Kennedy. I don’t wish to repeat myself and propose that we move down a different road.

Snack time.

Cubans continue to arrive at US coasts, land borders and even airports looking for a habitat in the country. The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 favors them. Miriam was of the opinion, and I agree with her, that this legal status ought to be maintained, even if recent developments invite us to reassess the issue. It is still too early to decide on this: we are still hearing about people who beat women in Havana simply because they stage peaceful demonstrations against the government.

During a lunch organized by the ASCE, five young self-employed women who live and work in Cuba spoke of their experiences (successful until now) and gave their opinions about private property under the norms of Raul Castro’s reforms. They were evasive when asked about where their initial investment had come from.

Obama authorized the sending of up to five thousand dollars to anyone in Cuba through Western Union. One million Cubans live in the United States and smaller but not insignificant numbers are scattered around the planet. One of the attentive readers of my posts lives in far-away New Zealand.

Cuban-American relations cannot be suspended. They are above politicians, whose personal ambitions and wishes (be these pragmatic or ideological) are quickly left behind, and they adapt to the ties between families, that vast majority one doesn’t see on television, be it the Panda set one finds in Havana or the 3D device in Miami.

The blockade or embargo, I say, must be divorced from political slogans, and it is best to put it behind us. This would deal a devastating blow to the political extremes offered us by an opposition that, though once legitimate, is now out of step with the times, in Cuba and abroad.

Passing by the meat market.

At the farm product and livestock markets across the island, the price of pork continues to skyrocket. The same holds for the prices at other establishments, all under the monopoly control of the Party-State that still prevails among us.

On Miami television, I saw images of desperate Cubans on rafts, repatriated because they were intercepted at sea before setting foot on Vizcaino Key, Florida. I was also exposed to the unjustified cruelty shown Cuban immigrants by authorities in the Bahamas and no public condemnation of this on behalf of our government.

Cuban baseball players are securing multi-million-dollar contracts while some “luminaries of revolutionary sports”, already retired, prefer to do without the benefits offered them by their patriotic government and choose to seek refuge in the Sunshine State.

People come, go and leave: it is an unstoppable wave that no one dares to try and hold back.

We are skirting the dilemma of whether to keep or lift the blockade/embargo, going over those who, at either side of the Gulf, suck up the benefits of such an unsustainable position. It is time to boo at them and say to them the Cuban phrase of: “it’s all the same to us!”
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Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]


15 thoughts on “Cuba: Blockade or Embargo: It’s All the Same to Me

  • ha! it will NEVER go away because it is in fact an embargo, NOT a blockade. USA is the ONLY major country that imposes this. Cuba can and does trade with nearly every single country in the world. It will never go away because the Castros can blame their dismal failure of communism on the embargo and call it a blockade.

  • Terry you miss the point that Raul is not the mascot – he is the boss! He has been the head of the military since 1959. Who do you think appointed General Rodriguez to his post as CEO of Gaviota SA ? A binding commitment by Cuba to meet the conditions of free elections, multi-party elections with the parties being given time to form, free press and to meet the UN definition of Human Rights would result in lifting the embargo. It’s all in the US legislation. The obstacle is that Cuba is a Communist dictatorship and the conditions are unacceptable to those in power and potentially in power. If the US and the Cuban military were to meet it would be Raul representing he Cuban military!

  • Exactly, Carlyle. I think the only way that the US has any chance of turning the Cuban military (and lets face it…they’re running the country…Raul is just their mascot) is to give them assurances that should Cuba transition to a democratic government, their place at the head of the food chain would still be secure…and greatly enhanced too with the surge of new money that will be entering the country. Through careful and respectful negotiation in advance of normalizing relations, I firmly believe that they will agree to leave the politics of running the country to others. If not, then all bets are off. But the US and the Cuban military need to sit down and begin talking first.

  • You two (Moses and Terry Downey) are optimists. As long as the Castro family regime controls – and that could be for a long long time, relinquishing any power will not be within their minds. It is pleasant to see you agreeing with each other but following the much desired departure of Fidel and Raul, General Rodriguez and Espin with their economic power will exert power over Diaz-Canel who is let us remember the personal choice of Raul Castro Ruz. Fifty five years of the second US embargo has failed to initiate any change whatever. Wish I could share your optimism!

  • Not at all, Moses. I think your list is do-able, and in that order too. But I don’t think one can hope to have all 5 happen at precisely the same time. I think freeing Alan Gross is the easiest…but the US should also agree to allow the remaining Cuban 3 to return home too… done deal, and lets move on to bigger challenges. That would be a good start, and it would certainly lend confidence and spark enthusiasm for negotiating more. Your #2 could quickly follow that, although it would be interesting to know what the US government might provide in return… perhaps removing Cuba off the list of countries who sponsor terrorism. Your #3 and #5 could all happen simultaneously with your #4. But of course the US will need to begin normalizing relations first and tentatively begin to open up markets for joint business ventures to provide more confidence in the new relationship and potential for significant change. Dropping the travel ban is a no-brainer to kick things off for all concerned. Closer relations via tourism will inevitably breed and spin-off to create other opportunities for economic negotiation.

    Moses, to truly make it easy for the Cuban government to take on your #3 and #4, the US government will need to indirectly move them into a new comfort zone… they’ll need to have assurances that the top dogs will still have a place to earn a significant living in the new Cuba. Tourism is currently their meal-ticket, and they’ll need to be assured that with the marked increase in available US tourism, they’ll be living even better. That’s the carrot… have them follow the money. I agree with you…your #5 is neither here nor there as Raul’s days are numbered. But given that your list would take a number of years to accomplish, the US could at least begin the process with Cuba in advance of Raul stepping down. When he does, Cuba and the US will be perfectly positioned and aligned to then connect the dots and push hard at that time to finalize your #3 and #4. Money talks…and the US has more than enough to create new opportunities for negotiation, agreements, and business contracts. Dangle the carrot and watch them follow the money.

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