By Vicente Antonio de Castro
HAVANA TIMES – Once again, the majority at the United Nations voted to condemn the US embargo on Cuba. This year’s vote was held on Thursday and has been held every year for the past 27 years but doesn’t have any real effect. However, the Cuban government continues to raise the subject annualy in front of the UN General Assembly, looking for the symbolic effect this might have in the international arena and in legitimizing the regime within Cuba.
The Cuban government’s first argument is that the Embargo is illegal. However, they haven’t taken it to any International Criminal Court or any international court of arbitration, including any US court.
They say they won’t do this because, even if these courts rule in Cuba’s favor and prove that the embargo is illegal, the US won’t respect the ruling, but isn’t that exactly what has been happening at the UN all these years? Isn’t it the symbolic value that really matters? Wouldn’t it be even more symbolic if it had real legal support, a concrete sentence?
Some people think that the Cuban government isn’t filing any legal complaints against the US because they fear that the US’ right to trade with whoever they want would be confirmed in any real court, and not in a political assembly like the UN, which would leave the Cuban government without one of its most handy arguments.
The other great argument they have is the harm that the Embargo causes to the Cuban population. That’s an undeniable fact, but is the Embargo the thing that really hurts the Cuban population the most?
Nobody had an embargo on China or Vietnam, and yet they were still extremely poor as they clung onto a centralized economic model, which only began to make progress when they accepted the free market, with all of its consequences.
When the USSR subsidized Fidel Castro’s government with enormous handouts, did Cuba make progress? No, the moment they lost this aid, it became clear just how much of a disaster our economy was, a great lie that had been upheld by political begging.
The collapse of the Soviet Bloc showed us just how backward this part of the world was in technology, culture, social advances and science, from the Russian metropolis to the very last of its colonies, which was the result of a lack of freedom and State centralism, not an embargo.
From this perspective, it seems that the Embargo isn’t the main cause for our current state of crisis, maybe the centralized and planned economy has a lot more to do with our hardship.
The most important thing many people both inside and outside of Cuba understand is that the Cuban government upholds an anti-democratic and totalitarian system of government, which cuts individual freedoms short, as well as freedom of conscience and property, which are the foundations of every other freedom, and many of us think that there won’t be sustainable prosperity without individual freedom.
Therefore, it would be immoral to get rid of the Embargo in the eyes of those who support it, as this would only result in the perpetuation of a government that hasn’t been elected by its people and stands in the way of freedom, and as a result, the economic progress of its own people.
People who support the Embargo think that the moral, humanitarian thing to do is to place X amount of international pressure, X amount of international isolation, so that the Cuban government finds itself forced to give in and grant its people their freedom and that the Cuban people’s tough situation can only improve when this sovereignty is passed onto the people, when consciences and ideas can circulate and gather together.
By the way, I personally don’t think that there is a humanitarian interest behind the US embargo policy, it is rather a geopolitical interest for a country with global interests. In the same vein, I think that people who are fighting to get rid of it are doing so out of their own political interest, not out of humanity. So careful, the REASON the Embargo exists is only relevant when judging the US government’s ethics, but when judging whether the Embargo is CONVENIENT, well that’s just a question of whether it is useful or not for the future for the Cuban people.
Also, it’s a very strange Embargo. The United States figures among Cuba’s top ten trading partners, ahead of “friends” such as Russia. Just a few days ago, a mixed Cuban-US pharmaceutical company opened up. US tourists continue to come pouring in (less since Trump came into office) and the chicken I buy for my children, which my government sells me for the price of three days wages/per kilo, comes from the US.