With the growth of an émigré community that has not been marked by the circumstances faced by the first wave of Cuban exiles, the number of those who support making the “embargo-blockade”* more flexible is also growing.
HAVANA TIMES — Over the past few decades, the nearly unanimous support for the US trade embargo / blockade among Cubans residing in the United States has given way to increasing calls to make these measures more flexible or to eliminate them altogether. This is what a number of polls conducted in Florida, and, more importantly, the inner logic of Cuban migration to the United States, seem to suggest.
Making these sanctions more flexible or eliminating them, in fact, has become an electoral campaign issue in Florida.
This article aims to help explain the causes behind these changes.
The First Wave of Exiles
The first wave of émigrés (including the mass exodus that took place in Camarioca in 1965) was chiefly prompted by the social commotion unleashed by the triumph of the popular insurrection of 1959 and the confrontations sparked off by the economic and political measures of the new government.
Among the émigrés were groups with ties to Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship (including its more notorious repressors), those who took part in the revolution and, as early as 1959, decided to confront Fidel Castro’s government (considering it a betrayal of the democratic ideals that had united them in the struggle against Batista), and sectors of the middle and high bourgeoisie that were expropriated by the de facto government and opposed the latter politically (and sometimes violently).
Most of those who left in these first exoduses did so with their families or became reunited with their relatives in subsequent years.
Naturally, and as was to be expected, these first groups have been characterized by their belligerence and have always aspired to overthrow the government through any means possible, owing to the bloody confrontations that took place before and after 1959 and the forceful nationalization of their properties, carried out in the name of a “socialist” system that has never existed.
Everything done during the first years of the revolution – without previously restoring the democratic mechanisms that had been the primary aim of the struggle against Batista – relied on the use of violence and ended up generating more violence.
The first generations of émigrés who were affected by and suffered the violence of those measures imposed on them in a non-democratic manner were and continue to be the main supporters of the embargo and the subsequent strengthening of its provisions (Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts). They are the same generations who have contributed to the more extreme policies of US administrations in their battle against “communism” in Cuba and its spread across the region.
Cuban-born figures who have attained important positions within the US government come from those first waves of émigrés and have been key in the development of the more drastic policies the United States has adopted against Cuba, policies that have hurt the Cuban people more than their government.
Later Waves of Émigrés
Later exoduses, by contrast, aren’t related to those initial armed conflicts or the nationalization of properties carried out during the first years of the revolution. They include the Mariel Exodus (1980) those that reached a peak in 1994, with the balseros crisis, and the ones that have been taking place through all traditional routes, facilitated by Cuba’s recent migratory reforms.
These are the result of Cuba’s worsening economic situation, stemming from the failure of “State socialism,” all the more evident since the collapse of its main source of external aid, the Soviet Union and “socialist” bloc, and expressed by popular frustration over the results of the limited reforms implemented at the close of the 90s and the no-less limited measures of today’s “reform process” (measures that, freely implemented, could have had a different outcome).
Because of this, these last migratory waves haven’t been prompted only by economic frustration. They also stem from growing political differences at the heart of Cuban society which have been developing since before the collapse of “real socialism,” having to do with the centralized and undemocratic ways in which the country’s politics and economy have been steered.
These groups, however, did not have significant properties or wealth to lose.
Here, we find mainly salaried State workers and professionals and independent entrepreneurs who are unhappy with the political and economic stagnation of the nation and are desirous of improving their standard of living and that of the relatives they left behind in Cuba.
As such, these last waves of émigrés are clearly different from the first, inasmuch as they have nothing to do with the nationalization of properties, and, even though they do not share and even oppose the policies of the same government, they generally do not assume violent positions that entail bloody confrontations (as their relatives have remained in Cuba and supporting them was part of the reason they left the country in the first place).
The majority of Cubans who have left the country in recent times have done so with the intention of returning, seeing their relatives again, helping them financially and, “if things change”, even settling back in the country to set up their own businesses there. As such, they could not be expected to support the blockade-embargo measures.
Those who left at the beginning of the revolution have also yearned to return to their country of birth, as most exiles the world over have. Many of them, however, long to return to the Cuba they once knew and lived in, something which is impossible, because Cuba – and the world – have experienced many changes since.
Among these émigrés there are also those who believe that the best way of steering today’s Cuba towards their political, economic and social aims – and of satisfying their nostalgic longings – is tolerant exchange. Some even pursue cooperation with the government with a view to developing “non-State” businesses in Cuba, favoring laxer blockade-embargo regulations and hoping that other developments will allow for political changes.
As Way of a Conclusion
Because these kinds of émigrés are growing in number as a result of these latest migratory waves, and because they aren’t marked by the same circumstances once faced by so-called “historical exiles” and are interested in helping the relatives they left behind, we are seeing more and more Cubans who favor more flexible policies and eliminating the embargo-blockade altogether.
This is an undeniable reality of our changing times. One may agree with their stance partially or totally, or one may oppose it completely. Whatever one’s position, my one aim is to make a modest contribution to the analysis of this problem.
* I use the term “blockade-embargo” or “embargo-blockade” to spare myself a semantic debate over a phenomenon we all know well, though we may refer to it differently.