Cuba’s Response to Embargo Weakening Measures

Osmel Ramírez Alvarez

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s official declaration in the face of new Obama administration measures which aim to relax embargo restrictions, was received here with doubts, complaints and a little hope.

These follow and fit in with the last set of measures put into place, which aim to make human and capital flow more viable. The economic embargo still exists and remains subject to legislation which cannot be ignored. Obama sways between his prerogatives and takes steps towards his objectives. He knows he’s up against some powerful forces and that he’s rubbing some people wrong.

On the other hand, the Cuban government is never satisfied. Progress is slow and hard to come by. And that’s not exactly strange. Here, we are used to transcendental decisions being made by leaders, bypassing the legislature. They are the Parliament. As the Council of State, they act as the Parliament for most of the year.

The truth is they belong to Parliament, they are legislators. However, 0-50% of them are delegates who have been nominated and elected by the general population. Instead, they belong to another group created by the Electoral Commission.

In compensation for the measures taken by the US, and first checking its real potential, they promise to rescind the 10% tax on US dollars entering the country. I still remember it as if it were today when this punitive measure was established.

Fidel spoke to the Cuban people, in one of his habitual long-winded speeches. He mentioned the difficulties the government encounters with using dollars because of additional laws and costs. He reminded us, like he always did, of our statistical well-being (infant mortality rate lower than in the US, the calories we consume per person, the number of doctors we have per thousand inhabitants, the number of Olympic medals, etc.). He spoke of imperialism which lurks about us and drummed up nationalism. Everything ended the moment the 10% tax on the dollar was announced. The auditorium broke out in cheer.

The next day, nobody talked about anything else but “the horse” (one of Fidel’s nicknames). “He really socked it to the gringos” – said a number of them. “Now they’re really finished, he put a tax on the dollar.”

However, it was a big surprise a few days later when we discovered that the euphoric law wasn’t made against the gringos, but against us very Cubans.

The tax was for dollars entering the country, effectively reducing the value of remittances. If your loved ones sent you $100, the State robbed you of $10, and this was supposed to make life hard for the Americans. It was a strange way of hurting the great imperial enemy by robbing your own people.

Many Cubans live or just about manage to survive thanks to these remittances. In a country where a quarter of its inhabitants live abroad, many people have a family member outside. Not everybody sends money back and sometimes the relative isn’t very close or attached to family members back home. But many people benefit as a result, directly or indirectly. If more money comes in, more money is moving around and small businesses can continue to prosper.

It meant 10% less in the hands of families. Ten percent which family members have had to sweat far away from their home for and who cut back on their own expenses in order to help their loved ones. It sounds like robbery to me. If the US made Cuba spend more because of the embargo, why should the people who have nothing to do with this pay for it? Now, they’ll remove the draconian law as a response to relaxing the embargo, if it works. It’s not fair; they should get rid of it unconditionally.

I don’t receive remittances, not today, not ever. I don’t have any close relatives abroad, nor anyone attached. So I don’t disagree, nor criticize on a personal level. I’m merely against injustice and my “pen” is committed to writing about a better Cuba.

In relation to ending the embargo, it seems to all be coming along very well. Regarding Cuba’s stance on the subject, I think that it should respond with equal legislation meant to shatter our domestic embargo, which is more suffocating for the Cubans who remain here. I hope ending the 10% tax is only the beginning. But I must be honest: although I’m optimistic, it wasn’t what I thought it was.

4 thoughts on “Cuba’s Response to Embargo Weakening Measures

  • Obama is making great progress given how much cement has set in on 1960’s policy. Too bad Clinton signed the Helms Burton act. Without that mistake this would be over.

    Trump has said he is for making a deal to end the embargo. If it’s Hillary she will be distracted with impeachment proceedings. Sanders like Trump would also move to end the embargo, but the party wants to block his nomination.

  • Were Trump to win the Republican nomination he would fall flat in a general election. I believe it will be Hillary that will take the presidency

  • Welcome to I think you will find the articles and comments on this site, spanning all across the political spectrum, interesting, insightful and, depending on your perspective, occasionally frustrating. In that vein I would like to offer my opinion on some of your comments above. I believe that despite any moral failings the US may have it is quite appropriate for the president to comment in the many abuses of the totalitarian Cuban regime. We’re the president’s visit to bring about even the smallest change, such as tolerating open and free speech / debate, such as you currently enjoy, his trip can be said to have been successful. Even now the Cuban people will, hopefully, be subjected to unfiltered news coverage (I at least heard that this was the case) of the presidents trip and speeches) With respect to your comment about the Cuban distrust of the “ugly old USA, I wonder…..are you differentiating between the ruling communist government or the Cuban people? They are not the same thing. Millions of Cubans live in your hated US. Cubans risk their very lives on the open ocean to escape Cuba and reach the US. I think that very fact speaks louder than anything you or I can ever ever say.


  • I’m ashamed to state that this is my first visit to the Havana Times. But perhaps better late than never? I do intend to visit often, from this day on. Today, I want to share an article that appeared in the New York Times this morning:

    Obama Hopes Cuba Visit Can Be
    Harbinger of Political Change

    And here follows my comment submitted to the New York Times for posting:

    OMG! What a collection of far-right opinions in an obvious propaganda diatribe: “acountry that has been a bitter adversary of the United States”? It’s just
    the opposite for the past 50 years, New York Times, and you and your
    Republican/neo-con corporatist clients know that all too well! “Mr. Obama
    does not plan to use his visit to issue an ultimatum to Mr. Castro on human
    rights”? Well I should hope not, in light of the ongoing despicable global
    human rights record of the ugly old USA! “nor does he go bearing pledges
    to end United States democracy programs in Cuba that aim to undercut the
    communist government there.” This should read: “nor does Mr. Obama go
    bearing pledges not to allow a return to U.S. corporate/oligarchic attempts to
    control commerce in Cuba as it was prior to the Cuban revolution.” But
    finally a truth about the Cuban people’s tremendous, understandable and
    well-placed distrust of the ugly old USA: “The Cubans aren’t sure what the U.S.
    intentions are — whether this is being done because it is a Trojan horse or a
    hidden regime-change policy . .” Well said, Carlos M. Gutierrez, extremely
    well put!
    Wishing all of Cuba a Happy Palm Sunday and a Joyous Easter!
    Jim Michie
    Bethesda, Maryland

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