Let’s Talk about the US Blockade

By Repatriado

Havana mural. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES – Official Cuban media have recently launched another propaganda campaign about the Blockade, to reinforce the idea that it is the main source of all our problems.

Let’s analyze these arguments:

  • It is isn’t fair because it is a conditioning factor for Cuba which reduces its ability to compete with other countries.

I would say that is neither fair nor unfair, it just is. Every country has relative advantages and disadvantages. The Blockade is one of Cuba’s disadvantages, but the Cuban people’s admiration of messianic leaders is another disadvantage. However, Cuba has many advantages that other nations would be envious of: a great coastline, a regular and predictable climate, flatlands, a single time zone, a population that is culturally and linguistically homogeneous, a strategic geographical location.

  • The blockade is an interfering imposition.

The essence of the Blockade is that the US government won’t allow most trade with the Cuban government or allow it to use its currency. Plus, the former has warned the international community that it will not trade with whoever decides to trade with the Cuban government. Does a country’s government not have every right to establish its foreign trade policy? Doesn’t every country do this, including Cuba? If the United States government doesn’t want to trade with Cuba or anyone else who trades with Cuba, is that being interfering? Don’t friendly countries like Venezuela do the same when they refuse to sell oil or threaten to do this?

Interfering would be to try and force the US government to trade with nations they don’t want to because of their own reasons.

  • It’s illegal.

If it’s illegal, why haven’t any of the laws that make up the Blockade been denounced in front of US courts? Why does the Cuban government turn to the UN General Assembly and not to the International Court?

  • It’s immoral.

I agree with this point. It is immoral to exploit a people’s hardships even when you believe that you are seeking out the greater good by freeing them of a tyrannical government. However, it is also immoral of the Cuban government to choose and decide in the name of a people they have never consulted, forcing us to pay the extremely high price of being enemies with the greatest world power, a price which the people pay, not our leaders who never have to go without anything.

  • It violates Human Rights.

It always astonishes me when I hear the Cuban government talk about how a foreign government is violating the Cuban people’s human rights… I only ask myself, is it the Cuban government’s right to trade with the United States? Obviously, it isn’t.

  • It’s the main reason why 60 years of a “socialist” government haven’t been able to achieve sustainable economic progress, this is why advances made in education and healthcare are deteriorating quickly.

Jose Luis Rodriguez, a consultant at the International Economy Research Centre (CIEM) and former Cuban Economy minister, one of the people who best understands this subject, said the following when talking about Cuba’s foreign trade and its relationship with Moscow between 1961 and 1991: “the relationship in exchange terms reveal a favorable balance for Cuba whose revenue exceeded what they would have made by trading at global market prices by 50%.” That’s to say that Cuba was bringing in 50% more than it would have if it had been trading on the global market, even without a blockade!

Soviet subsidies during those 30 years were estimated to stand around 120 billion, “without this figure taking into account the payment and trade facilities socialist countries granted the island, without taking into account all of the extra aid that Cuba received from other socialist member states of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and without taking into account the high rents the USSR paid for military and intelligence facilities, for example, the 200 million USD Russia paid every year to rent out the Lourdes SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) Center in Pinar del Rio.”

The former minister pointed out the fact that the “US blockade cost the country approximately 30 billion” during that time, which means that the scales were still tipped in Cuba’s favor.

From 1991 to 2000, Cuba had to survive with its own resources for the first time since this government came into power. The result? An epidemic of optic neuropathy due to vitamin deficiencies, sharks in the Florida Strait doubling in size and a country whose infrastructure, literally and still, is falling to pieces.

Ever since 2000, the Cuba-Venezuela Cooperation Agreement has rescued the Cuban government. With this agreement, Cuba sends thousands of professionals in semi-slavery conditions to Venezuela in exchange for foreign currency, oil and huge investments. This is the way that Chavez found to pay for Fidel’s patronage.

As a result, saying that the Blockade is the main reason for Cuba’s failed socialist system is a lie, a poor excuse. This system that our government chose and imposed so they could survive politically has failed even when its existence has been financed with foreign sums of money that far exceed whatever it has lost as a result of the Blockade!

I would look for the reason for this economic disaster in the State’s monopoly and its infinite ways of paralyzing society and preventing any independent progress within their control with monetary, Customs, tax or trade policies that resemble the ones Spain imposed on Cuba during colonial times.

16 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about the US Blockade

  • September 21, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    You don’t understand business. If Cuba could produce more, they would and the marketplace would buy it. Yes, demand creates supply but only after the market has identified quality supply exists. First comes the product, then comes the buyer. If Cuba had a 1000 high quality software architects hanging around unemployed, they would get snapped up. The reality is they don’t. As Kevin Costner said, “…if you build it, they will come”.

  • September 20, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    I think the situation is as follows. If you are of Cuban descent or a diplomat or journalist you can travel to Cuba. Otherwise you can only travel legally as part of a so called people to people cultural package. If you don’t mind breaking the law you could travel to a third country like Mexico first and you would be unlikely to get caught as your passports won’t be stamped and I don’t think anyone checks credit cards or anything like that. But maybe someone has better info on this.

  • September 19, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Perhaps this comment is in the wrong place or out of context, but I’ve seen many comments on the site and somewhat in this tread about opening up tourism. As an American who was in Cuba last week, tourism seems wide open to Cuba. It wasn’t difficult at all to get a visa for the country. Yes, we came in on a cruise ship. I’ve seen how others get flamed on here for their “cruise ship, tourist experience”. I can understand the point and yes it was very touristy. My wife and I have never been on a cruise before and didn’t know what to expect. We chose the cruise mainly because it had 2 days in Havana. We loved the city. Granted I especially was enthralled by the beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture amidst decay and poverty. The city is raw and beautiful with amazing people we met. Given that we’ve traveled quite a bit outside the US we aren’t naive to the facts of the oppressive government and associated tyrannical practices. However, Cuba is a beautiful country. And a large number of Americans are infatuated with Cuba given the history and proximity to the US. So I guess my real point is I’m confused on the tourism limitations and would like to understand this better. We are planning a return trip the first part of 2019. You can get direct flights out of Miami to Havana that are very cheap. The arguments throughout the comments about the impact of the embargo are beyond my level of knowledge. Maybe I’m foolish, don’t know.

  • September 19, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Between the blocking of tourism the increased price and costs of importing and the lack of access to the US market the affect of the embargo is significant. Even just allowing tourism would do a lot for the Cuban economy.

    Companies don’t produce in excess of what they can sell. If there is greater demand combined with investment they will expand and increase production. Cubans aren’t congenitally unable to produce more.

    There are many things that they could excel in other than the obvious of rum and cigars. Cuban honey and wine is particularly good in my opinion. Also there is a high level of education in technological fields. An obvious area would be agencies for writing software and providing IT contractors.

  • September 17, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Let’s cut to the chase. The US embargo has very little effect on the Cuban economy due to the prohibition of commercial companies trading with Cuba. The only real impact is the prohibition of using US dollars and the lack of access to credit. Even these limitations are mostly owed to Cuba’s low productivity. Even if there were no limits to Cuba’s ability to sell products to the US, the Cuban economy would not benefit greatly. Think about it: it’s not like there are warehouses full of Cuban rum, coffee, or cigars left unsold because of the embargo. Cuba sells all that they can produce. The problem is that they don’t produce enough stuff.

  • September 17, 2018 at 8:40 am

    The fact is that the embargo EXCLUDES food and medicine. You should acknowledge that correction. Secondly, when indeed countries do actually engage in commercial trade in Cuba, the US has never sanctioned that country. China, Russia, Brazil and many others engage in government to government trade with Cuba and the US heartily continues our trade relationship with every one of these countries. Our trade sanctions with Russia have NOTHING to do with the Cuban embargo.

  • September 17, 2018 at 8:27 am

    I Have sure Bought & Eaten Lots of U.S.A.D. Chicken the last 2 years in Cuba.

  • September 15, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    At one time the US embargo included blocking access to medicine and food. Most trade between countries is done through companies so it is perfectly valid to use the term. However if a government department traded with Cuba it would also probably be blocked.

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