HAVANA TIMES — For fifty years, the Cuban economy has had to play the game with barefoot athletes, a one-handed goalkeeper, a rival with a smaller goal and a referee who’s been bought. Despite all this, sports commentators criticize it because it doesn’t score goals.
First, they declared an economic and commercial embargo that deprived the island of access to the largest and closest world market. Then, they turned it into a blockade to “discourage” businesses in third countries with intentions of trading with or investing in Cuba.
They barred Cuba from using the US dollar, even though many international transactions are carried out using this currency and, in case any banker had any doubts, started applying fines everywhere, going as far as fining a French bank US $8 billion.
The Cuban economy had to resort to Soviet technology, which was far less developed and consumed much more energy. A Ural-brand motorcycle consumes more fuel than a car, and let’s not even talk about the trucks, buses, harvesters or tractors imported from the USSR.
Blaming the economic embargo for all of Cuba’s disasters was of course also a tactic used to conceal the failure of many utopian plans that undermined the nation’s economic foundations even more. Those disasters had no foreign help, they were 100% Cuban.
There’s no shortage of examples: the destruction of fruit trees in Havana for the planting of coffee, the revolutionary offensive of 1968, which nationalized all small businesses, the sugarcane harvest of 1970, the creation of massive State farms and the abyss between economic possibilities and education.
The blockade can also not be blamed for the centralization of all economic decisions, or for the creation of a bureaucracy that was as large as it was inept and corrupt. Those to blame for this economic model aren’t the enemies but the “friends” that it was copied from.
Investment in education was, economically, the most profitable. Cuba trained over one million professionals and, today, medical doctors, university professors, sport coaches, engineers, architects and scientists are the nation’s largest source of hard currency.
To fairly evaluate the Cuban economy today is a difficult task. Some argue that the island’s economic crisis demonstrates communism’s inability to generate wealth. Others believe the nation was able to survive a blockade imposed by the world’s greatest power thanks only to socialism.
What continues to be very suspect is that those who claim the embargo is an excuse used by the Cuban government to justify its inefficiency also insist on maintaining it, against the express will of the president of the United States. Don’t they want to unmask their enemies?
In this connection, the Cuban government appears to be more coherent. In an interview with diplomat Johana Tablada, the reply about this was immediate: “the best way to confirm where the truth lies is to lift the blockade and let life tell the rest.”
Indeed, we’ll only be able to see the truth when Cuba ceases to suffer external economic reprisals and is allowed to develop under the same conditions that all other countries enjoy, including the use of all currencies and credits afforded by international organizations.
Following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the lifting of the blockade appears to be the next station along the way. The anti-embargo lobby has grown and secured allies as powerful as the US president and his Secretary of State.
Congress’ insistence on maintaining the embargo prevents US investors from coming to the island. All the while, the rapprochement begun by the White House encourages companies in third countries to find a niche in Cuba, without fear of US reprisals.
Even common folk perceive this contradiction. A nationwide poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that 72% of US citizens want the embargo to end so that US companies can conduct business in Cuba and Cuban companies can do so in the United States.
“The embargo isn’t likely to be lifted in one fell swoop. Instead, it will be eroded gradually and more and more clauses will be eliminated little by little,” notes Michael Shifter, Chair of Dialogo Interamericano (“Inter-American Dialogue”), a Washington think-tank specialized in US-Latin America relations.
The White House’s plan is to change tactics to reach the same aim, but the Republicans have thwarted these designs. Thanks to Congress, US tourists and companies will not invade but trickle into the island, allowing the Cuban government to manage the risks more easily.