The Time to Lift the Cuba Blockade is Now

Elio Delgado Legon

Havana Currency Exchange House. Foto: Juan Suárez.

HAVANA TIMES — Recent news seems to suggest changes in the opinions of a number of individuals and governments with respect to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States more than 50 years ago.

Reports from the United States inform us of the statements former Florida governor Charlie Crist made to the press. Crist referred to the blockade as an “inefficient relic” and called for its lifting. In his judgment, this would allow Florida farmers, manufacturers and others to enter into commercial relations with Cuba that would bolster the economy and create jobs.

Over the last few weeks, Florida businesspeople and personalities have called for the lifting of this, the longest blockade in history – a blockade that has cost the Cuban people more than a 1.1 trillion dollars.

Let us not forget, what’s more, that the blockade on Cuba has been condemned at the UN General Assembly by nearly all of the international community for 22 consecutive years.

More recently – this past February 10 – the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) approved seeking negotiations surrounding political and cooperation talks with Cuba.

It is curious that EU foreign ministers approved this point without a previous debate. This means there was unanimity of opinions on this matter, dealing a crushing blow to the so-called “Common Position” vis-à-vis Cuba advanced in 1996 by the then Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar.

According to press reports, the aim is to “broaden spaces of cooperation with the island, support its socio-economic reforms and encourage greater respect towards human rights.” What the report doesn’t say is where they would encourage “greater respect towards human rights”, because, in many European countries, there is still plenty to be done in this connection. It remains to be seen where human rights are respected more, in Cuba or in Europe.

Bucanero beer truck. Photo: Juan Suarez

That same day, after these reports were divulged, EU Ambassador in Havana Herman Portocarrero offered a press conference to report on this decision, declaring he had submitted a letter from the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherina Ashton to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez to inform him of the EU’s decision.

Portocarrero called the decision a “very important step in relations with Cuba, as it will allow us to make future inroads and result in mutual benefits. We trust that mutual respect and the determination to find common ground will prevail,” he said, adding that, “during the CELAC Summit, we’ve seen that Cuba plays a very important role in regional cooperation efforts. We think that Cuba will play a very powerful role in future regional integration, something we want to support,” he concluded.

On Tuesday, February 11, Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy and his Republican colleague Jeff Flake demanded that the US government put an end to the commercial, economic and financial blockade on Cuba, alleging that the majority of Americans long to see a change in the country’s policy towards Cuba. The legislators pointed out that there is much to be gained from “eliminating this Cold War relic.”

With these outdated policies, we are not isolating Cuba, we are isolating ourselves, they stated in an article published by the Miami Herald.

In my opinion, both the European Union and many US government officials are coming to the realization that, while the blockade causes the Cuban economy considerable damage, our country continues to make progress and to develop – perhaps not as quickly as we would want, but the future is promising. The feeling of isolation stems from seeing the role Cuba is playing in terms of the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the world’s most important regions.

Ambassador Portocarrero says as much when he stresses “Cuba’s role as the leader of the integration process impelled through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which is of immense value for the European Union, wishing, as it does, to strengthen relations with countries in the region.”

The Cuban government immediately issued a declaration, signed by Vice-Minister Rogelio Sierra, declaring that “Cuba will consider the invitation advanced by Europe in a respectful and constructive manner, in adherence to its sovereignty and national sovereignty.”

Unquestionably, a change in the EU’s policy towards the island and the elimination of the US blockade are very important – but let no one believe they will be able to use such measures to blackmail this country or to meddle in its internal affairs.

24 thoughts on “The Time to Lift the Cuba Blockade is Now

  • I have nothing against the US military, they only do what they are told to.

  • The triple “E” ship could unload at Mariel and pick up bulk cargo in Brazil as is contemplated in Europe. Cuba would not be an end destination for most of the containers. Even more likely with the Panama canal not able to take triple “E” and the new canal in Niqueragua.

  • I travel all over the world. I have never been scared to be identified as an American. OK, I have never been to North Korea, Syria, Iran or (insert rogue state) so you may be right in those countries. An American passport allows me to travel to most countries without a visa so I don’t see the problem you claim exists. In fact, in most countries, being American has it advantages. Cuba purchases food and medicines from the US, not exactly a choice on their part. Not trading with the US hurts them more than us. I admit polls can be manipulated. I am proud of the US military.

  • Do you make this crap up in your head. That is not how it works. Container ships pick up containers OR they unload containers. Cuba would more likely be a transfer point as opposed to a beginning or end destination. This means the ship would have to leave Cuba and dock somewhere else and could not make port in the US for 6 months.

  • I think that Brazil is hoping that South America can use Mariel as a hub for container traffic. The US is becoming less of a concern.

  • Moses,
    #1. World opinion does matter, you expect Cuba to accept the US gov. opinion on what Cuba should do and be but think the US is above negative World opinion. The US government is looked on negatively because of it’s foreign policy and constant intervention into countries internal affairs and this even has a negative effect on US travelers who are scared to identify as being American for fear of reprisal. There was no conclusive evidence on which side used chemical weapons in Syria and Cuba has a right to have an opinion as well as you or anyone else. The US resolution to that problem was to blast the shite out of them and it took the Russians to defuse that intervention. (See Guantanamo for US torture camps)
    #2. Minimum impact on the Castros and shamefully much impact on the Cuban people.
    #3. I think Cuba should minimize its trade with the US until it changes its attitude of intervention into the affairs of sovereign nations.
    #4. So you admit that the media is manipulative?
    #5 I know that “squashing them like a bug” concept makes you drool.
    #6. The US has tried to bump off the Castros many times and has not been successful (talk to your buddies in Florida they can give you more specifics)
    #7. The US has backed many worse governments and still does. At least the Cuban people are healthy and well educated compared to other third world countries.

  • You are missing the point. It is not about the port itself. Ports are merely passages through which commerce takes place. It is about the container vessels that carry the products. Without the US in the transaction, there is far less reason to send the deep water ships to Cuba.

  • The US is rated #16 in the world as far as ports go, even Canada is ahead at #11. Brazil has a bigger plan for Mariel as it only has a bulk port that can handle triple “E” vessels

  • a country where people can not express their ideas is not a free country.

  • I left Wall Street long before the crash and went to the Silicon Valley. Don’t blame me! I have no doubt that there are encouraging news stories from time to time in Cuba. A bumper potato crop one year, an increase in repeat tourism the next. But OVERALL, the sky is gray. You may choose to shut your eyes and deny this but Cuba is literally crumbling to the ground. The Port of Mariel only makes economic sense IF the embargo is lifted. Otherwise, those triple “E” container ships you mentioned won’t come. As creditworthiness goes, US ports are rated much higher than the junk bond credit rating in Cuba. Cuba BORROWED the money from Brazil. They will have to pay it back someday and somehow.

  • #1. It is a bi-lateral foreign policy law. World opinion is not relevant. BTW, ‘hate’ is too strong a word. The world ‘hates’ the use of chemical weapons such as was used by Cuba-pal Syria. The world ‘hates’ prison work camps such as exists in the other Cuba BFF North Korea.
    #2. Agreed. Minimum impact on the Cuba people. Less on the Castros.
    #3. $1.2 billion is a rounding error. Not a significant enough amount of money to drive policy decisions.
    #4. This poll was a joke. The questions asked generated the responses desired. Called a push-poll.
    #5. Agreed. We could squash ’em like a bug.
    #6. Agreed. But hard to go after the Castros directly.
    #7. Not if you are living in Cuba today under the Castros tyranny.

  • Moses, look at feb 13 in Huff Post and the item on removal of Cuban blockade

  • OK agent Moses, this explains why you are still drinking the North American media cool aid. You were part of the big rip off foisted on the small American investors that resulted in many people loosing everything and bailouts and bonuses for the fat cat wall street people. You know that the “big guys” have computer programs that can manipulate trading to suit them. If you have a Cuban American wife I assume you read Spanish and you should read more small town local papers from Cuba and more international news to get a better picture of the goings on not reported in any of our North American media. Have you seen the articles on some of the non agricultural co-ops and how well they are doing organizationally and financially in Cuba? Have you seen articles on the renewal of the rail lines from Havana to Santiago, the start up of the largest diesel electric plant in Cuba in the town of Moa, the purchase of 300 some odd bud cars for rail passenger transport to Mariel and the rest of Cuba? The port of Mariel being able to dock triple “E” (18000 TU) container vessels that even the port of Savanah can’t take without an estimated 590 million dollar investment in dredging etc. Is there money available to upgrade US ports?

  • Comrade pipefitter, as a
    former Wall Street investment banker (VP, Bear Stearns), I can tell you that
    the NYSE and NASDAQ numbers are not manipulated to suit anyone but instead
    are mostly a reflection of the largest money managers equity positions and market confidence.
    Period. I get my Cuban ‘info’ from Granma, CubaDebate and Cuba’s ‘official’
    statistics ministry ONE. Which part of the ‘picture’ I presented in my comments
    is different in your view? Please provide proof.

  • Agent Moses, you are judging the US economies condition with the stats that are manipulated and that they want you to hear not the reality. The stock and money markets are manipulated to suit greedy investors with trades made in a fraction of a second. You must be getting your Cuban info from the Miami Herald as I see a different picture.

  • Good comment John, I have always thought that the US, as powerful militarily as it is, is afraid of what Cuba could be, not what it is now. With all the obstacles put in front of it, Cuba has survived. With shipping bans, equipment bans, fines for companies dealing with Cuba and no reciprocal trade with Cuba among many other negative ramifications of the blockade they have survived. The US will be left in the dust as friends like Brazil, China and India help Cuba and now may bee the EU will also. We can watch the US spiraling downward economically as this US demise is predicted by some very accurate US economists. The Latin American countries are forming there own economic community to try to help each other out in spite of the US. With the new Cuban non agricultural cooperatives being formed now in Cuba it will be up to the Cuban people to take advantage of this opportunity to raise their standard of living by equally sharing the rewards, failings and giving them direct input into the management of their own destiny. We can only hope that the US might take this opportunity to not continue to try to impose its so called democracy on all other countries.

  • What a ridiculous comment. The US economy, while there are no fireworks, is showing signs of life with a record high stock market and a falling unemployment rate. The normal benchmarks are the best they have been in five years. On the other hand, Cuba’s dyspeptic economy shows no signs of turnaround despite the propaganda put out by the regime. Agricultural production continues to fall, emigration is rising, tourism revenues are stagnant and food imports are increasing. Which part of the economy is going forward? Criticizing the US is sport for America-haters but it does not equate to good news for Cuba.

  • And how do we propose that the human race finally get free of the communist society? it is ugly to live in the 21 first century and see that still there is an ideology based in a one only, supreme party system which oppresses its own people. Whether is prudent to keep the embargo or not is another thing, the aim should be to ensure that the communist system disappear forever everywhere in the world.

  • No one is more resolute than I am to see relations between the US and Cuba move towards normalization. I would personally benefit if my wife’s family’s lives were to improve due to changes brought about by increased trade and commerce between the US and Cuba. To that end, I urge that Cuba act post-haste in implementing the positive changes required under the Helms-Burton Act. This is the only way the embargo can be lifted and those who support its lifting should refocus their effects to encourage the Castros to cooperate.

  • The Cuban economy does not function at all.
    The Cuban elite around Raul – just look at the pictures of his granddaughter in New York with a Rolex and Gucci bag – will become the new oligarchs of the second stage of the Castro disaster.
    Communism has been shown not to work anywhere. Socialism only works in its democratic version in a mixed economy.
    Cuba – like North Korea – shows that.
    In communism – by definition – there is no democracy.
    Only in democratic socialism with freedom of speech, freedom of association and economic freedom democracy flourishes.

  • Yes the Cuban economy is still in a doldrum situation but under control and going slowly forward, and not in the financial mess like its mentor to the north which has over spending debt of $17 trillion dollars or a debt of $54,350,81 for every one of its citizens.

  • While I agree with you, I would not advise getting on the slippery slope that is capitalism .
    I am all for individual or cooperative ventures into the market but not for anything exploitive of others nor for anything other than democratic workplaces.
    Having a boss who is a dictator who can cause you to lose your job because he doesn’t like your hair or something else like that is retaining one of the worst aspects of capitalism .
    It can lead to that great and inequitable and growing division of wealth that so afflicts the capitalist world.
    In other words, Cuba must walk carefully on its new path so that it leads to greater equity, opportunity and most of all, democracy in all facets of life and not to go back to capitalism and all the totalitarian forms it takes.
    Make no mistake about this: capitalism is a mean hombre.
    It is ruthless and persistent in how it corrupts human beings and is as addictive as heroin…… but more deadly .
    A little capitalism is like a little heroin.

  • Thank you for a most informative and objective piece.
    Of course, my view is that the War On All The People Of Cuba, euphemistically called the embargo is a part of a hundred year old U.S. foreign policy imperative that involves destroying any attempts at democratic economies and societies ( also called socialism or communism ) .
    The Cuban embargo , you MUST remember was set in place some 54 years ago EXPLICITLY to make life so miserable for every man, woman and child in Cuba that they would overthrow THEIR attempt at a democratic economy and society .
    That embargo, that economic war by the GOUSA is just one more tile in a huge foreign policy mosaic that has killed millions and overthrown democratically elected and democratically placed governments in well over 50 instances.
    ( go to the “Killing Hope” website for a list of 54 U.S. interventions between the end of WWII and the mid-nineties. )
    For that reason, for that set-in-stone policy, it is doubtful that the embargo will be lifted any time soon .
    It must also be understood that as corrupt as it is, as undemocratic as it is, as unsocialist and uncommunist as it is, the Cuban State-run economy functions fairly well given that it has a war being waged upon it.
    No capitalist economy could have survived that 54 year U.S. attack on it.
    Once the Cuban economy has the burdens of the U.S. War On Cuba removed , it will rise very quickly and provide the dreaded “good example” of what a non-capitalist and humane economy is capable of doing.
    It is this dread, this natural fear of democratic societies developing in the world and in opposition to U.S. ( capitalist) imperialism in the minds of ruling class of the U.S. that drives the maintaining of the Cuban embargo .
    Nothing else …and it is a very valid fear .
    A great many people think that socialism and communism cannot work and never have worked because they either do not know what socialism and communism are or because they do not like the concept of democracy.

  • It is past time to end the embargo against Cuba and allow unrestricted travel and trade. It is also time to end the designation of Cuba as a terrorist state. Cuba has taken the lead in negotiating a settlement between the FARC and the Colombian government. Cuba should be commended for its social policies in health and education and upholding women’s rights by not permitting strip clubs, massage parlors and mail order bride schemes. On the other hand it should accelerate the move toward allowing free expression and encouraging private enterprise as the principal engine of economic growth. The reliance on state capitalism has hindered the Cuban economy. It should learn from China that private enterprise is the most important factor in spreading employment and wealth.

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