The US Embargo: Cuba’s Ally or Enemy?

Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — Friends of the United States, political leaders who are not revolutionary in the least and many people who stand at a considerable distance from communism stand out among the vast majority of individuals, presidents and governments that oppose Washington’s obstinate policy towards Cuba. Many are of the conviction that, to date, the blockade/embargo has actually been an ally of Fidel Castro.

Such a conception of an “alliance” maintains that the socialist economic model established in Cuba relies on the US blockade, as an excuse it can invoke in order to justify its failure. It would indeed be hard to renounce such an “excuse”, particularly when we recall how unmatched the adversaries are and the evident damage that US aggression has caused in my country.

If we’re to talk of the blockade as an “ally”, we should, however, bear in mind another way of understanding this, namely, that of discerning that the establishment of capitalism in Cuba has been set in motion, slowly but irreversibly, and that the policy of isolation is best replaced with one of collaboration which can help hasten such changes as are considered inevitable.

In this light, Havana’s authoritarian government needs the continuing blockade, on the one hand, to justify its constant economic failures and, on the other, prevent radical changes within the country. I am also referring to political changes – the United States’ aggressiveness as a superpower strengthens the strong all-powerful leader system which still prevails in Cuba’s political practices.

At any rate, it is at most a circumstantial alliance, because Cuba’s revolutionary leadership has invariably condemned Washington’s posture, despite the unpredictable twists and turns of history over the past fifty years.

The logic behind this could well be: “you imposed the blockade on us; you have to take it away. Whether you do this or not, your actions will benefit me anyways.”

Lifting the blockade would, first of all, entail an avalanche of tourism to Cuba, multiplying the States’ incomes with a direct inflow of dollars – of cash – and giving the country’s battered economy (in much need of hard currency) considerable impetus.

Such a step would necessarily entail others, such as ending the persecution of Cuban commercial activities abroad, affording the country every facility to trade in US dollars and access to credit (hitherto denied the island).

Can anyone actually be unaware of the great benefits that the lifting of the blockade would bring the Cuban State?

Whether such a decision would benefit the majority of the population to the same degree is another question entirely. Here, opinions tend be divided along the course of political passions. Sincerely, I am convinced that the Cuban people also stand to benefit immensely from it.

For those who abhor the socialist state, which has been authoritarian to date, the current tendencies of the country’s reform process, impelled by the lifting of the blockade, would give considerable impetus to the non-State sector, such as cooperatives and the self-employed.

The State monopoly would of course reap the greatest benefits, but let us not forget that such a State is bound by socialist tenets and it will have to honor these, even if the corrupt bureaucracy gets in the way. We also must not underestimate the experience acquired by Cuba’s working class over time. In the worst of scenarios, to recall the dandy of the game Monopoly, dollar bills will flutter downwards towards the underprivileged.

I am in no way suggesting we should content ourselves with breadcrumbs. I am merely pointing out the options we have, on the basis of our experiences so far.

The last resort would be to return to capitalism, as “manifest destiny” dictates. If that were to happen, we would become the chief tourism emporium in the Caribbean, a den of gambling, prostitution and drugs, “protected” by Washington, with money flowing at full speed. It is an old project, thwarted when “the Comandante stepped up and shut everything down.”

I will continue to oppose this ever happens in my country. Those seeking revenge would return to reclaim what the revolution took from them when it brought Capital to its knees, and the dream of any form of socialism would vanish, because property owners are implacable – Miami’s obstinacy proves this.

To date, those who are set on maintaining the blockade have triumphed. They are after the complete victory of capital, the destruction of the revolution – it is a question of taking the punishment imposed on us in 1961 to the end. These past 55 years, however, have sown profound ideals (today the subject of frank debate among us). The defeated bourgeoisie does not lay its bets on a possible and gradual transition to a market economy in Cuba.

What history teaches us is that, if a dictator capable of returning this vanquished bourgeoisie its properties were to appear, their tired demands for human rights would immediately disappear.

By the looks of it, given today’s circumstances, the far-right in the United States believes it is better to leave the blockade in place, even if it’s an ally of the government, in order to deny the Cuban people different options in terms of social progress. Explicitly or tacitly, there is the fear we will be able to attain the miracle of a new form of socialism.

Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]

69 thoughts on “The US Embargo: Cuba’s Ally or Enemy?

  • February 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I think that is all too much of a conspiracy theory. If you follow that logic you would have to also say that Castro joined the Orthodox Party as a front to his true intentions, that he also helped create the M-26 fooling the rest of the members and that he consistently avoided mentioning communism in all his early speeches with a view that this could all come handy in later years to fool the US. Is it credible that he organized the Moncada baracks and did his jail sentence and organized the rebellion in Mexico all without once letting it slip his true intentions. And how did he know that all this would bear fruit, so that he could then let the truth come out. It seems all a bit too elaborate. My view is this. Fidel came from a nationalist background with some left wing influences, but was mainly influenced by Marti. The revolution stated with no real idea about what was going to happen after they gained power, because they didn’t know they were going to. It was just a matter of getting rid of Batista and the old regime and ideas for land reform and ending the violence and corruption. During the revolution, communistic ideas gained ground as Che moved from being a medic on the outskirts to becomming a commander (was this also preplanned by Castro?). After Batista fled the revolution could still have taken several different paths. Castro brought the Communists into the government for some of the same reasons that Batista did. They were a large party, had strong following in the unions and had experience of government, whereas the 26th were more of a ragtag outfit who had none of these qualities. The reason the revolution turned out as it did was due to US attitude. They were first of all totally unreasonable about the compensation for nationalisation and land reform. They refused to hand over Batista to be put on trial. They constantly complained about human rights when they had kept quiet throught the Batista regime. They kept on pestering Castro about being a communist because of the land reform. They complained about Communists being in the government even though Batista had done the same. The final straw came with the visit to America, the meeting with Nixon and where Roosevelt went to play golf when he was supposed to meet the Cuban delegation. But the door wasn’t totally closed on reapproachment even after the Bay of Pigs. For some reason the US took the olive branch offered as a sign of weakness.

  • February 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Moses, thats rubbish. Walk any poor neighborhood in Havana and you WILL see renovated houses side by side with crumbling ones virtually everywhere. The government is not knocking out house by house and asking for proof of the resources for the renovation, it usually works in reverse (some neighbor either suspicious or envious of that guy notifies the police, then the police goes to investigate).

    Besides, asking for evidence that the renovation was done by legal means is not particularly evil and and law abiding citizens should be able to provide it, right?

    Also, your assertion about ownership is factually incorrect. EVERYONE in Cuba can own a house in the city and another one in the countryside (aka vacation homes) and it has been like that for ages.

    About your comments on free speech, you are wrong. First of all, freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are different things and although they usually come together (specially the latter two), is not wise to conflate them.

    Freedom of speech is specifically the right to express your own opinions and ideas using your own body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. That right is generally withhold in Cuba.

    Freedom of expression is similar, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. Although included in the Universal Declaration of Human rights, this right is ALWAYS granted with limitations and the most common limitations are libel, slander, obscenity, sedition and unnecessary panic. Also, notice that this right DO NOT guarantee in any way unrestricted access to the media.

    In the case of Cuba, they consider most opposition groups as seditious, since most explicitly seek regime change and as you can see, thats one of the most common limitations to freedom of expression. Is not ideal, but it is what it is.

    Finally, ask your wife about changing jobs in Cuba. Except for few exceptions (graduated students serving the social service, MDs, military, intelligence personnel, etc) EVERYONE ELSE can leave their position at any time and seek a different one anywhere. Sure, they can’t negotiate their salary in the public sector but thats because open positions are linked to a specific job description receiving a specific remuneration and is not negotiable. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else, thats how it works.

    Your other comments regarding changing jobs are rubbish, there is no such thing as registry of attendance to political activities in your job file and the only time in the past you needed explicit approval from your employer used to be to obtain the white card to travel abroad. Since the migration reforms, thats not longer necessary, you only need to ask permission if you plan to travel abroad and plan to return to your existing position, not to leave your job.

    Your comments about the jobs in the tourist sector and the black market are accurate, is pretty common to buy and sell positions but that has nothing to with your previous topic and if anything illustrates that people can change jobs at will.

  • February 20, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I certainly do not want to see a violent uprising in Cuba, nor the inevitable violent repression that would follow. Keep in mind, the Cuban people have been subjected to violence at the hands of the Castro regime for the past 55 years. The violence will continue so long as the regime stays in power.

    I have not yet heard any reasonable explanation of exactly how lifting the embargo will lead to positive political change in Cuba, including an improvement in human right. How would the US have any influence or pressure on the Cuban regime to transition toward democracy if the US had already lifted the embargo, thus giving up the only bargaining ship they have before the negotiations begin? Why would the Castro regime do as the US asks, if they already have what they want?

    Obviously, the embargo has failed to overthrow the Castro regime, for a number of reasons, chief among them being the ability of the Castros to keep a string of benefactors sending money to them.

    The bottom line is this: if the Castro regime had any interest or intention of providing the Cuban people with freedom, democracy and human rights, they could do so anytime. They don’t need the US to do anything to make that happen. Raul could simply go out and make a big speech announcing that from this day forward, the government of Cuba will allow freedom of speech, legalize independent political parties, and schedule free elections. As a bonus, the US would move quickly to lift the embargo.

    So why doesn’t the Cuban regime do that? Because they are a dictatorship who intend to stay in power whatever it takes.

  • February 20, 2014 at 10:09 am


    Thank you for taking the time to answer, with gracious manners, my comments. I think I now appreciate the larger context of your point of view. You make a compelling point about the expanding economic activity in Cuba which is slipping beyond the confines of the state. It seems that the state owned corporations are expanding, but so is the non-state sector, which the regime views as a potential danger which must be, if not contained, at least controlled and taxed.

    I recall from my visits to Cuba how the waiters, maids & taxi drivers appreciated tips in goods rather than CUCs. The cost of these simple items was relatively high for a Cuban to have to buy and at the same time, there is no way the government can tax a tube of toothpaste or a box of tampons. The regime can’t get their usual “cut”.

    If you are writing anything more on the topic, an academic paper for example, I would be very interested to read it. Again, thank you for the valuable insight.

  • February 20, 2014 at 9:40 am

    History is replete with examples of peaceful nations initiating negotiations with tyrants and despots and, in the end, the tyrant either ignored the agreement and continued on the path as before or forced the peaceful nation into war. What makes you believe that the Castros will willingly initiate political reforms AFTER they have been given everything they want? What is their incentive to give away their power at that point? Especially after Raul stated publicly in a recent speech that he has no plans for political reform. Can you really be that naïve?

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